Tag Archives: United States

Life in China ~ Moving Money

21 Apr

Hello!

I’m back again with a little piece of life in China!  One of the significant issues confronting expats living abroad is the  matter of getting money back into the States.  

Whether it’s because you still have family at home, you want to put it in savings, or (like me) you have US/China bills to pay – almost everyone goes through the process of moving money from abroad back home or vice versa.

First things first, in China cash has three important vocabulary terms – Yuan, Jiao, and Renminbi.  Renminbi (RMB) is the official name of the currency, and if you want to exchange money to the US Dollar (USD), you need to know that RMB abbreviation.  We usually say “I need to exchange RMB to USD.” On the other hand, one Yuan ( ¥) is the most basic unit of money in China. In use, it is equivalent to our $1 bill although the exchange rate comes out very differently. Anyway, a bottle of soda here costs ¥3 which means three of the 1 Yuan bills (see above).  They also have bills of ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, and ¥100. ¥100 is the highest possible bill you can use.  Finally, they have Jiao or fractions of a Yuan (10 Jiao, 5 Jiao, and 1 Jiao).  10 Jiao has the same value as ¥1, so we just call it 1 Yuan. 5 Jiao are 1/2 of a Yuan (i.e. 50 cents). 1 Jiao is 1/10 of a Yuan (i.e. 10 cents).  The Jiao either come in paper or coins. So we have Cash (Yuan ¥) and Fractions of a Yuan (Jiao) used in the daily, current Chinese currency or RMB.

In some countries, it is probably more simple than others to send money. Perhaps because China is a UnionPay Nation, it can be rather difficult here.  Union Pay is an alternative to VISA, Mastercard, ect. and is used in predominantly all Chinese banks.  Of course, the banks in China are a little different too.  For example, the bank card I was given does not include a security number or expiration date.And my phone number is 1***-****-****.  Note the extra digit in the middle.   So I have an incredibly difficult time using it online with American systems that require those details.  More and more US businesses are modifying their system to accept Union Pay cards, but the additional information required for many credit card entry systems does not always work.  

So how do we get our money from China into America? Currently, I have heard of four different primary methods or systems of transferring cash. One important factor is how much you need to exchange. Chinese nationals can exchange quite a bit more RMB to USD than foreign expats. Foreigners can only change $3000 a day. 

REQUIREMENTS / NOTES

To do any of this you should have a passport, valid Chinese VISA, a Chinese phone number, and your home address written in Chinese characters.

You also most likely need a Chinese bank account. There are many, many Chinese banks but only some of them work in the International Money Transferring business. For Paypal, only China Merchant’s Bank, ICBC, and China Construction Bank. For Bank-to-Bank transfers or Western Union transfers there are a larger group of banks, but still only the primary ones (i.e. Bank of China, China Construction Bank –I think you can only accept money, not send it though-, Agricultural Bank of China, etc.)  I recommend picking your method and then figuring out which type of bank account you need.

To open a Chinese bank account, you need to go during the work week (Monday-Friday) in order to get the right officials at the bank. The bank may be open on weekends, but the officials may not be there. I took a Chinese student and close friend with me. She had us bring our passports, VISAs, and recommended bringing a second photo ID like a driver’s license. We then went to the bank, filled out a lot of information on a form, and processed the account. Had to sign my name a couple times and then got my card.

I highly recommend that when you do this process you do a couple things to simply the process later. First, bring your Chinese phone number and add it to the forms so it is attached to your bank account. You will need this if you ever want to add Alipay, use Taobao, check your account online, etc. That phone number is one of the ways they verify that you own the account – they usually send a verification code by phone. Paypal verification process also sometimes requires that you accept the verification code by phone to enter it into the registration process.  Second, ask them to approve you for online banking and tell them you will use the card for online shopping. The Chinese translator can hep, but they have to actually approve you for using your card online or using it to pay for something. So go ahead and get that paperwork filed this first time.

BANK TO BANK TRANSFER

Many people simply use the Chinese bank itself to transfer money over to a US Bank.  Personally, I found it expensive and a bit of a hassle (especially since I work so much and getting to a bank with a Chinese student who can translate gets to be a problem). 

