There’s this saying in China, “随俗” or this one “随乡入乡”, which in English both mean, “wherever you are, follow local customs”.
It’s just not that complicated, but we foreigners want to be picky, we have to complicate things. Ugh, yes, I’m generalizing. A friend of mine wanted to go to the hospital, and her case was not a complicated matter, just an issue that at most would need a nurse’s brief attention. But we’re foreigners, and we learn lessons the hard way. I, being the wise guy among our group, accompanied my friend to the hospital. Not knowing how procedures work, we looked up the nearest hospital, which happened to be a world apart from the area where we live in, isolated from our neighborhood. We found this place based on an internet search of the nearest hospitals catering for international patients, meaning English is spoken among the personnel. So after the whole hide-and-seek game played itself out, we found the hospital, which was a huge facility. We realized that what we had imagined was totally detached from reality; while we imagined a place dedicated to us foreigners in its entirety, we realized this was a Chinese hospital, which included the International Center catering to our foreigner-in-China needs inside the hospital. As always, it took us half an hour just to find the center, you know, you realize you’re in the wrong floor of the wrong building, and finally finding the right place only by taking the least obvious path, but you find it in the end.
So you enter the international center, which is basically through entering an isolated hallway apart from everything else in the hospital, leading you to small doorway, and there it is. You are now in the International Center, a minimal space acting as the reception, where you are seated before the patient is introduced into one of two patient rooms available for the doctor-patient session. Well, it felt cold in there, mostly because we were the only people in the room, or you can call it the International Center. By the time the nurse came, it was evident there was no staff dedicated to this place, besides a receptionist who had to apologize repeatedly for the delay before a nurse from the Chinese hospital came to attend to our needs. We understood on the spot what the International Center was, and we paid the price, meaning my friend paid the price when the receipt was printed (but I empathized and gave support, that kind of stuff). Well, the way the receipt was written was chaotic to say the least!!!! The receptionist was consulting with the nurse regarding how much the service would cost, and it seemed like nobody knew what to do, hesitation so profound. Needless to say, we didn’t even see a doctor, because there was no doctor!! We paid big, let’s say “we”, coz I also paid, in tears(whatever currency that is), as I watched my friend pull an over-1,000 RMB’s stack that she had withdrawn from the ATM on our way, assuming the worst. Well it happened, and she ended up making a generous donation to the hospital.
Okay, this was a terrible experience, and it is mostly our fault, because we were both so naïve. Next time, avoid “International Centers”. It’s not complicated, go to the same hospital and stand in line as the locals do. Ironically, what we cannot avoid is the sad possibility that one of us could be served by the same nurse in the same hospital; we can do with that humor as long as we know, for sure, that next time will cost us a fraction, an atomic fraction.