Up until recently Amy was paid in the following manner:
Half of the paycheck was paid out in RMB (Chinese currency) which was deposited into a local bank. This money was easily accessible through any ATM or by physically withdrawing it from any of the many branches in the city.
The other half of the paycheck was doled out in USD through a bank in Hong Kong. This money was monumentally more difficult to get to. There don't seem to be any branches in Shanghai, and we received no checks or debit/ATM cards. Essentially to use that money you had to have it transferred out of Hong Kong to another bank. This was done through a confusing system of faxes.
Typically American workers would transfer that money to their American banks and use it to pay off any outstanding debt still held in the States or whatever. It was actually a very good way to save money, as it was so difficult to actually spend.
It was also highly beneficial as since it was never actually Chinese cash the Chinese government was unable to tax it. And as the Chinese system of taxes doesn't take in effect (read they don't actually take any money out) until you reach a certain dollar amount, and we weren't reaching that amount with only half a pay check, we were getting away tax free.
Well very recently this whole system changed. The details are a little vague, but it seems the stockholders for the company that owns the school that employs Amy weren't too happy with this system.
The downshot is that Amy now has to be paid completely in Chinese money, which means we're hit with major taxes. We're still having half the money go to Hong Kong as it is still a good method to save money, but it is all getting taxed. Which means less pay.
The company, realizing this is a major hit for its non-Chinese employees is trying to make things better. It seems that taxes have to be paid on all salaries, but they do not effect things like reimbursements.
As a side note here, I will add that we have a third Chinese bank which was opened specifically for the reimbursement we received for our plane tickets here. Now that I am a substitute teacher on the pay roll I too have three separate accounts. Add in the account in Oklahoma, and the still not closed account in Indiana and that brings our total bank accounts to eight!
What the company is now doing to help out is allowing us to be reimbursed on all sorts of things. Sort of. We're actually not really clear on how it all works, but the gist of it is we have to save all our receipts.
The added nightmare to the ever growing mountain of receipts is that any old regular receipt won't do. You have to have an officially stamped special receipt called a fapio.
Some places you automatically get a fapio. Like if you take a taxi, they automatically print one for you with a machine printed stamp on it. And certain markets employ a small army to stand at the exits who then look over your receipt and stamp their approval.
But at other places, the process is more difficult. At most restaurants you have to specifically ask for a fapio. These are doled out like discount coupons. You don't get a single fapio with your actual total on it, but rather you get multiple fapios in various increments such as tens, hundreds, and singles. The change is usually rounded up. Sometimes they run out of singles and you get the benefit of a round up to the nearest five.
These restaurant fapios also have a little scratch off game that I have yet to comprehend.
Most supermarkets make fapio collecting even more difficult. At the cash register you receive a regular looking receipt with your products on it and the total cost. To receive a fapio you must then take this receipt to a separate register set aside on one end of the store. They look a bit like an exchange/refund counter you would come across in the states. Here you wait in another line (after having waited in an always enormous line to purchase your goods) at the end of which you present your regular receipt and have a hand written special fapio receipt given to you.
At the smaller markets (like the mini-grocery that we frequent located just outside the LQ) you cannot turn any old receipt in for a fapio. Since most purchases at these stores are small, it is seen as a waste of paper and time and money to get a fapio for each purpose. Instead we have to wait until we have a large quantity of receipts which can then all be exchanged for a single fapio.
Or something. Who really knows what we're doing, or why we're doing it? We do what people tell us to and hope it comes out for the best. Which at this point means collecting tons of receipts, trying to keep track of where they all come from (which is actually difficult since they're all written in Chinese and we're not the best at remembering where we spent each little bit of cash) and hoping this will somehow make more money appear somewhere.
Since all of us have to keep track of fapios, we have had some interesting experiences doing things together. There is often a lively discussion on who gets to collect the fapio at the end of a long taxi ride or dining experience.
Only in China as they say.