As some of you already know I’ve been visiting China for the last week. I spent 2 nights in Hong Kong and I’ve been in the Southern island of Hainan for the last 4 days, and we’re flying way up to Beijing in a few hours.
Since arriving here, I’ve been making observations about the differences between our North American societies and the Chinese societies and I probably have 20 different blogs I could write on this topic because our cultures are so vastly different. I was very shocked and fascinated when I first came to Hainan, although Hong Kong was more or less exactly what I was expecting and doesn’t wholly represent the Chinese culture because it’s so westernized.
For now I’ll start on the topic about how the Chinese people are a very worry-free people. There is much evidence I’ve seen over the last 4 days to confirm this point. In China, it’s rare for anybody to wear a seatbelt; people just don’t worry about that kind of thing here. Wearing a helmet on a motorcycle is a rarity, even when a family of 4 with 2 small children is riding a motorcycle, you’ll be lucky to see a helmet.
Cars have the right of way regardless of what any sign might say to the contrary. A crosswalk is more of a death walk. The sign says Pedestrian crossing, but absolutely no car will stop for you. Sure they might beep, or swerve around you, but I’ve yet to see a car stop for a pedestrian or a motorcycle. Cars are at the top of the food chain here, and that’s just the way it is. Even at a traffic light, when the pedestrian has the green walk sign, cars turning right will not stop for you.
But despite all this danger, people just don’t worry. I look like a real sissy when I’m crossing the road looking in all directions for cars that might be driving toward me. But other people just walk and if they see a car they just casually scatter. If one car blatantly cuts off another car, the other car just moves or brakes or sometimes beeps. But nobody gets mad at someone for cutting them off because it’s all part of the game. Nobody worries.
Even the guy on the motorcycle who’s not wearing a helmet who gets cut off by a car turning right simply swerves around the car and keeps riding waiting for the next car to cut him off. People walk across 6 lane roads with cars zooming by them in both directions without any worries, while I stand there on the side of the road worried that they might get hit. But still I haven’t seen anyone get hit. On a normal 10-minute drive across the city, it’s not uncommon to see 40 or 50 cars, pedestrians or motorcycles get cut off. Yet people seem to be able to avoid collision. There are intersections that have 6 lanes of roads coming from all 4 directions and no traffic lights or stop signs. Just imagine a 6 lane highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and all 4 directions approach at the exact same time. What do you think is going to happen? Well you would think it would be an inevitable collision, but people just maneuver their cars to avoid hitting each other, they simply swerve around each other missing by mere inches, but everyone makes it out without a scratch.
So the purpose of this article is to point out how in our Western societies, we worry about so many things every day. Some things we worry about for good reason, while other things we worry about just for the sake of worrying. Maybe it’s statistics that makes us worry, or maybe it’s just Dateline NBC. But in the end, it might be safer to walk on a sidewalk in Canada than China, but we will be walking with more gray hair than the average Chinese person.