Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Funny Encounter with the Chinese Police

Helloooo jetlag face!

Back in 2011 before I stared this blog, I studied abroad in China.  If you've been my reader for very long, chances are you already know that.  Sometimes when I get nostalgic, I like to post about my experiences on the blog that I never told before.  I did start this blog while I was living in China, but only about 3 weeks before I returned to the United States, so my stories were very summarized.

Today, I want to tell you one of my favorite stories - one that always has me laughing uncontrollably.  

If you aren't familiar with China's housing registration laws, they can be somewhat strict.  Foreigners must register with the police within 48 hours of living at a residence.  Typically when you stay in a hotel or hostel, you are exempt from visiting the police station because they will register for you.  However, if you move into a more permanent setting (apartment) you need to register within 48 hours.  

My first night Skyping Tyler from my hotel!
For the first two weeks of being in China, my friend and I stayed in a hotel while we waited for Yunnan University to place us in either a dorm or with a host family.  Long story short, my friend and I decided to rent an apartment together.  Ready to get out of the hotel, we made a mad dash to find a two bedroom apartment - and did so within two days.  It was right across the road from campus!

The apartment before couch, table, and beds.
Once the apartment manager bought furniture for the empty apartment so we could move in, we packed our suitcases and rolled them from the fifth floor of the hotel, through the hilly campus, and then up three flights of stairs.  I carried my big suitcase, my very full backpack, my stuffed animal, and pillow.  It doesn't seem like much, and the walk really wasn't that far (not even a kilometer), but it was the longest walk of my life - and it was at like 10:00 pm with jetlag.

The next day, we went down to the police station to register that we were now staying in the new apartment.  The police officers didn't speak any English, we didn't understand what we were supposed to do with the forms (when we'd try to do it one way they'd start yelling and we'd just be confused).  But really when Chinese people "yell" they aren't really yelling, it just feels, sounds, and looks like they are yelling.

Finally they took our passports and made copies, took the registration form and let us leave.  
We thought that meant everything was good.

But what we didn't realize is that we needed to go re-register after our school changed our tourist visas to residency permits.  (Being forced to get the tourist visas vs. the student visas is another frustrating story for another time.)  So about a month or so later, we get a knock at our door around 7 or 8 pm.  This was strange since we didn't know many people yet, and we hadn't invited many classmates to our apartment yet. 

When we opened the door, there stood an policeman.  He was an older man a little on the heavy side (for a Chinese person), and he seemed to be really jolly.  We had absolutely no idea why he was at our apartment, and we couldn't understand his dialect.  Fortunately, one of our teachers wrote his phone number on the board in case we ever got into trouble.  I got out my notes to find the number and call our teacher.  My teacher spoke to the officer for a moment and then the officer gave the phone back to me.

As the policeman was waiting for my teacher to explain what was going on, he began looking for a place to sit.

This is the futon in all its brightness.  But it only shows its true colors when you fold it down and sit on the wrong end.
When we moved into the apartment, the apartment manager put a bright pink futon in the living room to serve as our couch.  The futon would fold down, so we could use it for a  larger study space, or to make more room for movie watching.  The only catch was that when the back folded down, it didn't have support legs.  So if a person tried to sit on the side that would normally be the back of the futon without another person sitting on the normal side, it would tip.  

On that particular day, the back was folded down, and the side without legs was furthest from the wall.  (We had been sitting with our backs against the wall and our feet out on the legless side of the futon.)

My teacher had just spoken with the police officer, and was now attempting to tell me what the problem was on the phone.  I saw the police officer start to bend his knees and stick his hind end over the side of our futon that didn't have support legs.  


And when I panicked, I forgot pretty much all Chinese I ever knew.  I didn't know how to tell him to stop sitting, so I just said "Wait a minute, wait a minute!"  He still had it in his head that he was going to sit, and didn't realize why I was telling him to wait and kept trying to sit down.

Finally my roommate caught on to what I was trying to stop the police officer from doing, and pushed the couch so that it would tilt to show what would have happened.  I pulled the chair out from the desk nearby and removed the books so he could sit there.  He chuckled and sat in that chair.

What a relief!  The last thing we needed was an elderly policeman falling on the floor in our apartment!  Not only could he have lost face, but could have been injured.  And if either of those things had happened, I'm not sure what would have happened to us!

It turned out the reason the police officer came to our apartment was because according to their records, our visas had expired the day before.  He came, checked our passports and saw our residency permits and realized that everything was fine.  We just had to go update our registration the next day.


  1. Oh man that would have been quite something! I hope you don't laugh when you get a fright or that would have been even worse if he'd fallen and you'd laughed. I need to work on not laughing.

    1. Oh my goodness, I don't even know what my reaction would have been! I hope I could remain serious...at least until he was gone! I'm the worst to laugh at a friend before realizing I should have asked if they are okay...but I think I was afraid enough in that situation that I could have handled myself! haha

  2. Man, I had to check on this because 1) I love a funny story and 2) I'm terrified of police encounters. And you're right--the Chinese language itself often sounds like yelling!

    1. I feel like the pink futon in itself is a funny enough story! ;) It took a while to realize that several people I encountered on a regular basis didn't hate me, it just sounded like they were yelling when they were actually just talking.

  3. Glad he didn't fall but that would have been kind of funny. Great futon!!!!

    1. Haha, the idea of it is so funny...but I'm also so glad he didn't fall, I would have felt awful! Heh, yep, that futon is a memorable one!

  4. Hahaha. Oh goodness, that's a hilarious situation! I'm so glad everything ended up ok! I love hearing about travel experiences. :-)

    1. Haha, me too! Luckily it's usually the most awkward or terrible situations that are the most fun to look back on!

  5. Really awesome, i like the post. I was browsing about cocoa powder but not get enough info about it, could you please post it ?


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