Walking is my favorite way to adjust to a new city. In China, to cross the street I either find other people who are also crossing and follow their lead or I venture out on my own. Usually, I need to cross one traffic lane at a time to reach the other side of the street. Drivers turning right do not need to yield to people and the pedestrian is always expected to give way to the car, moped, or bicycle driver. I am improving my street-crossing abilities.
I am also losing my Minnesotan ways and becoming more Chinese as I enter and exit subway stations, get on trains, wait in line for bathrooms or to wash my hands, and pass through mall doors. In Minnesota, I would hold a door for someone else or have the door held for me. I have not observed this custom in China. When entering or exiting a space in China, gentle pushing is normal. There are so many people also moving that if we were all Minnesota nice and saying something like, “no, you go ahead” or “after you”, no one would get anywhere!
A former co-worker often quoted her dad who says, “bashful people starve.” I repeat this mantra to myself on occasion as a reminder that I must also push to the front or stand my ground (political aside, that’s a horrible law) to make sure I get what I need.
Some photos and observations from daily life:
Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Shanghai have many luxury stores. The larger cities have multiple malls selling and showing designer goods.
Who needs an expensive gym membership and Zumba classes when you can go to the local park to dance? Leaders choreograph the routine and teach the group. New dancers stand in the back until they catch on. These dancers are in Xi’an and Chengdu.
In the hotter areas men walk around with their shirts rolled up. Belly patting is also common. Update on 9/5/16: NYTs says this style is called the Beijing Bikini!
In an earlier blog post, Laura asked about signage. These photos are for you! Signs in the malls and on the metro include English text or the transliteration of the word from Mandarin to English characters. Public restrooms on the streets have signs with pictures and the word ‘Toilet.’
In Xi’an there is a fabulous night market stretched for 4 or 5 packed blocks. I am excited to see more sights like this!
Always conscious of transit, here are a few examples of how China does transit well. A divided bike/car road; a sign indicating the current time and the arrival time for busses at this stop; an older diesel bus used for an hour long ride to a city outside of Chengdu has wifi; public bike share.
I imagine working as an urban planner in the city of Shanghai is a fabulous gig. The panoramic photo is an example of a pedestrian walkway above an intersection where multiple roads cross. These walkways are common throughout the city.