To do this, you need to bring them your Passport (and Visa) and the foreign bank’s name, mailing address, routing number, swift code, account number, etc.  You then probably need to bring a Chinese student with you to translate depending on where in China you are (Shanghai, they might speak English, but I’m in Henan where that ain’t happening).  It usually costs you a few hundred RMB on top of the exchange rate. Sometimes you have to exchange the money first and then transfer it. Sometimes they will do that for you. It depends.

BANK TO BANK VIA PAYPAL TRANSFER

This is the method I find simplest and most effective. It requires a series of steps, but once set up is extremely easy and cheap (4% fee). You can send up to $1000 a day and Paypal will do the currency exchange for you! To do this though, you will need two Paypal Accounts and two email addresses. 🙂 

Set Up

First, set up your US and China Bank Accounts. Make sure (as I said before) that the Chinese bank has approved you for online banking. China Merchant’s Bank, ICBC, and China Construction Bank are the only China Banks that this will work for!  In a safe location, keep track of your account numbers and the full and exact name that is on your Bank Account. This is very important especially for the Chinese bank because the name must be exactly the same or they will reject it.

Second, set up a Paypal Global Account and use one email address.   I recommend doing this with Google Chrome and then just right click on the page, hit “translate to English” and the Chinese will go away 🙂 Sign into the account and on the left click “Bank Accounts and Cards.” Now click “Link a Bank.” For country, choose “China-Bank Verification.” Name should be your first and last name as you used for Paypal. Choose your Bank (the list in order is ICBC, China Merchant’s Bank, and CCB).  Continue. They will ask you to verify that this is your bank account. To do so download the pin number software as instructed and refresh the page. Input your Phone Number (per the Bank records) on top. Then enter your ATM withdrawal pin number. Then the “verification code.”  If done correctly, Paypal will tell you the account has been verified. 

Third, set up a US Paypal Account using another email address. Go through the same process of linking and verifying your bank account but add the US Bank this time. Paypal will tell you the account has been verified. 

Use!

  1. Put your RMB in the Chinese Bank account. 
  2. You can immediately go to your China Paypal Account and “Send Money” to your US Paypal Account’s email address. It’s easy. Just put in the email address, the amount of money you want to send, and under “shipping”, click “no Shipping required.” 
  3. Go to your US Paypal Account. The money should be there pretty much instantly with no problem minus 4%. Now just click “Withdrawal” and send the money to your US bank account. It should be there in 3-5 Business days.  
  4. Done! Wait for the money to arrive.

WESTERN UNION WIRE TRANSFER

Many choose to send money home via the Western Union Wire Transfer process. Western Union (西部联盟 – Xībù Liánméng) is an American Financial Company that will allow you to transfer money either from the USA to China or China to USA. You can do this via Money Transfer -You have to physically visit their offices, but they have many agents in the bigger cities. You can locate an agent here. Conveniently, they give you a tracking number for your receipt. Inconveniently, they only accept US Dollars and their exchange rates (I’ve heard) are fairly high if you do it there.

Their fees are 

  • $15 for transfers of $1-$500
  • $20 for transfers of $501-$1,000
  • $25 for transfers of $1,001-$2,000
  • $30 for transfers of $2,001-$9,000. That is the highest they will do.

CASH AND CARRY

Last, of course many people simply carry their money home.  If you don’t need to send money home monthly, it is an option to simply carry it home with you.  There are two ways you can do this.

First, you take out cash in China and take it with you via plane back to the USA. I think this is dangerous because you are carrying too much money. Also, remember that RMB has its highest possible denomination in 100RMB (about $16). So if you take your money home in RMB, that’s a LOT of cash. If you take it in Dollars, it is dangerous. 

Second, you can use your China bank card in the States. For example China Construction Bank has an agreement with Bank of America where you can withdraw money fairly cheaply and easily at their ATMs. You pay a small fee for using your card outside of China, but otherwise this is not too bad.  Just remember to verify with your bank in China, because not all bank cards will work. 

 

 

Jackson Pollock

14 Mar

As you know from my previous article, the art world is abuzz with the unveiling of the newly restored Pollock “Mural” — the great “pillar of American art.”  Although I have studied art, I was actually unfamiliar with Pollock’s work until I entered the University of Iowa who owns the Mural.   Admittedly, I am not a large follower of the Abstract movement, but the debate over his work s fascinating.

His parents were from Iowa (hence the fortuitous circumstance of his great art returning here), but Jackson Pollock (first name Paul), was born in 1912, two years before WWI,  in a small town in Wyoming.  He would move around the western states as a child, and it was during that time that he became familiar with the Native American culture on travels with his father; a fact that you can still see expressed in his art.  

