About Having Faith in China's Officials

If you're familiar with the Chinese language, or have lived in China for a while, you will know that numbers and their meaning are a very important part of Chinese culture. For example four is a very bad number since its Chinese pronunciation is similar to "death", so naturally Chinese like to avoid this number. Eight on the other hand is a very good number since its pronunciation is similar to "wealth", making it a very auspicious number. The list goes on and on.

Following this concept, the 20th of May has become yet another "Valentine's Day" here in China, for the simple reasons that the three numbers - 520 - sound like "I love you" (我愛你, wǒ ài nǐ) in Chinese. During this day loads of girls will receive flowers from their other halves and of course the beloved red pockets. Its not nearly as commercialised as the 14th of February, but it's yet another day were people go shopping because many shops will offer discounts or special deals. Flowers are extremely expensive and restaurants are crowded with couples, families and friends who enjoy a meal together.

I decided to spend my day with a relaxing stroll in the park, followed by a visit to Starbucks. In the late afternoon I met up with a friend who was excited to show me her new nail studio. She'd told me about her plan to open in early June and asked me when I'd have time to come and visit, so I took the opportunity to nosey around and give her some feedback.

After I got the VIP tour from her and her two co-owners we all decided to go for dinner at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant was so crowded that we ended up waiting nearly forty minutes for a table and when we finally got shown to our table we were starving. Having to wait for a table was kind of a good thing though, it gave us the opportunity to read the menu and order our favourite dishes.

What with it being such a "special day" it took forever for our food to arrive and I'd love to say that everything was utterly peachy, that the food was divine and that we gorged ourselves into blissful oblivion, but that would defeat the purpose of this blog post. A picture (or three) on Instagram would have sufficed to get that message across.

Sadly, what was supposed to have been a lovely dinner, took a nasty turn when the food did not agree with myself and I found myself fighting to suppress the urge to puke all other the table. I managed to alarm my friend to my predicament and she reacted quickly, dragged me out of the restaurant and to the nearby restrooms. I didn't actually make it there though, because I lost control of over my stomach contents when we reached the emergency staircase. There was nothing my friend could do but watch me retch miserably, trying very hard to push my stomach through my oesophagus. I finally managed to calm down a little and my friend took me to the bathroom to freshen up when another bout of nausea set in, leaving me with no other option but to run to the nearest toilet cubicle and continue to retch. This was followed by dizziness and breathing problems as well as me puking up some blood.

Somehow my friend managed to only freak out a little and after I tiredly tiled Dr Z's phone number she asked him what to do. He told he to call 120 (emergency services) and hung up the phone. My friend followed his instructions and according to her the paramedics arrived on scene not ten minutes later. They asked me some questions, which I can't remember since I was busy retching, not being able to breathe properly and trying very hard not to faint. This I apparently did anyway though when the paramedics tried to get me out of the restroom and to the elevator. I vaguely remember two strong arms on my left and right but I don't remember how I got onto the stretcher, into the ambulance or to the hospital. The whole evening is still a bit of a blur and I will be eternally grateful to my friend and Dr Z for getting the ambulance to take me to my preferred hospital, something they initially weren't too fond of doing. They did however follow doctor's order and once I got to the hospital the doctors and nurses on duty in the emergency room did a fantastic job on pepping me up.

At some point the urge to retch subsided a little but unfortunately the stomach cramps kicked in. Those then lessened after a while, but that's when the retching kicked in, which is when the doctor decided to put me on a drip. I spend the entire night with a needle in my arm, forbidden to even think about food or touch water. With some TLC from the nurses I eventually managed to get some rest and the doctor ran a few tests in the morning to determine the cause of my sudden inability to stomach anything.

The doctor is still uncertain about the exact cause, but felt inclined to blame the whole thing on a problem with the food the restaurant served. Apparently my stomach is rather sensitive, so where it takes others a couple of hours to feel miserable it only takes me a few minutes. After my release from the emergency room I went and checked in on Dr Z, who was rather stern and displeased about me having him so worried that he spend half the night unable to sleep and called the hospital twice just to make sure I was being taken care of. He then strictly forbid me to ever eat in restaurant again unless under his supervision. I get why he was mad, since I almost gave him a heart attack last year when I ended up with a severe allergic reaction to some food/red wine, but luckily for me he forgave me eventually. A bit of sajiaoing goes a long way with a man, even if he's a doctor!

