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Fuzhou is my second hometown

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-05-06

Manil Francois is an engineer in the electrical power industry. He shares his life between USA, Europe and China. 

Fuzhou is my second hometown

After studying in Taiwan, he spent over two years in Fuzhou working at an Cangshan-based American company: Emerson.

He traveled throughout China and Asia but considers Fuzhou as one of his 'hometowns'.

His hobbies include traveling, trying things that he never tried and meeting people from all walks of life. He is passionate of sociology and philosophy and likes to record his experiences on video.

Francois is also creating a non-profit organization to support education in Haiti.

The perks of being a foreigner when dealing with Fuzhou administration

Going through administrative paperwork is seen in many countries as dealing with a bunch of inefficient government entities populated by clock-watching civil servants. For example, it takes months to obtain a driver’s license in France and even longer to get a passport in the US.

How about Fuzhou when you are a foreigner?

I noticed that when you purchase train tickets at one of the vending booths of downtown Fuzhou, the efficiency of the selling team is not always optimal. Oftentimes, only one of the four employees is selling tickets while the others are just watching. With that in mind, what to expect from administration?

1/ Dealing with the Public Security administration

As I was in need of a no-crime record for some international paperwork, I inquired a few people around me about where and how to get this done. I found out that the local Public Security Bureau was the place to go. Not a good news at first, they informed me that they can’t do this document for foreigners as they don’t maintain a database for them. As I was insisting on getting something, the agent gave a few phone calls and told me that I could go to the Fuzhou Public Security Headquarters, in Gulou. That way, I could arrange directly with the superintendent.

After a taxi ride to the Gulou office, I arrived at the gate and tried to explain to the security officer that I came to meet one of the leaders of the Bureau. I had his name written on a piece of paper, but nothing official so I had a hard time being credible. He eventually called the person I was looking for but they would not let me in. Instead, the chief himself came down the the gate, right on the street side to meet me and greet me. Once again, I explained my need for a no-crime record and said that I couldn’t get this done in my district.

The superintendent said: “We need to help our foreign friend! Let’s prepare this document for you.” In a matter of minutes, he had called his team and the document was on the way. I got it a week after.

2/ Getting a driver’s license in Fuzhou

When it comes to driving in Fuzhou, foreigners are again in a favorable position. If you have a valid foreign license, you simply need to have it translated into Chinese and then take a quick medical test as well as a written test. The total cost of the process for me to get a Chinese license was 80 yuan and two weeks. Much cheaper than the thousands of RMB that the Chinese people need to spend on getting the coveted document. And this is not to mention not having to go through the hassle of a road test.

3/ Dealing with the Notary Public of Fuzhou

I regularly go to the Fuzhou Notary Public on Xinquan Road as there is always some paper that needs certification or translation. The place is impressive for its efficiency even though the heavy crowd can make things lengthy from time to time. The translation team could make a Chinese version of my French documents in just about five minutes!

One day, I came in with a special request to get some documents notarized but the clerk did not really understand my request. You are normally required to check in with the clerk to get a number and then wait for your turn. However, as I was the only foreigner that day, the person on duty called the boss in an attempt to help me avoid waiting. The boss came along quickly and took me to his office, away from the waiting crowd. After a quick look at my documents, he helped my certify them with the Notary Public stamp. Again, done in a few minutes!

Not bad, Fuzhou!

Television Stardom in Fuzhou

Excitement was to the roof when my friend and I heard about this opportunity to take part in a show for the Fujian television. Without knowing what to expect, we contacted the show manager and secured a first meeting at the Fujian TV center, near Baolong.

Fuzhou is my second hometown

My friend and I arrived at the TV center. We were asked to wait at the gate and the producer came to welcome us. After a brief introduction, we were presented some videos of previous shows. My friend said right away: “There is absolutely no way I am going to do that on TV!” The show was about a group of contestants competing around disgraceful short games including jumping around, throwing various objects and drinking soda as quickly as possible. The kind of show that I would never watch in my country and which I would make fun of the contestants willing to be ridiculed in public. I kind of wanted to excuse myself… But on the other hand there are things that one should try once in their lifetime and it does include taking oneself as a joke in front of millions of viewers. After a quick discussion, my friend and I were ready to sign up.

