Still A “Paki” Even Here…

First of all, I’m not accusing anyone of being racist. Except racists, who are inherently racist. I am however pointing out that some among my Asian brothers and sisters from the far East have adopted a bizarre attitude to “Indians” such as myself.

First of all, I do have Asian blood in me. But I am not Indian. Yes, I know, sorry Bollywood. However, I can vaguely see how someone who’d never met an Indian in real life could think I was Indian. Fun facts about my genetic history aside, this has somehow managed to contribute to the overall Longness that is sometimes China. Take for instance, when I first encountered this problem.

It was a stiflingly humid August day in Shanghai, so humid in fact, I was having difficulty deciding if my body had indeed given up on being a solid and had just gone all out liquid, and on top of that, I was tired. Tired from spending yet another day hopelessly navigating the Goliath of Metropolises that is Shanghai, casting harried glances at dozens of wholly inappropriate apartments. Too big, too small, too dirty, too far, too expensive, too expensive, too expensive… OK, mostly just too expensive.

And one prim, proper genial ancient Landlady casts a wry glance in my direction, and mumbles something to my guide. She laughs and shakes her head, and we continue the tour. Now, call it a sixth sense, actually, a seventh, my sixth being knowing exactly what time to materialise for a home cooked meal, a sense for when someone, purposefully or otherwise, just got a little racist. And my racist sense was going crazier than if Johnny Depp found out Helena Bonham Carter wasn’t gonna be in his next movie. Bat shit.

I asked my friend and guide what she’d asked about me. “Oh she wanted to know if you’re Indian.”

“What, they don’t like Indians in Shanghai?”

“Some people don’t, they’re dirty.”

Awesome. Fanfedgingdabbydosey. I’ve travelled thousands of miles away from an old job working in a Deli where an ancient BNP (Britain needs Pakistanis) supporter used to scream “ARE YOU EVEN ENGLISH?!” When I gave him the wrong amount of cheese, (now I know what you’re thinking, damn boy, you messed up, you know how much white people love cheese, haha, see it stings,) only to have that same guy come at me in the form of a mature Asian lady with granny specs and slippers?!

I wasn’t too pleased. And house hunting often got rocky when potential landlords got it into their heads that I was an Indian. Other things have been affected, such trying to convince people my passport is really mine, (although my picture has a lot to do with that) and finding work experience opportunities. Not many people want an “Indian” teaching their kid English, oh no. Even for free!

Now my bronzed brothers, don’t cancel that trip to China you spent so hard fiddling Taxi taxes to earn, just check out these do’s, don’ts and look out fors!

1.       Ignorance and Racism aren’t always the same, and people, especially older generations who’ve never had the pleasure of travelling abroad to broaden their minds, or just generally bothered to work on their tact and manners, will often fall foul of ignorance.

2.       Don’t get started explaining crazy concepts like “dual heritage” to people you don’t know very well. Again, unless they’re very worldly, they just won’t get it.

3.        Accept that even in one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, there’s a bigger country out there, a place that’s still developing. Being a person who ain’t Far East Asian or White will get you a lot of suspicious stares from a lot of people. Same as… just about everywhere then? Yep sorry, you aren’t gonna be spared the stares by China.

4.       China and much of Asia has a thing about being pale. This is a sickness that has infected the minds of a great many in these lands, so don’t be disappointed that the golden perma tan you rock that gets you so much envy back in the West, is viewed as something “dirty” or “unattractive”.

5.       When chilling with other Westerners you will notice that you will not get the same kind of attention they do. They will get gasps of awe; they will get hordes of deluded souls thinking they chanced upon Brad and Angelina, begging for pictures. And the same guy who back in the UK was about as successful with the ladies as a sweat stain and a mullet, will get girls falling at his feet for the mere accomplishment of having blonde silky locks.  You on the other hand will be routinely subjected to holding the Camera, as I do, like in a theme park with two friends. Two white guys and a Pick an’ Mix. Who took the picture I wonder… And being constantly viewed with suspicion until getting a chance to work some charm into the equation.

6.       Or none of the above will ever apply to you. Some of the less fair folk I’ve spoken to have no complaints, others have loads, from missed job opportunities to higher rent rates.

Bottom line is negative race related incidents are still thankfully far less here than they are in the West. But still, be prepared for your non-whiteness to add a touch of Longness, to your Longness in China.

Peace and love to all.

Taxis are long in China… or is it just the finger nails?

First off, hello yes I’m still alive and yes it’s been awhile. Mostly ‘cus I’m lazy, but also I’ve been all kinds of busy.

