It turns out that one of the government-issued cards is for social security and the other is my Foreigner’s Work Permit.
When I obtained the new, shiny work permit card, my employer assured me that it would be a multifunction miracle and “exactly the same” as a Chinese citizen’s ID card. I immediately attempted to use it to go to Tianjin and got as far as a ticket window at the Beijing South Railway Station. I had wanted to buy my ticket from a machine like a Chinese citizen would, but failed, of course. The girl behind the glass, who was otherwise very charming, had no idea what my card was used to do.
When I got to Tianjin the next day, it proved useless in checking into a hotel, and when I went to register, my local police showed no interest in it at all.
Which brings me to the point of this minor fulmination, despite having more plastic than I can ever use, I still crave more.
What I really want is an ID card that is exactly the same as a Chinese citizen’s.
Carrying one’s passport all the time is just simple craziness. I used to carry a photocopy, but a few friends have had problems with that, and when security is tightened, it is necessary to carry your housing registration, too.
A passport is a very expensive document. Mine cost more than $300. Losing one’s passport causes enormous difficulties not just with visas, but in all kinds of other ways. Only a fool would carry it everywhere!
But it is not just about the risks, inconvenience and expense. When I go to the bank, catch a train, or try to sign up for something online, I want to be treated the same as everyone else. I want it to be as easy as possible for the receptionist or teller to deal with my business.
It’s difficult enough for them to deal with my language issues without having to handle a strange document. Being “weird” can be very tiring.