Monday, July 18, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 交费

Last week, we were finally able to pay (jiāo fèi, ) the last of our utility bills, the cold water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费). Some things like rent (zū, ) they want to to pay in advance, but other things require long "processing time" or something here. You would think if you lived in an apartment for several months they would want to to pay up right away, but surprisingly when we thought we were late, we were actually early.

The bill system is quite confusing, thankfully it seems fairly forgiving as well. For each utility bill you have to pay you have to go to a separate place (dì fāng, 地方), after a certain day (tiān, ), of a certain month (yuè,). Some bills are due after the 10th of the month and some after the 20th of the month. Some are due on odd months and some on even months. Some other types of bills are only collected once a year (nián, 年). It's annoying to have to pay it all up front, but at least it is easier to keep track of.

We are thankful that we took care of our phone (diàn huà, 电话) and internet (wǎng luò, 网络) for a whole year at a time. Not only did we get a better deal, but we don't have to worry about it getting shut off anytime soon, like happened our poor neighbors who got the months mixed up.

Everyone's electric bills on the door
Some bills like electric and gas they post on the outer door of your apartment building. No, they are not in envelopes. Yes, you can see everyone's bills. Yes, you can go around comparing your bill to everyone's bills if you wish.  Privacy isn't the same here.

But they don't post water bills for some reason. And to make matters more confusing, we have both a cold (or regular) water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费) and a solar hot water (tài yáng rè shuǐ, 太阳热水) bill. These are due at different times, and you have to go to different places to pay them. This is because we have to pay water company the cold water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费) and the apartment complex a management fee (wù guǎn fèi,物管费) for the solar hot water. They manage the solar heaters that are on the roof of the seventh floor of our buildings. The solar water heaters do a really good job heating most of the time, but if it rains for quite a while, you may want to wait for a sunny day to take a shower.

Electric office guard likes Andrew

If the system isn't completely clear, don't worry, it is still confusing to use too. Just be glad if you can simply mail your bills out each month. Thankfully, we have some friends who have lived here for a while, and they helped us sort all of this out. One of our friends spent a whole afternoon taking us around to all four places to try to pay our bills, so even though we couldn't get them all taken care of that day, we were able to keep going back to check. Now that we have paid each one once, it should be easier in the future.

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