So I’m gonna get straight into it and kick off the New Year, (Chinese New Year that is) with some taxi talk. Being from the UK, taxis haven’t actually been a huge part of my life. This is due to fact that for the average Brit a cab ride will cost you roughly the price of one of your internal organs. In London maybe closer to an organ a mile. And that’s even when it’s probably a relative of mine driving. (Haha). But not here in Shanghai. Oh no no no. Here, a Cab starts at the comparatively Amish 14 Yuan. Roughly £1.50. 18 Yuan if you’re out doing after 11pm doing things your mother might disown you for.

Now so far this all sounds awesome. But it’s really really not. I can’t express to you just how long a cab ride can actually be in Shanghai, because that’s just it. They ain’t long! They’re just awful. In fact let’s start over. Catching a cab here is long. Taxi journeys are primarily hell.

Let me illustrate a standard cab catching scenario for you in Shanghai. Like anywhere, you stand on a corner like a broke street walker, helplessly gazing into oncoming headlights, praying for a green light sign above a cab. When you see one, you flap your hand about and maybe do that jump up and down shit some people do. And then one of three things can happen. 1: the cab stops and you get in. 2: The cab stops, you get drop kicked from behind by gang of equally desperate cab hoppers, who stop just long enough to take a picture of your bleeding semi-conscious Wai Guo Ren face, before stepping over you and speeding off in the cab you stopped. 3: My all-time favourite. The stop and drive. The cabbie will ease into a slow cruise upon spotting you, tantalising you with the prospect of hopping into his 1990’s Volkswagen , just really teasing you with the knowledge that no he has no passenger, and yes he could just stop and let you in… before getting out of there faster than Ross Kemp when he meets the actual bad guys.

Now I dunno why they do that. Maybe it’s cus years of driving around picking arseholes has just made them crave the most meagre, lowest forms of entertaining themselves. Much like, bus drivers and school teachers perhaps. Or maybe they see a Wai Guo Ren and just can’t handle the prospect of giving a ride to another guy who speaks decent enough Chinese to tell him an address, but just can’t be arsed to watch his face spew words he shouldn’t be able to.

That last point refers to something most foreigners and indeed perhaps many locals will have had to deal with. The cab driver just staring blankly at you as you reel off the same address perfectly about five times in a row, until suddenly, on the fifth time, everything you just said makes perfect sense. Okay okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. Shanghai is so huge you can be on a train for two hours and still be well within the city limits. But still!  

So here’s your Shanghai cab do’s and do not’s:

1.       Be prepared to fight for a cab. Literally. You’ll be holding the door open for your friends and another group will literally step in. When it comes to Cab catching its war. And there are no rules in war.

2.       Be very prepared to say your address repeatedly. Or just have it written down.

3.       Be wary of the fabled “Star Rating”. In Shanghai all cabbies are given a star rating of zero to five stars. 0 being the worst. I’ve never, ever had a five. Apparently the mythical 5 star holder is a cabbie whose never had an accident and speaks fluent English. In Shanghai you’re probably more likely to find an ‘Egg Fried Rice’ dish without ninja bits of pork. The average seems to be a 1 or 0 star driver.

4.       Be prepared for the “futuristic” in cab entertainment, which consists of a TV screen built into the cab. Cool right? Not. They exclusively play ridiculous adverts with annoying jingles, which cannot be turned off.

5.       Don’t try and catch a cab in the rain.

6.       Don’t put your seatbelt on. I once mistakenly took a cab ride across Shanghai that should have taken 45 minutes. It took 20 with Michael “Li” Shumacher. This guy was like something out of Mario Kart. Honestly, if he had mushrooms to shoot at other drives, he most definitely would have. After the sixth close call my friend decided to gingerly put on his seat belt. The cabbie flipped. Honestly, it offends them. Don’t do it.

7.       Don’t worry if their face doesn’t match the one on the I.D. card. It happens a lot. It’s once been a man’s picture, with a woman driving the cab. Had she stolen it? Who knows? She was cool as Harbin snow.

8.       Don’t lose your stuff. Happened to me. You will NOT get it back.

9.       Oh yeah, the finger nail thing haha. BEWARE THE CLAW!!! You may notice the cabbies tend to have exceptionally long finger nails. Especially on the pinky. And I mean, claw like long. Do not be alarmed. No one seems to know why.  My personal theory is all these guys engage in Catwoman cosplay on their days off.

In all fairness, Cabs in Shanghai are reportedly better than most places in China. But then again in Harbin, they constantly play Euro trash dance tunes and force you to smoke, so, really I’m not sure.

