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Tradesmen in China

Updated on March 27, 2010

Ghastly repairs

My chair
My chair
My kitchen sink
My kitchen sink
My bathroom door
My bathroom door
My wardrobe door
My wardrobe door
My "security" door
My "security" door
My cupboard
My cupboard


We foreigners often laugh when we see the strange ways things are done in China.  We have chairs that we feel we could fix given the right tools, but the Chinese do not find it easy to repair anything.  Certainly not with style.  I have had wooden chairs "repaired" but hammering bits here and there, adding an inappropraite piece of wood with a nail that usually sticks out, etc.

We laugh at the technicians who come to fix the audio visual equipment.  Often they kick the computer or the box and strangely it will work, and they go.  However, you can guess the real problem re appears.

My curiosity was aroused in a class yesterday when they had the work "carpenter" in the text.  A person who works with wood, makes furniture, does the timber work in buildings.  Can you imagine a sea of Chinese faces looking at me as if I was speaking Swahili??  They didn't get it.

So at my class last night I had a student who was very smart, and I asked him about "electricians", "plumbers" and "carpenters."  Again I got the strange look.  What is this woman talking about?

I pointed out the strange electrical power points.  If this was "broken" (using a familiar Chinese/English expression) what would you do?   First of all, he'd try and fix it himself.  Then if it was still broken, he'd phone a friend.  "Your friend is an electrician?"   No, but he can fix things.    And so it went.

Do you know if there are these tradesmen in China?  Again the blank look.

So what do I make of it?  Personally I think there is a great opportunity for quality training for tradesmen.

In the university which is huge, we have a little man who does the "maintenance" in his lunch hour from his full time job elsewhere.  He rides in on his bicycle with his tools strapped to his back, and a little bag that fits in his bicycle basket. He comes to "fix" everything.  It is amazing. 

And of course little is fixed.  "it is broken" and a shrug is familiar to us.

My security door "is broken" and his recommendation to me is to put my finger in the hole and wiggle until the tongue of the lock reappears, and then I can lock my door.  I must say it is irritating as it only works 1 our of 10 times, and I have to persevere to it to work.

Is there a great opportunity here?

Chinese people all want to be successful businessmen or women, but they don't realise that a plumber or an electrician or other tradesman is a businessman, and that the two mentioned make a lot of money in Australia.

Upmarket Tradesman do Exist

In discussion about the topic about tradesmen in China, I learn that there are upmarket type tradesmen here in China.  At least the work they do LOOKS good.  i don't know  if it is quality in the sense that it is good work that will last a long time without repair, but I am assured that some renovations in the middle to upper end of the market appear to be "finished" well.

That certainly is good news - and I guess there is probabl a shortage of qualified tradesmen too, which makes people reliant on friends etc, especially those that seem to have some sort of success rate.

We laugh at the problems in the university. There are some men on staff who are regarded as "computer technicians" but we learn they are untrained and learn by experience.  But kicking the computer is one of the techniques they use, and then when it doesn't respond to the kick, they announce it is "broken" and leave!!!

More places in need of repair.


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