I have always been an extremely careful road-crosser. When it is painted on the road to “look right” I also look left anyway. The lesson of “stop, look and listen” which was drilled into us in primary school actually still circulates in my head every time I step off the pavement. Well, that was until I came here. I won’t deny that the first time I went out walking alone in the streets I was slightly traumatised at the madness that was the immense width of the roads, the illimitable number of cars and bicycles (Beijingers are big on bikes) whizzing by in every direction and the seeming disregard for traffic lights and any kind of highway code.

But I noticed that while I was dithering and scampering back and forth from the pavement, my fellow pedestrians were dauntlessly weaving their way through the traffic. I realised very fast that I was never getting anywhere until I abandoned my sensible British road-crossing personality for some brazen Chinese nonchalance, pronto. Chinese traffic is sheer chaos; throw in a huge population on foot, and rather a lot of pollution and you have to learn to get used to it very quickly or never leave the house.

Cars and bikes passing a hair’s breadth next to my bare flesh? Meh, I became desensitized by my second day. You just learn to take a very blasé attitude to dangerous road-crossing behaviour. Nowadays I take it easy crossing the road; if I see a car or bike coming toward me, I don’t even bother picking up my pace like I would back home. I constantly see people ambling casually along the length of a large main road without a backward glance while a car trails slowly along, inches behind them. Now, if a car is speeding toward me, beeping loudly, I’m more likely to give the driver some attitude than hurry myself. I’m actually becoming quite rude, but that’s survival in China, and I’ll save my deteriorating manners for another post…


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