Monday, 14 February 2011

China Post

Many things in China are far from simple. If you are a Chinese person an inconvenience. If you are a Westerner impossible. And if you are a student of Mandarin, a daily test of language skills and patience. The postal system is a paradigm of the Chinese way. And I only wanted to send some presents to my sister for her birthday.

First of all you need to take your items unwrapped down to the post office so the permissible and and disallowed items can be separated. Afterwards there comes a period of debating why the disallowed items cannot be sent. I had bought my sister a bar of Tesco value chocolate in the Chinese version of the store. Based on the milk content in the bar it wasn't going anywhere (no bad thing: when I got home I had a taste and it was disgusting) If you are persuasive you can move some of the disallowed items into the permissible category. And if you are sneaky you can surreptitiously slip in some of the disallowed items anyway. Next time I think it might be easier to just slip a 100RMB note!

Thank goodness the chocolate didn't make the cut

After this you move onto the weighing section; and you are offered the different postal methods and postage time. Unfortunately the weighing section seems to have a different pricing structure to the the pay kiosks. I have observed that Chinese people don't like losing face; and I think this is a cultural thing. I don't want to make overly simplistic generalisations; but I have encountered Chinese people who lie to you rather than accept they don't know the answer. And in the post office I was told the most expensive EMS service would cost 400RMB. It would take 5 days to get to the UK so I thought it was money well spent. But when I moved to the pay kiosk to pay they told me that it would in fact cost more than double that.

800RMB seems to me prohibitively expensive. It is unfair to compare the cost of international postage from China with the cost of living in China since the worldwide postal system exsists within an Western-skewed price structure. Yet even so. They had a cheap service which would take about 2 months. But that seemed too long. They insisted there was no other way. Until I pleaded; and then they miraculously discovered a 2 week service for 300RMB. I wish they had the postal services on offer written down for clear consumption. But China is not yet this simple. Paid my money and got out.

In conclusion, giving birthday presents to those back home is an expensive exercise: luckily I quite like my sister. Presents. £50. Postage. £30. Yet in the immortal words of Mastercard - giving happiness to those you love. Priceless.

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