It is the beginning of 2013. I am almost 29 years old, I work as an interpreter and business agent in China. I love watching fairy tales, but I used to believe in them long time ago. As any normal person, I would like to believe in happy ends. But the reality, unfortunately, is different. I have been working with different people for several years. So I have formed my opinion on this and that group of people. I divide clients into several groups. The first one does what it says, while the second one only makes promises. It is not so difficult to categorize the clients. There are several criteria. But I am not writing a business instruction on personal time management: the ones you should give your time to and the ones you should not. Each of the interpreters or business agents in China has its own criteria and principles of work with their clients.
Let’s say I’m in Paris. I can’t imagine myself calling people I’ve accidentally or intentionally found on the Internet and asking questions about how to get to the Eiffel tower or where to buy a hat like Brigitte Bardot. I think it’s sheer insolence. Will anyone disagree with me? If I’m going to Paris, I’m searching the Internet for a map telling me how to get to the tower or where to buy the hat. There is a lot of information on the Internet today. There is also a lot of information about Guangzhou on the Internet. If you rely on the interpreter, you make an arrangement with him or her in advance. If you come to China by yourself, you should rely on yourself or your tongue.
After lunch I have got a call from a client. He needed interpretation services in Guangzhou today. When I refused it, he asked whether he could call me and ask me to tell the taxi driver the address of the artificial flower market and the accessories market in Guangzhou. Why not? Since I can not accompany the client, I can tell the taxi driver the address. It is not a problem for me. I agreed. Then he asked whether it is was possible to call me when he would buy something or when there would be any difficulties. Of course, he would pay for that. Initially, I refused to work with him because I was busy. It meant that I could not pick up the phone every time and interpret for the stranger who promised to pay for my services later. I refused to interpret on the phone in unclear situations, but I agreed to give the taxi driver the address. Apparently, there were no interpreters in huge Guangzhou, and he wanted to pay for my services. As a result, the man called me from the drugstore—not from the taxi, as we agreed, and not from the office of any company but from the drugstore!
It’s up to each of us whether to believe in fairy tales or not. I am quite a kind person, but I am far from being a selfless altruist. No notary will see a client for free, especially when the notary is busy. He won’t do it simply because he feels sorry for a confused client who does not know what to do. When you go to China without arrangements, do not consider interpreters idle people who are ready to pick up the phone at any time and help you to buy ointment for joints or to agree on the price of goods. If you need the notary—make an appointment. If you need the interpreter in Guangzhou—make an appointment. Do it beforehand. The more steps are planned, the less time you need for them in a foreign country. Please don’t count on free lunches and don’t take any chances.