The recording of the show takes place over a complete day with the morning dedicated to the preparation and the afternoon to the actual shooting. On request of the producer, I brought a dozen of my friends and colleagues to have them witness my performance and give me some 加油 when needed. Accessorily, it adds up to the risk of totally ruining my reputation; but, well, it is fine I guess! The show is well managed. We receive instructions for each game and are told how to behave on the stage. Most of the other contestant are models or media-related people. I am apparently the only ‘average’ person but my alien normality is special enough to fit in.

After a makeup session - the very first for me - the contest eventually starts, in front of the ecstatic audience. One of the ten contestant is disqualified after each game until there is one winner. The goal of the first game is to empty a box of tissues as quickly as possible. It is a very physical exercise and within a minute I can’t feel my arm anymore. In order to go on, the only thing I need is not to be the last one. The stress is high as I see my opponents finishing one after the other but I eventually reach the end before a few others. At least I am not the first disqualified.

Other games follow and I - surprisingly enough - make my way while the pool of contestants reduces to seven, six, five. Wow!

The next game is probably the hardest for me. We are asked to lift up glass bottles using a skipping rope. My bottles keep falling but I can hear my friends cheering me up from behind the stage. As I am almost loosing, the last opponent makes an unlucky move letting me win this game.

I keep going until only one contestant and myself remain in the competition. The last game is about throwing a certain number of spoons into glasses. This was the game I was most comfortable with at the morning practice and I indeed quickly take the lead. In about two minutes, I put my fifteen spoons into glasses and become the winner of the competition! It couldn’t be a better way to thank my friends for their support.

In the last part of the show, I need to drop coins into tubes in order to determine how much money I earn. But before that, my foreign friends join me for a brief Gangnam Style dance on stage. I end the show with a 3000 RMB prize!

Thanks to this first positive experience of the media, I accepted offers to take part in a couple other TV shows.

My second appearance on the Fujian television was not for a contest anymore. The principle was straightforward: no winner, no prize, just opportunities to look silly together with other participants.

'Teachers' were coming on stage to introduce their specific skills to us. The first session was pole dancing which we all performed at various levels of derision. It was followed by ballet dancing for which boys were equipped with a dancing skirt for more ‘credibility’, and so on…

When I went back to the TV center for a third performance, I was starting to feel at home at the studio. I knew the layout of the place as well as a few people working there. This time was for a kind of dating show in which three young men (including myself) take turns in describing features of their life in order to introduce themselves to the only girl on stage. The latter chooses her favorite guy at the end of the show. Prior to the show, the manager helped me prepare the things I could say so they were sure I would not mess things up (in case there was a doubt!). A little before the show actually started, I got to meet my ‘opponents’ and socialize with them. The show went pretty smooth, it was a conversation between the girl and us, three guys, together with two professors, experts in relationship and sociology. Among the topics, I described why it is not in our culture to live with our parents and why some foreigners think that the Chinese are too materialistic.

Maybe it is because people are often attracted to what is exotic, or maybe it is because I looked too pitiful on the stage, but the girl eventually chose me among the three guys. The gift from the TV station was: a weekend for the two of us in a hotel at 8,000 RMB per night. Is that really serious?!

Francois' profile

Stayed in Taiwan from Feb 2009 to July 2010

Stayed in Fuzhou from March 2012 to March 2014

Currently living in Milwaukee, USA (temporarily)

Current position: Engineer (Sales Engineer and Business Process Improvement)

Position in Fuzhou: Engineer (Sales Engineer and Project Manager)

Hometown: Paris, France

Education: BSc in mathematics and MSc in engineering

More details: see linkedin : Francois Manil

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