snowper (snowper) wrote,

Part 3: Top Causes of Culture Shock

5. Traffic

This one will probably be very hard to get across, at least when you’re trying to limit the length of the explanation… so I’ll just put it into guidelines:

1) Representations of written traffic laws like crosswalks, crosswalk lights, and bike-lanes, are just suggestions, street decorations (they do like to have a lot of blinking lights around), or perhaps just for the benefit of visiting foreigners.

2) Even when you’re walking across an empty, deserted parking lot, some bike rider coming from behind you will choose to speed up and cut you off rather than going behind you as they change direction. Same situation with motorists vs. pedestrians in the same setting, though there's no hope in knocking them out of their cars if you lose your temper. After you’ve had many such close encounters, you may feel there’s no point in clipping your toenails anymore as these people will do it for you if you wear your sandals.

3) Only the people in the front seat of cars seem to have seatbelts. The people sitting in the back of any vehicle, especially taxis, should reconnect with their Maker.

4) Though in the US they teach you to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street, in China you would be standing at a crosswalk all day appearing to any observers like you’re at a tennis match as cars seem to materialize out of nowhere.

5) 90% of all vehicles will not slow down for you when you’re walking down the street, waiting at a crosswalk to cross the street, or already walking across the street.

6) When the crosswalk lights tell you that you can cross the street, it’s a lie; vehicles making turns will still have the right of way to mow you down. In other words, the light doesn’t tell you when it’s safe to cross the street, it only tells you when it’s safest.

7) Vehicles use every paved surface to get where they need to be. This includes bike lanes, opposing traffic lanes, and sidewalks.

8) There are two main sounds you hear besides basic traffic noises: incessant honking and very poorly kept brakes.

9) Unless you hadn’t noticed, pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain.

10) Chinese traffic may inspire within you a type of road rage that is very rare in the US: pedestrian road rage.

11) If you ever find yourself suddenly involved in some type of traffic accident, especially if it wasn't your fault, pick up whatever appendages you've lost and run (or limp) quickly away. Otherwise, you may spend hours at a police station enjoying a flood of the "victim's" relatives chewing you out in rapid and incomprehensible Chinese, and then you'd have to pay for this "entertainment".

In other words, roads in China might seem like a video game in which motorists or bicyclists try to come as close as possible to pinging off as many pedestrians as they can.

Other pedestrians, as well as their not-quite-dogs and babies, can cause traffic problems too, but more on that will be coming up.

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