Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game?

6 May

After being on the road for over 2 months now, we’ve learned to either embrace, adapt, or at the very least, accept customs of cities that we visit. But in Beijing, when it came to situations where we had to 1) stand in line, 2) ride a train or bus, or 3) cross a street, we found ourselves in situations where we’d have to act accordingly or 1) get cut in front of, 2) get crushed or pushed off the subway, 3) get injured by a moving vehicle.

People freely cut in line whether it was to buy subway tickets, ask for directions, or see Mao’s body at the mausoleum. In other places such behavior would be considered rude but in Beijing it seems to be the norm.

See the woman in the pink? She was originally behind us in line. She managed to elbow her way that far up. Probably in the 1.5 hours we were in line maybe 4 dozen folks cut their way in front of us.

Sure, we could cut back, but as being overly aggressive is not a skill we practice day to day, it didn’t feel comfortable or right to continually reciprocate the behavior. It’s also tiring!

What is also tiring is also the amount of concentration it takes to cross a street. Beijingers seem to treat the art of crossing the street/driving as a game of chicken. Well, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Which brings me to the next image.

See the shoe wedged under the tire? Now, I don’t know what really happened here as we showed up after the incident happened. Either party could have been at fault. But I do know cars/bikes and pedestrians alike don’t obey traffic lights here. Cars will turn, or even go straight even when they have a red light, even when people are in the intersection. What’s sad is that the lack of yielding to pedestrians has nothing to do with road rage (not that I’m condoning road rage as an excuse to drive recklessly), but rather the behavior is deemed normal.

No doubt we hate the game.

Has anyone experienced anything similar to us or have differing experiences to share?


7 Responses to “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game?”

  1. yusing May 7, 2012 at 2:00 AM #

    I cannot stand those countries where they don’t have the culture of waiting your turn in line! Someone has once told me, “you Americans love standing in line”. However, as they say, when in Rome….Over here, people are a bipolar line culture. Most everything you have to take a number ticket and wait patiently for your turn. Extremely rude if you cut. However, at the bar it is a free for all, and elbows are used to push your way to the front! (women are the worst!)

  2. Robert - San Francisco relative May 7, 2012 at 8:00 AM #

    Well this is very typical Chinese behavior. Go to San Francisco Chinatown and you’ll see the same type of aggression. When you prevent them from pushing and shoving, they looked at you with disdain and feel out of sorts. Too bad their rude aggressions doesn’t translate into positive impressions of Chinese worldwide! Jeannie, your observations are right on the mark

  3. Jeff Young May 7, 2012 at 10:54 PM #

    Interesting. People in norcal say the same things about the angelenos – impatient, aggressive, free-for-all driving!

  4. Ken May 9, 2012 at 9:17 AM #

    I’ve been cut off by elderly women when waiting in line to buy groceries in SF and Oakland Chinatowns. Sometimes the grocery clerk notices and tells them to wait and lets me have my turn. I think within the US Chinese community people understand that newer immigrants (especially older ones, who are not as apt to change their ways) behave in this manner, but over time they learn the American ways.

    Even within China, there is not a consensus opinion on this type of behavior. I have observed that most people wait their turn and are generally civilized, but a minority – perhaps a significant one – still cut in line, spit on the ground, urinate in public, etc. The drivers I’ve ridden with in China don’t think twice about drifting in and out of lanes and make light of jaywalkers and traffic accidents. I think to them this is a common occurrence. I’ve even been in a van on a highway where the driver missed his exit and shifted into reverse to get back to the offramp.

  5. Joanna May 9, 2012 at 6:58 PM #

    Patience is definitely something that I will need to learn if I am traveling. And the crossing the street thing is something I would be so bad at!

  6. yusing May 10, 2012 at 2:20 PM #

    Just went to apply for my visa today. A significant and very obvious line formed in front of the information desk. A Chinese women walks straight to the front only to be turned away to the back of the line by the agent. She seemed really confused and surprised that there was a line. I couldn’t help but laugh and think about your post!

    • Jerry May 14, 2012 at 8:03 AM #

      Too funny! It’s interesting to see Chinese people out of their element sometimes.

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