Have you ever noticed that 80 percent of China’s population seems to cram itself into 5 percent of the country’s space, especially on national holidays? With 1.4 billion people, it's easy to see why Chinese people like to spend a good amount of their free time strolling the streets rather than cooped up in cramped apartments. Unfortunately, it often seems that they've all decided to descend onto the very same streets, creating a wide range of transit hazards that are to be avoided at all costs. From sidewalk slime to dangerous strangers, here’s a selection of pedestrian hazards to watch out for while strolling China’s busiest streets.
1) The Tout
Easily spotted by his canvas man-bag and laminated fliers, this hazard may be trying to sell anything from tours to copied watches. His English level is often impressive, but don’t be so impressed you end up being drawn into conversation. Avoid eye contact and keep moving.
2) The Repeating Megaphone
Heard long before it’s seen, this questionable marketing ploy's goal is to bring in more shoppers. What it really does, however, is push away anyone but the most committed buyer with the sheer decibel level and the endlessly repeating sing-song sentence that will stick in your head longer than Bieber’s latest ear-worm. This hazard is closely related to…
3) The Wall of Sound
Blaring cheesy pop music or hardcore trance from the entrance or a red-carpeted promotions stage, this feat in noise pollution will make your teeth chatter… in time to the music. They may have succeeded in getting your attention, but what would possess anyone would take a step closer is a mystery.
4) The Flower Girl
Closely related to, and sometimes in cahoots with, The Beggar, The Flower Girl wants you to buy her flowers, and she's not taking bu yao for an answer! Prepare to have your sleeve tugged while your heart is assaulted with wide-eyed pleading.
1) The Lost Laowai
Seen mainly in touristy areas, these helpless creatures will often be found starring at their phone as they spin around on the spot in an attempt to get their digital bearings. Mostly harmless if you can steer them to the nearest Starbucks, especially when compared with…
2) The Domestic Tour Group
Easily spotted by their matching day-glo hats and guide's 20-foot-high flagpole but not so easily avoided, this train of people is as unpredictable as an enraged water buffalo and as scattered as a herd of civet cats. This obstacle is even harder to get around if it carries a large number of…
3) Teenage Girls Holding Hands
Tightly attached to one another as if this might be their last contact with the human race, these girly-girl window shoppers walk as slow as people four times their age and take up an area on the road proportionate to the Yangtze River’s route across China. Be warned, these girls are often guarded by a contingent of…
4) Hello Boys
First brought to my attention in the must-read China travelogue River Town by Peter Hessler, these boys are most prevalent in rural areas but can also be found in China’s most developed cities. Named for their shrilly distinctive cries of “Hello!” whenever they see a foreigner, they are easily disarmed into fits of giggles by any sort of reply, whether in English or Chinese.
U. F. L.s (Unidentified Fallen Liquids)
1) The Mystery Puddle
This hazard ranges in size and shape from a coin of phlegmy goo or a face-sized grainy splat to a vast and disconcertingly yellow puddle you'll have to jump across. Causes include but aren't limited to…
2) The Potty Trainee
When a three-year-old's gotta go, he's gotta go. Right there, by your shoe. You may on occasion see (much) older offenders do this, too. Such are sometimes the alarming trials of strolling the streets of China.
3) The Flowerbed Vom-Pile
Maybe it was the stop-and-go traffic, maybe it was some dodgy jiaozi, most likely it was too much red wine and baijiu. Whatever the reason, some unhappy soul has decided to fertilize the flowers with their lunch.
4) The Tea Slosh
More benign than the previous hazards, slimy used tea leaves are still not something you want to step into unawares. Even worse is unwittingly stepping into the trajectory of flying cha dregs.
1) Old Man Walking Backwards
It may help him work those leg muscles no-one in the West is aware of, but unless everyone behind him – or is that in front of him? – pays attention, it's an accident waiting to happen.
2) Old Man Walking with Birdcages
Taking song birds to the park so they can socialise is a wonderful Chinese tradition. Getting accidentally jousted with one of the long knobby sticks the cages hang from is not. However, these old men are nothing to worry about when compared with…
3) Eye-Level Umbrella Lady
Don't be fooled by the sequins on her parasol or the gay pattern of her umbrella, this all-weather-prepared princess takes no prisoners. Should you be tall enough to avoid her ocular assaults, she'll snag your sleeve instead; short enough and she'll poke you right on the crown of your head. She is often but not always accompanied by…
4) Bag-laden Husband
Shopping bags dangling from every digit, this man is still able to check his stocks on his mobile phone, smoke and perhaps add a few phlegmy Mystery Puddles to the pavement. Before his hands get too full, he may also be seen as…
5) The Fast Food Flinger
Who says fast food needs to be consumed in a restaurant? Plastic gloves and skewers make snacks totally portable. Keeping one eye on your Sichuan xiao chi and another on where you're putting your feet is a difficult task, however. Quite a lot of Chinese street snacks meet their end via the shoulders of unsuspecting fellow pedestrians.
What other hazards have you experienced on China’s busiest streets? Tell us about them in the comments section below.
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Keywords: foreigners living and working in ShenzhenSecondary
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