The art of being inefficient

So there’s not many things I actively emphasize about being Dutch or Northern European, but direct communication and efficiency are. Having lived in China for about 4 years, I have experienced the differences and adapted many times.

Of course this is partly because ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’. At the same time, there is also a sort of fatalistic mentality that even if you would try your hardest to change the process or way things go, it will not happen and make nobody any happier in the process either.

After my washing machine soap, I hoped I would be free of repairs for a while. Alas, I had tried to ignore the bubbles on the wall of my covered balcony, which slowly started to grow moldy. Once it seemed the wall would be able to move by itself any minute now, I caved and started the repair process.

Since I rent through an official agency, the process seemed to be relatively straightforward. Just choose which part of your home needed to get repaired through the app, take a few pictures, add some relevant comments, choose the convenient timing and then you’ll automatically be assigned a repairman or woman.

These processes do go very quickly in China, so after providing all the information in the morning, I already got contacted by a repair guy in a few hours. We agreed to him coming at a certain time in the afternoon and I minded my own business. When the time arrived that he was supposed to come, I did not really pay attention and decided to sit it out and see how long it would take. He was an hour late. Oh well, what can you do.

To those who remember my last series on repairing stuff in your house in China, it probably will not surprise you what happened next. A guy knocked on my door, looked at my wall, took some photos and told me he would inform someone else come again to repair. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Long story short, I had 2 more people coming (not on time as well of course) and taking photos again. After the third person not actually doing anything, I was just not very motivated to continue with the process. But, after that third person someone actually came to fix the wall, hallelujah!

The only thing was, after asking him about the leak in the roof, he said: “I’m not responsible for that. You’ll need to get on the roof, ask your account manager about the arrangement for that.” Another long story short, I asked my account manager, then the management of the complex, then the agency’s central customer service, and then another account manager again, just to get the same guy to now ‘be allowed’ to go on the roof to further fix things.

In other words, it was Chinese communication at its finest and most effective. Most importantly, it has been raining quite a lot the past few days and I have been eagerly eyeing my wall. It seems like I will be able to give the guy some more work pretty soon again.

Nothing to be done pt. 2

“Well,” I said to him “I am only renting this place so I will talk to the housing agency and let them get back to you.”

The guy stared at me blankly and replied gruffly: “Who are you renting this from?” I told him my agency’s name and he gave no sign of recognition at all. “Give me your landlord’s number, I will contact him directly.”

At this point I started to get a bit fed up with him. Mind you, it was not even 7.30 and I still had no leaking problem in my house. I think we went through multiple forms of the conversation above in the next 10 minutes, until I finally convinced him to leave his phone number so I could reach him.

I mentioned that things can move quick in China, and surely I had a repair guy ordered through the housing agency’s app by the next evening. However, when he came I of course had no problem at my side. After checking if the downstairs neighbors were at home, of course not, I called the management guy a few times. Finally he picked up and my repair guy talked to him in the same Shanghainese-tinted Mandarin about the matter.

“Your pipe from the washing machine is too small, it needs to be changed.” He asked if it would fit in my bathroom, which I assured him would be impossible unless I wanted not to take any showers or not go to the toilet anymore. He took a look at my kitchen to see if it would fit there and decided the plumbing was too weak and again there was not enough room. Finally, he looked outside my window in a pensive matter, took a couple of photos which he would send to the agency and left.

This situation as described in the above paragraph then happened at least 3 more times. I had multiple guys visiting me, not nearly as excited as it sounds of course, and all of them made pictures, told me the pipe needed to be changed, asked if it would fit in my bathroom or kitchen and then left without actually doing anything. I almost started to wish I would have become a repairwoman if I could do my work in this way.

And then the weekend came  around. I needed to do my laundry.