Today one of my former college mates surnamed Tian gave me a call. He says that he is in Beijing accompanying his daughter learning Chinese. He continues to say that everyday he has to escort her daughter to the language institution since her daughter doesn’t know how to cross the streets in Beijing!
Mr. Tian went to the States 15 years ago and now has already acquired the American citizenship. Her daughter went with them to the States when she was only 4 years old. Now she is grown up and a fresh student at a university in the States. Her immigration at a very young age gives her some disadvantage in learning her native Chinese and also has generated much culture shock as well. She is unable to adapt to her new environment.
Take myself for example, I’ve been to many countries. What’s the most obvious difference between China and western countries is the traffic on the streets – car drivers always give priority to the pedestrians on the streests in the west. Cars will be slowed down to let the passengers go first.
The traffic regulation in China stipulates that when passing a zebra crossing, vehicles must slow down or stop to avoid the pedestrians. But in reality, pedestrians have to stop or slow down to avoid the vehicles! Many foreigners are not accustomed to this phenomenon. So even if you’re on a zebra. you’d better look both ways, wait then cross when clear and as quick as possible.
Beijing seems to always be in rush hour, perhaps this is why the drivers feel they must rush and cut in front of everyone whenever they have the chance. At the same time some opportunistic pedestrians would violate traffic signal during red light to move fast. For the car drivers, they also don’t want to wait more than one light. So these two forces fight. And the winner usually is the one bolder or stronger. Mr Tian’s daughter can’t be bold enough to cross the streets.
My advice is when crossing a road with no lights (or even if there are lights), always stick to the crowd. You know very often the drivers seem to speed up when they see people crossing, hoping to cross before you do!