Before I left for Hong Kong I was worried about not having enough gas and electricity to carry me through the May holiday because things would be closed and I wouldn't have time to pay for my utilities until the following weekend.
Because in China, they don't believe in sending you a bill. Maybe they can't be bothered to pay for the paper, printing and postage, or they're worried you won't pay up. So you have pay as you go.
So when I buy gas to heat my water and cook my food, I have to tell the property office how much gas I'd like to buy. And almost 300 RMB (US$39) will get you about 190 units of gas. They charge up this electronic card I have for my apartment and then I slide that card into the gas meter at home and automatically I have 190 more units of gas. I have yet to figure out how long that will last me.
The same situation goes for electricity except I pay that at the bank. There's a sort of telephone booth where the ATM machines are. I stick the electricity card in, punch in how much electricity I'd like to buy, swipe my bank card and after inputing my bank pin number, the card is charged up and again I stick it in the electricity meter for a jump in kilowatts.
As for the phone bill, towards the end of the month, I get a phone call from a woman who tells me how much I owe. And again I take the electricity card to the bank and pay the same way.
It's so weird! And so inconvenient. But that explains why everyone turns off their lights or shuts off the heat whenever they can. It's made me more conscious of how much power I'm consuming too!
I wonder if there's a way to get people to stop idling their cars as they're wasting gas too....