Pollution Is Terrifyingly Long

I’m gonna fill you all in on something pretty current about Shanghai and China right now. Pollution. Now we’ve all heard about pollution. We were all forced to sit through Al Gore’s doom and gloom presentation in extra-long science lessons. And we all know hippies silently slit their wrists every time someone starts a Hummer engine, and that puppies shed poisonous tears when someone fills up a Land Rover. But speaking for myself at least, I honestly never came close to knowing what pollution was until now.

There I was, casually glancing out of my window during my afternoon workout, hoping to catch a glimpse of the marvellous sunset I’m usually treated to from my window when I suddenly found myself in bloody Tatooine. No literally, outside my window high in the heavens, our Sun was dying. Then I realised that the buildings across from me had all but disappeared. It took me another few minutes to grasp that this was Mankind’s most prolific and definitive example of pollution.

Upon walking outside I was transported from Tatooine to 19th century London. The smog is so thick, that everything from the Skyscrapers to my buildings “security” guards appeared hazy, like they were pictures someone had spilt their 2 kuai Nong Fu on. Anything more than 100 meters away is virtually invisible. And when you breathe I’m not exaggerating when I say you can taste the grit in the air. Each lungful of the stuff tastes somehow metallic, like sucking on a coin, and as the smoke fills your lungs you’d be forgiven for thinking you just inhaled the Hogwarts Express.

As the smog consumed me I was hit with a sudden clarity. The spitting, (the Chinese pet peeve of just gargling up a thick slimy ball of phlegm in their throats, and then firing it from their mouths into the street with the ferocity of a pump action shotgun around 50+ times a day,) finally made sense. Because as ladylike, sophisticated, and just plain polite as you may well be, this shit has to go somewhere and you don’t want it to be your lungs.

To put the Smog in Shanghai over the last few days into perspective, there is an Air pollution index of 1-500. Shanghai is routinely around 200-300, modern London probably around 30-40, and the last few days in Shanghai? The air pollution routinely blew the lid right off the scale! (Haha pun).

So here’s your Shanghai ‘Airpocalypse’ Survival Guide:

  • Buy a Mask. Simple really. Then we all get to wonder the streets looking like hoards of confused dental nurses or, if you get your paws on a pretty one you might even get the pleasure of looking like you’ve strapped a pair of Y-fronts to your face.
  •   Oh but those mask are about as effective as a student demonstration in the UK, or maybe just literally strapping a pair of Y-fronts to your face. But good luck finding one of those London Blitz jobbies. Those things sell out in seconds.

  •   The Pollution is typically a result of the coal factories that burn 24/7 in Northern China. So you’re just gonna have to get used to spitting like a battle MC.
  •   Did someone say something about coal? I honestly think there’s enough of it in my snot to actually power the afore mentioned Hogwarts Express.

  •   No it won’t. That’s all magic silly.  
  •   As well as spitting, gargling and repeatedly blowing coal out of your nose, you’re gonna be coughing like a 50 year old whose been chain smoking for 51 years.

  •   Don’t bother with contact lenses. Your eyes will physically burn.
  •   Oh and no you won’t get a respite indoors. That shit is in the Air. THERE IS NO ESCAPE!

  •   Try just not breathing maybe?

Have fun, try not to catch Cancer and know that ol’ Al was spot on. 

The Kinda “Un” Long Metro

I honestly believe that the metro is the most convenient, cheap way to get around Shanghai. Providing you live near a metro stop of course. And with at least 11 lines running under and over the city, EVERYONE and their pet/lunch turtle lives near a metro. Of course just because it’s cheap and convenient doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It has its own very special LONGNESS.

Allow to me to walk/run/(walkrun/knock over a couple of oldies) you through a typical Rush Hour commute in Shanghai:  You’re usually only about five seconds away from a metro, so it aint gonna be hard to find one. They’re the weird buildings with a host of giant numbers stuck to the top of them, sporting a handful of the coolest grandpas you’ve ever seen chilling in front, lazing on propped up motor cycles, casually flossing with one of your Mum’s hairs.

Accompanying them will usually be a gang of Sweet potato sellers, selling more coal than potato, (still tasty!) and the omni present phone cover guy; who’s as sure as shit never sold a phone cover in his or her life. Charge past these guys and plunge deep into Shanghai’s gut.

Make sure to have your metro card ready, as you don’t wanna have to queue for a train ticket at Rush hour. Total Longness. In order to get to your line, you’re gonna have to make it past security. These guys, well, they are to protection what holes are to condoms. Useless. They’re function appears to be standing around waving aimlessly, and occasionally unenthusiastically imploring someone to place their bag on the X-Ray scanner. Even beardy Asians like me never have a problem. The only thing that really riles these guys into action is old guys trying to get an entire IKEA bedroom suite onto a train.

