Grind My Gears

It’s almost the nine month mark here for me, so I feel it’s about time to write a few cliched ‘foreigner abroad’ niggles that I have with the Chinese people.  First of all, I should be more precise, as I’m particularly interested in the Shanghai people, as it is where I live and more importantly, they seem to be a lot more rude than the rest of the country.

I reckon there’s a couple of main reasons for this.  Shanghai is now a ‘World City,’ one of the major global players, up there with London and New York (or very soon to be).  One thing that I reckon links these places intrinsically is that the inhabitants of these cities are insufferably rude.  They’ve got no time for your problem, your story or your questions.  They’re too busy making money and ruling the world.  The second reason is that there is nowhere on earth where vast sums of money can be made and lost as quickly as in Shanghai.  The wealth gap between  the pin-striped bankers on the Bund and the filthy migrant street merchants is a timely reminder of what’s at stake.   Therefore, the ethos here is, “money, money, money, oh and get out of my way.”

The most obvious example of this is the traffic.  I’ve talked about this before.  There are no rules and people die on the roads daily (70,000 + annually across China; I bet about half of these are in Shanghai).  What boils my blood to such a degree I can feel it evaporate through my pores, is when someone tries to run me over ON THE PAVEMENT.  Men on scooters blare their horns at you – the pedestrian in your own domain, king of the sidewalk – to get out their way.  The road is often clear next to them, yet the busy pavement, heaving with kids and pensioners, has been deemed a more suitable thoroughfare.  I refused to get out of the way last time, and people (vehicle people and walking people alike) stared and sniggered at me like I was the arsehole.  This twat on a scooter was in my jurisdiction, an uninvited tarmac invader, weaving between honest feet-shufflers like myself, and I was the arsehole.

Of course, the pedestrians are just as bad, and in fact are culpable of a sin I find even more infuriating.  Everyday, I watch people merrily crossing 8-lane motorways on a red light as cars swoosh by with milimetres separating life from instant Carmaggedon.  Yet as soon as these exact same people get to an escalator they become immobile.  Not only that but despite every escalator in Shanghai having a nice big yellow line drawn down the middle of each step, they choose to take up the whole stair, crossing both sides of the yellow barrier that was put there with the sole purpose of keeping them to the side.  The contradictions in these actions don’t bear repeating but I feel it needs to be said.  When I’m running late for work I get to the motorway and wait for the green man as it is a bloody motorway.  I watch as people play russian roulette with one ton cars hurtling at them.  I sigh deep relief as I see most of them struggle to the other side.  It’s like Wildlife on One when the buffalo cross the crocodile-infested rivers.  The green man then starts beeping and I cross, only to be held up instantly as I reach the escalator to the platform.  These people who were so obviously in a hurry are now quite happy to rest on their laurels on the magic stairs.  Maybe it’s still a novelty for them and it’s a bit of a thrill, like the Nemesis at Alton Towers.  Maybe they’re totally oblivious to those who need to get somewhere rather quickly.  I don’t really care for the reasons, for by this point, my train has just left the platform and I’m left screaming spittle and bile at the morons who wouldn’t follow the advise of the nice big yellow line and GET OUT OF MY WAY.

Next time on ‘Wish You Were Here,’ I’ll be discussing the local cuisine, how to snap up a bargain with the locals and the inconsiderate bastards who refuse to queue for the bloody metro.


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