Don’t Bank On It

Take my advice – never use a Chinese bank.

Why? Two main reasons, really. One, paying-in slips are the devil incarnate. Two, never cross a surly bank teller ten minutes before lunchtime.

Our story starts with the hero (yours truly, naturally) wanting to pay a deposit to the travel agent in Beijing for an upcoming adventure (more of which you will hear in August, if I ever make it back in one piece). This involves taking several thousand of the currency to a local branch of their bank and paying in there. Bearing in mind the largest note is 100 Yuan, this is quite the wodge of cash.

“That’ll be the easy way,” thought I.

Form number one

Rather handily, there was a greeter at the door who helpfully wrote the payee’s name in Chinese on the deposit slip and pointed me to the counter. This was the last time I smiled. Possibly ever.

This is where I meet The Happiest Bank Clerk in the World.

First off, the way I’d written the number “8” looked “wrong”.

Tear it up. New form.

Form number two

I fill everything out again; sticking my tongue out the side of my mouth to aid concentration, I produce the finest lettering I’ve created since I was six years old and trying desperately to impress my junior school teacher with how nicely my handwriting has improved.

I ask: “Is pinyin* OK for the name?”. “Yes,” came the somewhat distracted reply.

I write. I wait. I hope.

Bank teller thrusts it back with a look that plainly says, “What sort of moron is this that doesn’t know how to use a pen?“.

“No, pinyin’s not allowed. Write her name in Chinese.” Tear it up. New form.

Form number three

Thankfully I’d printed out the company director’s name in Chinese beforehand, so, v e r y   v e r y   v e r y   c a r e f u l l y, I copy out the name in front of the increasingly-impatient-looking-ice-queen-from-hell.

She counts it out several times and then, “OK, good, that’s everything. I just need 40 Yuan from you”.


Rage levels increasing.

“Because the account’s not at this branch”.

I begrudgingly shove the cash under the window and get up to leave.

“If you could just press the green button in front of you before you go?”

I do so, but just as my digit is fully depressing the key, I realise that it’s the rough equivalent of a How’s my driving sign, and I’ve just given the sour old goat a 100% rating for her customer service.

And I thought Germany was bad.


*pinyin is the system for using Latin characters to write Chinese words, so that language learners can get to grips with pronunciation without having to spend a decade learning tens of thousands of characters beforehand.

Unfortunately, pinyin is somewhat deficient in that it doesn’t distinguish particularly well between certain vowel sounds. Also a lot of road signs etc don’t use the tonal system so it’s quite difficult to know how to pronounce if you get lost and need to ask the way!

4 thoughts on “Don’t Bank On It

  1. Have you considered charging them 40 Yuan for your time? I bet that would go down well.

    Am I right in thinking he lines within Chinese characters are meant to be drawn in a certain order?

  2. I’m starting to think that Douglas Adams may have spent some time in China before writing a certain Sci-Fi novel…

  3. Oh Hussy, I was wondering how long it would take before the ranting started! Now we can all rest assured that you’re settling in nicely.

    No seriously, sounds like you had a hell of a time, especially with her tricking you into giving her a positive rating at the end. I can’t imagine something that underhanded happening at your average German bank.

  4. Alex, yes, stroke order is very important. Good calligraphy, after all, reflects on how well you were brought up.

    By the way, my characters to practice today are 你 and 好 (which spells “hello”).

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