After the shock of everything, I got in touch with my friend (who is incidentally also my lawyer) and told him the story. He was beyond shocked and disgusted and he told me to get a stamped receipt from the restaurant, have a friend take a video while getting it and gather all the receipts from the medical treatments received at the hospital, as well as the bill for the ambulance. With all the evidence in hand he found me the contact information for the China Food and Drug Administration and told me in no uncertain terms to complain about the restaurant, while my friends told me to drop it and not look for trouble. I followed his advise, got everything together and contacted the CFDA via their website. One day after my complaint they called me to ask for further details and yesterday morning they asked to meet me at the restaurant. They interviewed me thoroughly, spoke to the boss, inspected the kitchen and storage areas as well as took photos. Then they requested that the restaurant compensate me, which left the boss unable to look me in the eye. He eventually offered to refund me what I'd paid for the meal. The two guys from the CFDA gave him a sharp look and after swallowing hard, he offered that he'd cover half of my total expenses. This did not sit well with the guys from the CFDA and they asked him for a private chat in another part of the restaurant. When they returned the boss miraculously offered to compensate me in full.

After signing a paper to state that I'd received the money, the guys from the CFDA made sure I got my money, walked me out and left themselves. I told my friend about my success and he simply said "You did what had to be done," and congratulated me. A small victory but it made me feel good about living in China and has only strengthened my belief in the medical system, emergency services and the fact that China tries hard to improve. They do things at their own pace and in their own way but they are trying, yet there are too many people out there who don't give them enough credit for that.

Most Chinese people wouldn't do what I did, because they don't believe in getting justice and they also don't want to make trouble or cause trouble for themselves. I talked about this with my friend and he told me that's the way China works, "trouble" is something you avoid at all costs because it takes effort and might lead to frustration. However what with him being a lawyer he disagrees with that way of thinking and so do I. Sometimes the right kind of "trouble" doesn't lead to frustration but to victory and justice.

Justice was what I got and it made me happy. Unfortunately most of my Chinese friends failed to see the point and simply told me that I got justice because I'm a foreigner, which I found hurtful to say the least and I told them so. Contrary to popular beliefs I don't get special treatment in China because I'm a foreigner, I get it because I ask for it, because I believe it to be my prerogative. People might agree to do things for me on the basis of me being a foreigner but I believe that they do that because they care about me, because they want to do something for me and maybe because they think it's easier to do something for me than enter into a lengthy discussion. Getting justice where justice is due is something you should never put of as "troublesome" and unworthy. Sadly many Chinese do but I hope things will change in the future, and people here in China will be more trusting.

If you have a problem with food or medication you can contact the China Food and Drug Administration online: http://www.sda.gov.cn/WS01/CL0001/, however since every province has a different sub-site and contact details you might have to ask a Chinese friend to help. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you think you deserve it and don't let anyone tell you that it's a waste of time.



我之前听很多人说 “有急事,不要以为打120他们就会马上送你到医院,打的还靠谱一点”。我求你对自己国家的紧急医疗多点信任,好不好。我朋友跟我说她8点过4分打了120,8点15分救护车到现场,8点40分钟我就到医院了!请你不要跟我说这是因为我是外国人,这是因为选择做急救的工作的人,认真真地工作!所以我信任中国的急救医疗服务!


出院后我联系我一个好朋友,跟他讨论一下发生的事儿。他一听到我的故事,叫我找食药监部门(CFDA)投诉那个餐厅,忙的时候还抽时间告诉我投诉的电话号码,网站地址,等等,耐心的回答我各种的问题,提了建议。在我想放弃的时候还鼓励我叫我处理好这个事儿。这不是因为我是外国人,而且因为我的朋友对我真心,因为他在乎。当别人说 “别搞,麻烦了” 他还坚持说 “必须处理好,一定会处理好”。