Another great influence upon his style was his tutoring from Thomas Hart Benton, part of the famous “Regionalist Triumvirate” of three artists who abandoned city life and preferred painting modern works of rural life.  

“Poker Night” by Benton

But while Pollock liked the brighter colors and strong impression of this type of art, he was not enticed by rural subjects. In fact, he would abandon any sense of “Realism” to his work at all.  With the beginning of his style set in place, Pollock moved on during the Great Depression to work with the Federal Arts Project, part of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  They employed jobless-artists to create works for government institutions–as a results many of them still hang in those buildings today.  Because the program was less interested in the type of art, and more interested in employing artists regardless, it was a great sounding board for many artists of the, at that time, less popular modern abstract art.  Pollock was one of those artists who benefited from the new audience.    

During the Great Depression, Pollock began struggling with alcohol, and he would undergo treatment under a Jungian Psychologist. While I am hardly a psychologist, I understand that they emphasized the need to understand oneself completely before one could then work with society.  One of the ways Pollock tried to familiarize himself with his personality, goals, life, etc. was through art. According to textbooks, this concept of putting oneself into the work (a type of new self-portrait) was characteristic of his later works.  Honestly, I have never particularly been able to see that in his works, but then I don’t really get abstract art anyway.  What I can attest to is that his emotion’s come across–and a scattered mess they were too.

Shortly after leaving the Federal Art Program, Pollock was hired by Peggy Guggenheim, a famous supporter of the arts, to create his famous Mural for her home. The piece stands at 8 feet tall and is a major accomplishment.  Interestingly enough, unlike many other muralists of the time, Pollock created this one on canvas because they wanted it to be portable. Usually, they were placed on the walls themselves.   This is the work that launched him into the world of history-changing artists. 

It was during the 1930s and 1940s that Pollock improved upon his signature tool–drip painting.  First introduced to the concept of using liquid paint instead of powders in 1936 by another muralist, Pollock soon adopted it as his preferred method.  Most of his work would feature this style beginning in the early 1940s.   He used alkyd enamels (such as the paints used for home walls), which was highly unusual at the time.  He then took sticks, syringes, large stiff brushes, etc.  and would pour or drip the paint over the canvas. Are you familiar with any of those 70’s movie where they start flinging paint in stripes across the canvas? That’s his style.

His great contribution to the art movement, other than the drip style of painting, was that he moved away from the traditional tools of the trade. Instead of easels, he would set the canvas up against a wall or work off of the floor. He used different objects to paint with instead of normal paint brushes.  Instead of smooth deliberate strokes, he would fling his body into moving the paint out.  His concept was that the paint came from his soul, moving from his body straight into the work. It’s all about emotions and the expression of them.  He felt that he was putting himself down on paper (remember the Jungian influence).  

While his greatest works were made in the drip style from 1947-1950, but the stress of maintaining his title as “Greatest artist in the US” started getting to him. He abandoned the drip styles in 1951, and began working with dark colors and canvases. He would later return to colors, but something changed during that time. If his art expressed himself, then he had a dark and depressing turn.  He never came back to the “Drip” works; instead moving on to sculpting until his death in 1956 in a car accident while he was under the influence.  Also killed in the accident was Edith Metzger, a close friend; however, his mistress, Ruth Klingman, another famous artist survived.

Pollock’s work has sparked decades of debate and conflict. Some believe he was the greatest artist of all time–that he captured not a painting per se, but the “Act of painting.”  Kind of like an action shot in a photograph, many claim that his art was the realization of the movement of painting.  That does seem to be how Pollock viewed it.  I rather think it was something like when I play the piano on bad days–I love to bang and pound away, regardless of whether the keys are in the right order or whether it is recognizable by the end. It is the process of playing, pounding on those keys, that soothes my soul.  When I look at Pollock’s work, I think perhaps that is what he was doing–flinging and blazing a mark across the canvas, not for the end results but for the act of flinging and blazing.  Personally, I don’t really like the end results; there is little of beauty or meaning in it to me. But I know that it meant something to him, and with art like this, that is what really matters.

Regardless of whether or not you approve, he did change art forever by encouraging the rise of Abstract Expressionism.

