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Pengyou, Pengyou: Seeking the Help of Chinese Friends [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-1-6 20:29:37 |Display all floors
This post was edited by ttt222 at 2013-1-6 20:30

China, just like every other culture in the world, values friendship with true sincerity, especially when calling upon the help of a friend during rough times. However, the moment may come when an expat wonders, "Is it a good idea to ask my Chinese friend for help in this situation?" Indeed, depending on the scenario, there are pros and cons to seeking the help of a Chinese friend that should be weighed out by the individual before making this decision.


1) Finding an apartment
Having a Chinese friend help you find an apartment can save you a lot of time and money (especially if it's your first time looking). You can oftentimes avoid paying the hefty "intermediary fee" at a real estate agency by having your friend contact landlords directly. When looking at apartments, they'll be able to spot flaws or potential problems in the unit more quickly, as they've likely had experience with the AC, water heater or gas stove failing, and they know what to look for in terms of wall thickness, insulation quality and signs of rodent infestation. And unless you're an incredibly fluent Mandarin speaker, when the time comes to sign a housing contract, they'll likely be more adept at haggling the rent down with your potential landlord or getting new equipment and services included in the rent. Finally, your friend may also have personal connections that could lead to a fantastic apartment at a discounted price.

However, it's important to keep in mind that your Chinese friend may have different tastes or expectations than you. If you don't clearly outline what you're looking for, your friend may bring you to look at places that have a squat toilet, non-primer paint peeling off the walls, broken doors and windows, no elevators or a number of other things that many expats consider as "deal breakers". And if you're unsatisfied with their choices, it could lead to hurt feelings. It may also be awkward letting them know how much you're paying for rent, especially if you end up living in a higher-end unit. One last thing to take into consideration (assuming neither of the above scenarios is a hindrance) is that accidents do happen—a noise complaint is reported or you break something in the house—and the landlord may go straight to your Chinese friend (especially if they were previously acquainted), placing him or her in a disadvantageous position.
Final Judgment: It might be better to leave your Chinese friends out of this one, even if it means paying a bit extra to have a real estate agent to handle the housing contract. They can help you inspect the place, but avoid putting them in the position of finding the apartment for you or having them handle the negotiations.

2) Starting a business
Unless you have 70,000 USD in the bank and want to start a WOFE (Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise), you are required by law to have a Chinese native own 51% of your business. While it may not seem like you have much of a choice in the matter anyway, starting a business with a Chinese friend carries a number of benefits. Your friend will undoubtedly "speed up the process" by knowing how to deal with local government officials or use his or her guanxi to jump the never ending hurdles of red tape (A report states that there are 13 timely and costly steps for starting a business in China, but the officials overseeing this process will happily bend the rules for you if you're able to get on their good side). Furthermore, once the business is open, your local business partner will know to be armed with a few extra bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label for when the local officials come around for "inspections", and they'll have a better idea of how to deal with the mafia seeking "protection fees" should the situation arise.

But before you hand over 51% of the ownership to your Chinese friend, you should take a few moments to wholly consider the risk you're entering into as well as how close your relationship really is. Sadly, the Internet is ripe with posts by foreigners who claim to have been previously "screwed over" by their Chinese business partners. A foreign friend of mine recently shared an all-too familiar account: he opened a restaurant in Beijing with his Chinese partner and allowed him to control the early developmental stages with the law and government (no doubt for all of the reasons mentioned above). Unfortunately, just as the venture was starting to take off, his partner wedged him out of the business contract.
Final Judgment: Unless you have the cash or a Chinese spouse, you really don't have much of a choice if you want to start a business. But its best to err on the side of caution—make sure you know your business partner well, stay in the loop as much as possible (it helps to speak Mandarin!) and have a trusted third party look over any official documents before you agree to sign.   

