Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chinese Road Rules

This CNN article about driving in China made me seriously homesick for Tianjin. There was always something fun, exciting -- let's just call it challenging -- about crossing the street. I don't get cheap thrills like that here in Prosser. Maybe I should start a sport called running-across-freeways.

And all that honking. I don't get to hear that anymore. Maybe I should have one of my friends make a CD of traffic noise for me to play on days when I'm really aching to be back in China.

You have to watch the video associated with the link above to get a real taste of what driving is like in China. I've heard there are other countries in the world that are even more dangerous. India, for example, where people sit on the tops of buses and trains, and cows cause traffic jams.

For a rapidly developing country like China, safety on the road and clogged thoroughfares are serious problems. I actually began to loathe going to Beijing because of all the time I spent sitting in traffic. In fact, Tianjin traffic was getting so ridiculous before we moved back to the States, I barely left the confines of our neighborhood. If I couldn't bike there, I didn't go. (Well, before my bike was stolen, that is.)

So, why do Chinese drivers ignore road rules? As Americans, we have a hard time understanding. Our culture is based on rules, because it was founded basically on a Judeo-Christian value system. We know if we disobey laws, there will be consequences.

Chinese society isn't based on law, but on relationships. So, if I don't have a relationship with you, I can cut you off on the freeway and it doesn't matter at all. If I feel like turning left, I can turn left. If I get stopped by a cop (which is doubtful), well, all I have to do is build a relationship with him ... slide a little money into his hand and make friends with him that way.

In America we'd call that dishonest, rude, unethical. Over there, there's nothing wrong with it all. You're just doing what any logical human being would do: looking out for yourself and your friends.

Interesting, isn't it?

(I stole this link from my friend Sharon's blog. She and her family are still in China, weaving through Tianjin traffic on their electric bicycle/limo. Thanks Sharon -- and ride carefully!)


  1. I found you can get the same thrill by riding a bike anywhere here. I was in China 4 years riding EVERYWHERE and got hit once... my fault, went flying down a bridge with no brakes and slammed into car that turned in front of me. I was back in the US 3 weeks and got hit twice, once where I did more damage to the car than it did to me and once where the truck seriously hurt my bike. as crazy as it is over there, i must say its safer.

  2. Alison, you're right. At least in China people pay attention when they're driving. If they don't have their eye on the road, they're in for an accident for sure. Here, we count too much on other people obeying the rules, so we get lazy. Aaron's riding his bike around Prosser since we only own one car. So far he's said it's kind of boring because there's so little traffic in our small town. :) He misses the ride to TIS in China.


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