A couple of weeks ago, while I was minding my own business online, our broadband access went out. For expats, the internet is akin to a vital biological function, like breathing. When it disappears inexplicably it is never good.
After much poking at wires and turning off and on of the router, (pretty much the sum total of my technical expertise right there) Mr B, who arrived home in blissful ignorance of this unfolding domestic drama, promptly copped the flak.
It turns out our landline bill has not been paid.
Since we moved in.
Apparently, even though we’ve never used it and even though ADSL service is part of our rent, a monthly fee has to be paid for a landline in order to keep the ADSL on. After a mercifully short excursion to China Unicom where one employee spoke enough English to help me fill out the myriad forms in Chinese characters, we were told to wait a week and then service would be resumed.
My problem with this is not that we were cut off. That’s normal for non payment of bills. What is totally baffling is that we have not received a single bill, reminder notice, or in fact ANY kind of communication from China Unicom telling us this was coming.
When I mentioned this little episode to one of the very helpful employees in our building, she looked at me as if I came from another planet. Which in many ways I do.
Her response was, “but everybody knows that around 20th of the month bills must be paid!”
“Even though there is no bill sent? No reminders? And there is no mention of this in any of our contracts?”
“Yes, of course. This is China. Everybody knows this is how it works here,” she confirmed.
Everybody except a remedial wife it seems.