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I am in Shanghai this week to teach a workshop on low-cost country sourcing.  The city is a bustling Chinese financial center with a very high energy level.  I have been attending meetings all over Shanghai for the past couple of days and have been challenged a few times trying to communicate with hand gestures about where I want to go.  So far, so good.  Aside from a few near-death experiences in taxi cabs, I made it everywhere I wanted to go.   But the most challenging thing of all is walking.

In China, pedestrians do not have the right of way.  In fact, even crossing the street on a green walk signal is no guarantee you can get across safely.  Taxis and motor bikes turn in front of you, push their way through the crossing crowds and honk angrily if you don’t yield.   Although China has only 3% of the world’s cars, they have 42% of all fatal traffic accidents.  One walking experience here and you’ll understand why.  It can be terrifying to cross the intersection to get to that shopping area on the other side….but of course, shopping prevails!


One Comment

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. I hadn’t realized that 42% of all fatal traffic accidents occur in China. What a frightening statistic!

    Your description reminds me of my experience living in Beijing. Although in general the traffic was usually so slow & gridlocked when I was there (2007-2008) that what accidents did occur were not very serious. I take it traffic must move faster in Shanghai these days.

    A couple tricks I discovered that seemed to help me get across the streets safely:

    – Don’t make eye contact with the drivers. If I make eye contact, then the drivers know I’ve seen them and they’ll keep plowing straight ahead, but if I don’t make eye contact, then they aren’t sure if I’ve seen them and some of them will yield. The drivers seem to want to assert their advantage over the pedestrians, but don’t actually want to hurt them, I think.

    – Carry something that looks like it might make a nasty scratch on a car, if accidentally bumped. Most drivers are very serious about protecting the shine on their prized possessions and will shy away from a foreigner who is nonchalantly swinging a steel-tipped umbrella. I never had to actually whack a car, just swing it in their direction while not looking directly at them.

    But in the end, a pedestrian will always lose out in a confrontation with a car, so I hope you stay safe and continue to enjoy your time in Shanghai.


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