9 Ways I’ve Become More Patient In China

In china business by Michael Michelini15 Comments

Took a few years but i am finally “broken in”…..it was something expats here told me would happen the longer i stayed here…..and I didn’t believe them! stop resisting and just let go. China is China, and its not going to change for some stupid white barbarian guy coming here.

My last post I promised I would talk about comparing myself to when I first came to china to how I am now. Here are a few examples of how i feel i have adapted and China has broken my will to fight the way things are

  1. Information will just keep being restricted – Its a first one on the list , and a big one….but sadly I have accepted the fact that Chinese government feels they have the right to filter news and information. Google tried to fight them and lost. US government is trying to persuade them, but seems unlikely. It is just a fact of life that inside China, you will have to accept the government will feel they have authority to block / filter anything they don’t like. Hopefully not this blog!
  2. Banking will be slow and painful – Aiya…but really, lines will be long, the ATM line even…people will deposit rounds and rounds of cash, move between accounts, pay their rent, pay their mom, son, daught, sister, brother, cousin from the ATM. There will be suitcases of cash brought into lines at the bank. About one third of ATMs will either be full of cash, or have no cash in them, or just straight up broken. We just have to live with the facts that there is so much cash in China, the banks can’t handle it?
  3. Miscommunication and late starts to meetings will just be the normal – can you believe how many times I’ve had people late to a sales meeting? They have excuses about certain roads under construction, getting lost in a new neighborhood, etc etc….but it still blows my mind that they are selling or interviewing with me, and cannot get in on time. Again and again, I laugh outloud and announce to those around me how unbelievable this is.
  4. my computer is full of pop ups and errors – page not found is a common last visited page on my browser window. This point is similar to the first, about Chinese government filtering information, but also adds in Chinese advertisements popping up from QQ or other chat systems. So many hackers it seems….and if I am using Chinese software, I just have to not feel as secure using my own computer. Sad but true.
  5. Chinese Haircuts – this is a 2 part section. Part one, I recently was getting a haircut, and in China pretty much all salons have you get a headwash before the cut (even if you don’t want it!). So I was put into a room to wait for my hair to be washed….waiting….waiting….asking the staff what was going on, they say “wait a minute” whenever I asked. Instead of getting angry, and raising my stress levels for no real reason, I simply got up, walked out the room door, down the spiral stairs, and out the door. The manager chased after me saying something, but instead of getting angry, I walked to the next door salon, quickly got my hair washed and cut, and moved on. I didn’t get angry, didn’t try to teach the hair salon on how to treat customers…I simply moved on to the next one – there are millions of them anyway.
    The second part of the Chinese haircut experience…many times I tell a barber how I like my haircut ( a mix of my broken Chinese and my sign language), but they tell me that style is not beautiful, and they know a better way to cut my hair. Or they just cut my hair the way they think is better without asking me first. I try to have a square cut, but so many Chinese hair styles make a more rounder style cut. I have learned to live with a rounder hair cut, or wait til the end of their cut, and ask them to shape it up so that its more square.
  6. Lines, waiting in them? Whats that? HAha, seriously though, I so often see a Chinese person feel that they are too important to wait in line, and therefore no one waits in them…even at the KFC during lunch, there isn’t an orderly queue system with a roped off area for people to wait in, rather, its simply a free for all of crowding the front counter and fighting to get noticed by the cashier to take your order. Maybe this is also from Chinese history….the fear that you will be left behind, that there will not be enough food for you to get yours, and you have to earn your way to get it before its gone. I really think its deeply embedded some thought process like this.
  7. Being Stared At – While I think there are a decent amount of foreigners (white faces), I still feel I am being stared at. I guess I should get used to this, and learn to live with it. I have gotten a lot better….normally I handle it by just smiling, nodding, and saying “hello”, how are you! I feel Chinese people are for the most part very curious about foreigners, and they don’t realize staring is…rather impolite, so I have learned that, and keep that in mind day in and day out.
  8. Driving in China – I still haven’t gotten the guts to get a Chinese driver’s license. No matter where I am, I don’t think its efficient to buy a car, I am a fan of public transportation. But in China, it’s a wild ride…it gets your heart pumping in the morning, and driving against traffic (going head on…almost like a game of chicken sometimes), bikers risking their lives crossing highways, the insensity is just normal.

Just overall, customer service seems not to be the most important thing. Maybe because there is just so many people here that, and most of the companies feel there isn’t many choices for consumers to pick? I just don’t get it, but still overall feel that the majority of businesses in China feel if you, the current customer, aren’t happy, there is a line of new customers in line behind you.

