China: The Land without Boundaries

Everything is possible in China. Quickly, if need be. Already during my travels through China I learned that more is possible than meets the eye. In the meantime I wonder whether really everything is possible here in China. Within a very short period of time specialists are summoned, products are organized and translators are found. The resources are there, one only needs to unleash them. And how does that work? Very simple: just talk to the people.

It was one of the days. We had no idea what to do. We had just arranged for water delivery with the help of Lenka’s intern and the first barrel has already arrived. The only question left was, how to get the water out of the heavy barrel without flooding the apartment or just the kitchen. The idea of the water dispenser was not a new one, but we had no idea where we could find one we liked. An extended search on the Internet didn’t bring up any useful results. The solution came to us, when we stood in the management office of the compound where we live. In a corner there stood a water dispenser that was exactly what we were looking for. So we tried to tell the lady that we wanted to buy one just like that. Even though we had the help of her English-speaking colleague, we did not manage to get the information where to get one. The English-speaking lady currently was in our tower, so it was no problem to find her. After a short discussion she made a phone call and asked us when we wanted the water dispenser delivered to our apartment. The machine arrived a few minutes after 7:30pm and the fellow delivering it even brought another barrel of water, unpacked and installed the machine and even disposed the packaging material. It seemed to good to be true and was much more of a service than I expected being used to the German services…
There was many an occasion when we could observe that the Chinese are indeed a very pragmatic people. Often one explains a problem or a task, but does not immediately get a response whether it is possible and when it will be done. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but when a task is described and understood the desired result will be delivered. They find a solution for every possible problem. Admitted, the solution do not always correspond to what I am used to from home, but nevertheless the given task is completed. We assume that the reason for this behavior is the fact that the Chinese do not want to lose their face by not being able to complete a given task. The task is executed as understood, which every now and then leads to quite a bit of tinkering which is not always acceptable. I assume their primary goal is to fulfill the given task, but they do not have any standards on how to do that. It is thus very important that one describes in detail what is expected in order to limit the number of possible solutions.
Many times the Chinese pragmatism is really helpful, as I had the chance to experience when applying for a new visa. Before I headed to the Public Security Bureau, I searched the Internet for all available information on visa extensions for tourist L-visas in China. I first assumed I would just get an extension for 1 month before leaving and re-entering the country to get another 3 month tourist visa. On the Website of the PSB I found the information that there is an L-visa for visiting foreign relatives in China with a maximum duration of six months. Since I already had a letter from the Swiss embassy in Beijing that Lenka and I had lived together in Germany for a few years and thus lived in a marriage like setting. I brought all the documents according to the website to the PSB only to be rejected due to new regulations. In the meantime I had to bring Lenka’s work permit and I had to have my visa application form stamped by her employer. The former consisted of no problem, but the latter was impossible to organize within one day, since stamps are of very high value in China and bring with them quite a bit of responsibility. The issue is such that at Lenka’s company the CEO has to sign off the use of the stamp. But since the stamp was the only thing missing from my application I was quite confident that I could get the visa anyway. I had to explain all the story about the letter from the Swiss embassy and then they accepted my application. I should come back a week later to pick up the visa, if there were not any problems with the application.
The week was over on February 15 and thus I headed to the PSB where I could pick up my visa without any problems. I am now allowed to stay for another six months in China and thus can fully concentrate on looking for a job and studying Mandarin.