Once you make it to the platform the trains are almost always on time. But here’s the hard part. See, depending on the station, you’ll already have spent a lot of time jostling. Jostling past people, being jostled, jostling kids, (hmm, sounds wrong somehow…) jostling grandmas (hmm, gets worse) jostling that crazy woman with no teeth who is doing her best to make impossible for you to walk in a straight line. But let me tell you, nothing compares to the jostling of trying to get ON the train, at rush hour. The train arrives, Shanghai’s entire population piles off. And they don’t stream fluidly out. They scramble, bite, kick, shove and punch their way off. They take no prisoners. I’ve seen tiny four foot nothing 80 year olds bowl over full grown men. I’ve seen little ladies part seas of people with one Hadouken, I’ve seen kids climb the walls Exorcist style and crawl out of the Metro upside down. Okay, well I haven’t. But they really wanna get off that train.

But if you thought getting off was fun, try getting on. You’re gonna be fighting past all the buggers getting off, then fighting an equally violent, but slightly more desperate crowd trying to get on! It’s all fun and games. Once you’re aboard, enjoy playing the worlds most messed up game of twister, as with every stop that passes, your limbs will inadvertently end up being distributed in between and inside the limbs and orifices of several million other people. Breathing can be difficult, and if you’re next to the door you get the pleasure of being pushed back by the people getting on the train, only to be pushed forward by the people behind you. Oh and if you are next to the door in Rush hour, you’ll probably be pushed off by those getting off, so you’ll have to fight your way back on all over again.

Ahh. Delightful.

Now it’s not all bad, but here’s your metro do’s and Do Nots!

  •  Get a metro card. Saves time, it’s efficient; and it sometimes works in Cabs too!
  •  Leave your feelings at the door. It’s a world of pain in there. Don’t cry. It ain’t personal.

  •  Be prepared to not get a seat. A seat on the metro, is probably the most coveted possession all of Shanghai. Getting one requires fast legs, and expert wit. And years of practice. And even when you do get one, you’ll probably only have to give it up to some ancient biddy with Bambi legs who’ll hobble over to you and give you a heart wrenching stare.
  • Bring your own Chair. This actually happens a lot, so no one will laugh. Well, probably.

  •   Keep an eye on your valuables, in any confined space, you’re a target.
  •  Don’t play chicken with the doors; those things are like the last level on Super Mario. They’re fast, mean, and you probably don’t have enough lives to take the risk.

  • Enjoy the In Metro entertainment, which usually consists of several flat screen TV’s, which never work ‘cus they can’t get signal, and beggars. And if you’re really lucky, a Metro busker, carrying the cutest baby you’ve ever seen on her back, singing pitifully whilst rattling a tin in your face.
  • Bring your Rocky workout music ‘cus you’re gonna be climbing more stairs than you even knew existed. Why? Don’t even get me started on the the bloody escalators!

  • Get a bike.

Thanks for reading; sorry for the delay, I’ll be back next week!

China+Transport=LONG

Firstly, I’d like to clarify something here. China has a lot of total unlongness. In fact, for a lot of things it’s beautifully convenient. But come on, do you really want to waste the precious time you could be scratching your arse or fiddling with yourself reading about how hedgehogs in China have a fantastic time, and how easy it is to go for a non-judgemental piss here? ‘Cus boy it’s easy! You just whip it out and piss. But I digress. This here post is about transport, and boy it’s so long, I’m gonna have to break it down into a few parts. So today, let’s discuss Elevators.

I live, on the 23rd floor. Impressed? Yeah you are. You can spit out the window and it disperses before it hits the floor. Useful here ‘cus people really love to spit out the window haha! No really. They do. Now living on the 23rd floor means a shed load of stairs. So rather than pressing play on my Rocky playlist, I opt for the Elevator. The first time I got in my elevator the Agent showing me the building, giggled and told me to be careful. I was like, “errm, why?” and he replied “’cus Chinese lifts are notoriously unreliable, and they break a lot.”

Comforting words when you’re dangling 200 feet above the ground in a tiny metal box, soon mental images of crappy plastic toys your parents bought for you as a child that crumbled after mere minutes of play begin to creep into your mind. The toys had the words “made in China” proudly smeared across their shitty bottoms and as you think this your hands begin to get a little sweaty. Until you take a couple of deep breaths, remind yourself the lift is in fact Japanese, and distract yourself by watching some middle aged woman boldly pick her nose in front of you. And boy she really picks that thing. She jabs that finger in there and rummages around like she’s her ancestor panning for California gold. And when she gets one, she’ll usually stare at it awhile, then coolly flicks it away, and jabs that finger right back in there, a smug look of satisfaction on her face. Best part? She’ll have been staring at you the whole time, casual as that Cocoa Pops monkey ruining that hungry crocodiles day. Messed up.