Airline Reviews: American Airlines

20 Feb

This one was SERIOUSLY NOT GOOD!

Date:

2013

Airline: 

American Airlines (AA)–Domestic (1 flight).  

Plane:

Boeing 737

Pre-flight Interactions:

This is where everything went VERY wrong on the part of American Airlines.  I ordered the tickets via CheapTickets.com, so the process was fairly simple.  They didn’t show up on the AA list before my flight though, so I had to have the email confirmation in hand.

MAJOR PROBLEM:

I was coming in from Seoul, South Korea and originally planned a three hour changeover from Korean Air international to a domestic American Airlines flight at LAX.   When the Korean Air flight had to go north to avoid a pretty large storm, it changed my changeover window to 1.5 hours. 

Still, according to the airline website, you need to arrive about 1-1.5 hours ahead of time for a domestic flight anyway, so I wasn’t actually late at all.  Since AA had access to my itinerary and the flight records, they would have known that my planed would arrive in time.  Figuring everything was okay, I showed up at the check-in counter only to be told I’m not on the flight list.  You can imagine the trauma that brought forth–my bags were scheduled to be put on the plane, my family was waiting on the other end for me to arrive, and suddenly I’m not there.  

Immediately I start asking questions; I had the confirmation number, I had the itinerary, I was on top of things. So what the heck went wrong?  I was shuffled off to a customer service kiosk,fwhere I waited in line 10 minutes trying to explain to VERY RUDE employees that I was now in a hurry.  They told me to just “wait my turn young lady” (very condescending btw), and then informed me that I had been deleted from the system. It wasn’t an accident at all–AA deleted me on purpose. Unable to answer my questions or resolve the issue, they sent me across the building to another kiosk with less than 45 minutes remaining before my plane left. After another 10 minute wait, I’m told that since my flight was late, they  had removed me from the roster. LATE?!?!?!  Since when?!?!?  I had a whole hour (as recommended by their directions) before I was supposed to leave on the AA plane! The only reason I was late now is because someone took me off the roster!  I was FURIOUS with them; they had no right to give away my seat when I showed up on time according to their own guidelines.   Finally, they said they thought they might be able to slide me in last minute, but I’d have to run and I wouldn’t get the seat I’d chosen. I was left with 20 minutes to get through security and run to the gate.  No apologies were offered, no discount, nothing to make up for the stress.  I arrived as the last people got on. While I made it onto the flight, this is one of the worst examples of service I have seen with an airline.

Baggage Allowance:

First/Business Class customers get 3 free checked bags all the time, but it differs for economy depending on your destination. You can find all the rules here, but generally you get a personal item (I always make it a backpack because it counts as a purse but is bigger) and a carry-on.  If you want a checked bag, they cost around $30 each for the first 2. I prefer airlines with at least 1 free checked bag.

Boarding:

Yet again of the bad.  I arrived at the desk rushing up to ask if I had been added or not, and was yelled at because “you should have been here earlier, we’re boarding now, so you need to hurry up if you want to board”  (not the most polite response I’ve ever gotten).  Realizing that if I wasn’t on the flight, my bags might not be on the flight I attempted to ask about my luggage. Their response “Ma’am you need to get in line now.” Finally, I was obviously upset and a lovely cleaner woman stopped and asked if I was okay. After explaining my problem, she patted me on the shoulder and hurried off to stop the pilot walking by. She brought him over and he informed me that it should be okay (Thank you both if you read this; you saved me a great deal of grief).

In Flight:

I’ve yet to be impressed with AA flight attendants–their concept of customer service is one of the worst I’ve experienced. Food is horrid and there is little of it; drinks are hard to come by. There are few amenities, and the only entertainment was a tiny tv at the front that you couldn’t really see and the microphones were broken.  Trying to sleep didn’t work because the flight was cramped; and I ended up crushed in the middle when I wanted an aisle seat.  We still arrived late.

Only positive–for the first time since I’ve been flying with them, the AA plane had a fairly smooth ride.

Luggage Retrieval:  

My luggage wasn’t where I was told, and no one was available to tell us where to go.  I was happy though to find out it arrived on the plane.

Overall Conclusions

HORRIBLEThis airline was extremely and unnecessarily problematic due to bad business  practice on the part of American Airlines.  Given the significant issue over my retracted ticket, I would have expected at the least helpful kindness and patience from their staff. That was not forthcoming.   I was also expected some kind of apology or reparations for my aggravation, and they acted like I was the problem and that I should be grateful they were working with me to fix it.  

