I would like to offer a full and sincere apology to the staff and customers of my local branch of Agricultural Bank of China for what I put them through earlier today.
When I entered the bank this morning, there were just two people waiting to be served. By the time I left more than an hour later, there were close to twenty. Those people had to spend their Sunday morning queuing because of me.
I don’t like to carry pockets full of coins so, for the three years that I’ve been in Beijing, I’ve put all my loose change into a carrier bag. This morning I took that carrier bag to the bank.
In my defence, I had at least had the decency to divide it up into different denominations. But I hadn’t counted it. For twenty minutes, two members of staff worked together to count the coins and notes (the smallest note in circulation in China is 1 jiao, equivalent to 1 pence).
Unfortunately, at the same time I went up to the cashiers, so did a woman who took a similarly long time to be served. With only two windows open, the queue quickly built up. I could feel hate-filled glares burning into the back of my head. I heard the words ‘laowai’ (foreigner) and ‘1 jiao’ in almost every sentence uttered behind me. I don’t blame them – if I had been in the queue I’d have been fuming to.
Realising the scale of the task, and seeing how many people were waiting, they asked me to stand to one side so they could serve others. One woman continued to count the money. She spent one hour and ten minutes counting and wrapping more than 1,400 one jiao coins.
In total, my coin collection was worth 329 RMB – about £33. So, I’m glad I did it. If I could make £33 an hour being glared at and hated, I think I’d do it fulltime. But I am sorry.