But I’m proud of myself for being able to put up with this, and just

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  1. Great blog post! Really nice to read! Mister China Co UK

  2. A great summary of being “broke in”. It’s like when you final lay down your firing arms and surrender to what the reality is around you. Loved the 1st part of the hair cut story and that was a great way you handled it. Simply change vendors, shops, suppliers, restaurants, etc… this gives them the best “lesson” actually. If you try to explain it, they will only giggle and think “Mr. Foreigner is always touchy”… you did good. Love the post, Mike. As soon as we bite the bullet and shut out/appreciate the wackiness, the sooner our peace and success of managing this place starts kicking in.

    1. Author

      thanks for reading and the comment Jacob, yes…..while i never thought i would “give in ” and accept what i consider bad service ,,,,,thinking for some reason i could possibly come here and change the world…..i think this is a critical step a gweilo has to take…simply accepting china for the way it is.

      cheers 🙂

  3. yes.i heard that before.as a foreigner,it’s a little hard to “fall” in chinese society.maybe even time can’t solve.

  4. In it for the SEO also.

    By the way, driving in China is 10x worse then anything you’ve mentioned above.

    From the millions (sorry billions) people who never look while crossing the road to the motor bikes who literally think they’re the only drivers on the road to them unpainted speed bumps while going 70km/hour you hear/feel a big THUMP and your car bouncing/flying in the air….Its no picnic.

    I have also given up caring about many things. Its just not worth getting upset or losing patience on something you will never change. Just got to find the things that make you happy and roll with it.


    1. Author

      nice to get your comment Atilla the Hun, haha.

      yea, i didnt want to get too specific on the car details, though i do never drive…..you want to leave a guest blog post? all about your driving experiences in China? hehe, im down if you are.

      but us westerners do need to ease on the high blood pressure anyway. not good for health, need to drink more tea.

  5. Hi Mike,

    I have lived in Beijing for an year and I have just moved to Guangzhou about 2 weeks ago. While 2 weeks might not seem too long, its long enough for me to realise that, these two cities are truly world aparts. I agree with most things you said about “china” but I think these apply to the South a lot more. I was amazed at the professionalism, speed of service, people following the systems (ques etc) and the general courtesy people showed to others in Beijing. To be honest, I didn’t find it too different from UK at all. However, Guangzhou seems like a different country all together, like you mentioned, be it getting on the subway, or buying food at KFC, you have to fight for it here.

    In terms of Banking, when I was in Beijing, I walked into “Bank of China” and within 40 Minutes, My bank account was opened, I was handed a debit card, a random pin generator and all the necessary documents, exchanged currency and I was out of the bank. I know I would wait for at least a week in the UK to get all that, and in India, I would have to fill 200 pages of forms to achieve the same thing.

    I was also amazed at the efficiency in the post offices in Beijing, where some of the technology was far superior that the UK. I cant agree with you more about the information restrictions here, but I guess we have no choice but to adapt. However, I am a Guangzhou Ren now and I am sure, I will write my post about “9 ways I have become more patient in South China” in a few months from now 😉

    1. Author

      Hey Ashish,

      I dont have too much experience in Beijing, but my few times there I can imagine it as more advanced. Plus they invested a ton of money into Beijing for the Olympic games a few years ago. How long were you living there?

      But yes, south china, or Guangdong province, is more chaotic……which is exactly one reason I enjoy it more….i got bored over in america, even in the craziest city in usa, new york city! Thriving in chaos is what I love to do.

      I look forward to reading your blog, nine ways you have gotten more patient in SOUTH China, maybe i should revise the title of this blog post…..nahhhhhh

      1. Hey Mike,

        Thanks for getting back. Yeah, they say Beijing’s come a long way since the olynpics…I was there for an year and can truly say it was the best 1 year of my life 🙂 .

        I agree about the Chaos in GZ, I originally come from “New Delhi”, so I know all about Chaos…I tell my all my friends how I feel BJ is so much closer to UK, Whereas Guangzhou is so much like Delhi, in terms of culture. But You are absolutely right, Chaos = Opportunity & Fun.

        1. Author

          great Ashish, hit reply
          too soon on the last comment (on my mobile phone)
          but yes, i like the chaos, and opportunity……for example i have been tempted to be in hong kong more…..but its too orderly and advanced for me….haha….i know, i am strange.

          thanks for reading and commenting here, hope we can keep in touch and meet one day!

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