For Comparison’s sake, I once arrived at a Korean Air flight check-in fifteen minutes before boarding.  They rushed me through check-in, grabbed my bags, and hurried me through to my flight with 2 minutes to spare. Plus, they were exceedingly polite in the process.  AA FAILED. I will avoid them in the future.

Have You Lost Something Recently?

22 Nov

Did you know that items you lose/leave behind may be turned in to the State Treasury? In fact, a lot of lost property is required to be turned in. And the Treasury office might keep it for quite a while, waiting for you to claim it. On the other hand, the states do auction items off after awhile to raise money.

And we’re not just talking $1 here or there. Some items in the auctions sell for thousands of dollars.  State Treasury Offices can have as much as a $Billion+ in unclaimed property that people have lost and never claimed. It can be physical property or something like an Insurance Refund (my uncle found $120+) or a Payroll (cousin had $28) or other such things.  Each state has a search engine where you look up your name (or a deceased family members name when searching for the estate).  If you don’t find anything there, make sure you try calling the State Treasurer’s office too. Not every state published everything in their possession–some take things down over time or don’t post big items, etc. Then usually you just have to file your claim. Check it out!  Great places to start are MissingMoney and NAUPA; they’re working with a bunch of states at once. 

  1. Alabama

  2. Alaska

  3. Arizona

  4. Arkansas

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US & Canadian laws have been D***S to Chinese Immigrants

16 Nov

I’d like to start by stating that US and Canadian laws have been ashamedly horrible to Chinese immigrants. Yep, and that’s really Horrible with all caps, lots of exclamation points, and a few “WTFs” thrown in.   I mean seriously. . . I’ve never read such racially loaded piles of SH**.  I mean, the legislative discussion behind these laws covers everything from racism to victim blaming to sexism to placing them at the bottom of the freaking “Caste” system. I mean, when have we ever even had a caste system!   Here are some of the key descriptions of the Chinese used in excusing such terrible racist legal movements:

  • “Culturally inferior”
  • “Racially unfit”
  • “Of the lowest orders”
  • “Or the lowest castes”
  • “Virtually Pariahs”
  • The “Dregs of the population”
  • “Lepers”
  • “Slaves”
  • “Yellow faces”

The list goes on.  They even mention that, of the Chinese women in the US in the late 1800s (after the Civil War was fought), most were “in a state of servitude, beside which African slavery was a beneficent captivity.” They talk about how many of these women were being forced into sexual slavery, but promptly use that as a reason to banish the population as a whole from American shores! Canada, with no just cause outside of racism, even taxed every Chinese immigrant $500 throughout the early 1900s, took away many of their rights (include the right to vote, own property, own a business, etc.) and eventually outlawed Chinese immigration almost completely (only 15 immigrants from China were allowed in from 1924 to 1944).  This continued even when Chinese-heritage soldiers rose up to fight with Canadian forces during WWII.  They were our allies, and this was still going on! NO SUCH LAW WAS IMPOSED AGAINST EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS. The Chinese residents and natural citizen already there even had to get a special permit to alert the government of their residency and alert the government of any traveling plans they had.  

   I mean, come on!!!  The governments’ treatment of these poor immigrants was just a pile of SH** And this type of conversation and treatment went on clear up through the late 1900s!!! How sick is that?!?  Some of the laws were in place as late as the 1980s!  Seriously, that’s basically within my lifetime — less than 30 years.  I have young friends who were alive then!

Now, excuse me.  I think I’ll go scream at the ignorance of idiots right now. . . 

 

Swinging Bridges and Small Town Romance

31 Dec

*UPDATED*!!!

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Having grown up in the mid-western state of Missouri, I always have a small spot in my heart reserved for the local, small town.  My mother’s family comes from the Hannibal, MO area, home of prolific author Mark Twain and the Mark Twain Dinette‘s Frosty Mug Root Beer.  As a lover of root beer, and having tried out about every kind I stumble across, I can proudly say that this Frosty Mug Root Beer is still a favorite.  🙂

However, I never actually visited the state of Iowa until I decided to join the University of Iowa’s student body.  So recently, when my mother was visiting some local towns, I decided to tag along.  As expected, I fell in love with the mid-west all over again.

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