A few things have happened since my return that reminded me that things really do work differently here.
1. How Medical Patients are Treated
I went to the hospital to get a prescription refill the day after I returned (as my health care plan only covers emergency treatment in Canada). There doesn't really appear to be doctor's offices here, it's all clinics and hospitals. The process is quite complicated as you have to sign in, go to another desk to pay, go to a different desk to check in to the correct department, etc etc. As a foreigner, I don't have to do this. I make an appointment with an English-speaking nurse, who takes my medical card and goes around to all of the various desks for me. She even cuts in front of all of the other people in line, resulting in me spending much less time at the hospital than the average local. I really appreciate her help, but I also feel bad about the VIP treatment, although I guess I understand that she doesn't have all day to be waiting in line with me. But still, it feels weird. The other thing that I find really strange is that once you've been through all of the lines, there is no waiting room, you just walk right into the office of the doctor you want to see (usually there isn't even a door, just a curtain). I walked in on a family who was getting the results back from the grandma's head scans. Once it was my turn, there were other patients in the room. This system is maybe efficient (maybe, I'm not convinced that the Chinese way of always pushing instead of lining up actually makes things go faster), but offers absolutely NO privacy. Maybe it's a Western thing, but I think medical privacy is important. I'm not talking about crazy, over the top privacy control, but I would like for there not to be other people listening in on my conversation with the doctor, even if it is a boring one. I guess VIP service only extends so far....
2. Being Kept Track Of
Part of living in China is the requirement for a Residency Permit from your local police station. I got a new one when I moved in June, which makes perfect sense. Since then I got a new visa, and went home for the summer. Upon my return it took a couple of days to connect with my real estate agent (who is essentially like a building manager/go between with the landlords). We attempted to get me an updated permit with my new visa number on it, and were informed that I was going to be fined 500RMB (about $75) for not showing up to the police bureau within 24 hours of arriving. I knew I needed a new permit if I moved, and if I got a new visa...but I didn't know I needed to just show up and say hi just because I left and returned to the country. When I asked how I was to know this, I got "I don't know"s from multiple people. But...this IS China, so my real estate agent did some 'shopping around' and found me a police officer at another station that agreed to only charge me 100RMB. I still don't understand why I had to go in just because I left and returned...that seems more like a federal kind of concern...if the police hadn't seen the 'returning to China' stamp in my passport, how would they have known I went away for the summer?
Wonder how much it's going to cost when I have to go again in November when I get a new visa yet again.... (why my visa was only good from June to November instead of June to June is beyond me).