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Post time 2013-1-6 20:29:56 |Display all floors
3) Making a purchase
There is most certainly a "foreigner price" in China. When I tell my Chinese friends how much I pay for certain things, they typically respond, "You paid too much." Previously I didn't believe them—after all, I'd use my upper intermediate Mandarin to negotiate a reasonable price—but when I needed a new pair of boxing gloves a few months ago, the cheapest I found was 100 RMB. My Chinese friend swore he could get them for less, so he came with me one day to make the purchase. Lo-and-behold, he was right. Without batting an eye, he bargained them down to 80 RMB; a 20% discount. A penny saved is a penny earned and I began thinking of all the money I could have saved just by receiving the "Chinese price" on miscellaneous items. If only my Chinese friends would help me buy everything, I could save literally hundreds (of RMB)!

But while such a method will help you save money, is it really worth it? Do I really need Chinese friends to help me purchase street food or socks just because I want to save a bit? If our roles were reversed, I can only imagine how annoying it would be to constantly be receiving phone calls asking for my bartering assistance…So the next time I found myself needing to buy some traditional souvenirs from Chengdu's Tibetan Quarter, while I thought about asking my friend to help, in the end I decided to spare him the trouble and do it myself. Of course, when I later told him how much I paid (even after bargaining ferociously), he replied, "You paid too much."
Final Judgment: Once or twice on expensive items or items you know nothing about is okay, but in general it's best to save your friend the trouble.

4) Finding a spouse
Another common question one gets asked in China is: "Are you married?" And if you answer "no", it's not uncommon for your friend to mention that they happen to know someone who is not married…and offer to set the two of you up. If you're looking to start a relationship with a local, accepting this Chinese blind date offer could be a great opportunity. You never know who you're going to meet or what can blossom from it. It may also be a nice way to meet a significant other outside of the more common drinking, clubbing or online dating scenes. And if you do meet that person and the attraction just isn't there, you could always end up with a pleasant friendship instead. Many foreigners come to China in the first place to meet locals and learn more about their culture, so why not, right?

In the few instances that it's happened to me, I've always chosen to "respectfully decline", although such refusals do always cut it. While living in rural Henan Province this past summer, it seemed that all of the shop owners I frequented were trying to introduce me to someone they knew. After getting to know my daily schedule, one of the owners went as far as having a single girl wait in his shop all day long to meet me—When I finally arrived, it was an extremely awkward moment to say the least… But apart from such awkwardness, if you do decide to accept a friend's offer and the date or ensuing relationship doesn't go well, you'll most likely cause your friend to lose face and possibly damage your friendship.
Final Judgment: This one is 50/50 and completely up to you. Good luck!

5) Planning a trip
Like many China expats, one of my greatest passions is traveling, and I especially enjoy it when someone offers to take me somewhere that only the locals know about (and that's not mentioned in the Lonely Planet series). Aside from the obvious "off the beaten path" value, your Chinese friend may also be able to tell you about the history and culture of the sites you visit. Furthermore, they can help you avoid the ever-present tourist scams, get discounts on special attractions, and help you arrange transportation at chaotic bus and train terminals. They can even arrange homestays or, in my case, sleeping in a traditional Tibetan yurt with a family in western Sichuan! Having the right local friends can undoubtedly lead to some unforgettable travel experiences.

On the other hand, there's the cautionary tale of my American friend, who shares my passion for adventure travel, and decided to let his Chinese girlfriend plan a trip to Nanjing together. After returning from the trip, he told me that he was bored out of his mind the whole time and that the entire trip was spent inside a tour bus or following a guide with a hundred other Chinese tourists. They would stop at remodeled "ancient" temples, take photos, buy souvenirs, eat at overpriced restaurants then return to the hotel immediately. It's important to note that the concept of "traveling" greatly differs between China and much of the West.
Final Judgment: Discovering a local, non-touristy place in China is about as good as it gets, but be sure to state your travel objectives and personal preferences beforehand to avoid annoyances on the road.


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Post time 2013-1-7 14:52:34 |Display all floors
well done ttt222
And the humans replied "Let the wolfs take care of the strays "

           Mia clementia denor esto

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