In some companies, foreigners get paid in cash. That's a lot of dough come pay day.
Employees are led one by one into a back room or the finance office and are handed a thick brown envelope full of red Chaiman Maos.
And then other companies have become more sophisticated with direct bank deposits. But your salary isn't put into your bank account. Your employer issues you a bank card with whichever bank the company banks with and puts the money in there.
So with my first company, it was with China Merchant's Bank. But then where I lived was near a Bank of Beijing with whom I had to open a bank account in order to pay telephone and electricity bills. OK, I think I can handle that.
And now my new employer also uses Bank of Beijing. So I told the HR woman that I already had an existing account so could I let her know the account number?
"No that's not necessary," she said. "The company will issue you another bank card."
Thinking she didn't quite understand, I repeated what I said, but she shook her head. "No the company issues everyone a bank card. I don't know why but in the time I've been here, the company has issued me five bank cards."
"So you have five bank accounts with the Bank of Beijing?" I asked.
She smiled, nodded and walked off.
How crazy is that? And how does everyone in China keep track of all their accounts if they potentially have more than one with the same bank?
While Chinese banks can boast having the largest number of accounts in the world, surely they're some of the most inefficient, creating serious accounting problems.
This shows the Chinese banking system is still highly bureaucratic, or finance departments of companies are too lazy to try to pay its staff in their preferred bank accounts.