Nose picking aside, Elevator travel here is long, so here’s your do’s and do not’s:

l.  You gonna be waiting. And waiting. And waiting. All that bank training really pays off here, cus a building in China might have a thousand inhabitants, but they’ll have put in two lifts.

2.  Don’t expect anyone to hold the lift for you. Here, it’s probably a written rule that last guy in hits the close door button. They love leaving a guy behind. Trust me, it’s hilarious to see his face as the doors close in front of it. Until it’s you.

3.  The close door button. Ahhh. I’m not even sure it works. But here, that’s the most pressed button in the lift. They press that shit before they even press their floor. They press it like moneys gonna rain from the ceiling if they press it enough times. A Lady in the lift told me it’s just there to make people feel better. I’ve started it myself. Stress relief. Love it. Press press press. Press press press. Just gotta keep jabbing that shit. Wanna jab it now!

4.  You will terrify small children more than a white guy in a British mosque (haha in joke, love you Dad). Their tiny cute faces will gaze up at you with horror, and with eyes bigger than saucers, their lower lips will begin to tremble as they splutter “ w w w w Waiguoren!!!!” Always makes the packed lift more fun.

5.That lift is always full! No matter what time of day or night, you’re almost guaranteed to be sharing it with about twice its capacity. Awesome.

6.  And yeah, it will stop on every floor.

7.  In fact, someone get Eye of the Tiger on! I’m going Rocky for the rest of the year.

Join me next week for some subway longness, Kebabdal out.

p.s. told you he lied!

image

"Bankers"

To begin, I should probably explain what I mean by “Long” for anyone not from Sheffield UK. Here it’s a phrase which means “something that takes way too long and is way too much effort than it’s really worth…”

Ok, so you’d better steady yourself for this one, ‘cause it’s gonna be seeping with enough sarcasm to mop your kitchen floor. No I mean it. If there’s one thing that be more mind numbing, more soul destroying, more frustrating, more generally Long in China so far, it’s the Banks.

If you’re planning on taking a significant trip here, then take heed of my next few words dear traveller, because they may well save you from aging at least 20 years in several hours.

If your UK bank tells you, (like they told me) that getting your money to China is as simple as going to China, opening a bank account, then opening an online account and transferring your money, they, well, they lied. Right to your face. Like, well, to be honest they lied like a banker. And they did it with all the callous, soullessness of a banker. In fact, it’s way simpler than that. Haha. Not.

My first fond memory of a Chinese bank is the teller getting hold of my passport, taking one look at my mid pubescent 16 year old face and promptly pissing her pants laughing. She then subsequently passed it around the bank, ensuring all her colleagues could bask in my humiliation.

(Yeah, yeah laugh it up, everyone had an Asian Lesbian Harry Potter phase right? Right? )

Now this minor indignity aside, the Longness of banks here began on that first day. Not content to merely lie to us about the simplicity, or lack thereof of banks in China, the banks in the UK also informed us that traveller’s cheques in US dollars would be a favourable way of transferring money across to China. Yeah, of course it was.

 When me and my two friends pulled out several hundred dollars’ worth of traveller’s cheques, the tellers at Bank of China looked like someone had decided to stop selling ladies underwear at every freaking shop in China. In short, they were mortified. So mortified were they, that they immediately jumped on the fact we hadn’t signed the cheques, to pass us off to another bank.

Now, please take a moment to appreciate the significance of this event. We had literally just opened an account with them. Like, five minutes ago. And we were already such a burden; they didn’t even want our money in their bank.

In the two short months I have been here, I have endured more mind blowing, spine tingling, scintillating moments in banks than you dear reader, could even begin to fathom. (See, sarcasm, haha.) But I won’t bother boring you with all that. I’ll get to what you’re all so obviously waiting for. The list of do’s ,don’ts and probablys…

1.  Don’t believe what your own Banks say. China hates your bank. And your bank hates China’s banks. And all banks hate you. So just ignore everything they say. Unless they actually do help you, in which case you should probably listen to them…

2.  Don’t get traveller’s cheques. Oh, and if you’re British, don’t get ‘em in Dollars. The cashier practically cried when she saw the dollars we passed her. Or if you must get traveller’s cheques, get a lot of monies worth, so as to justify it.

3. Do consider just getting a credit card. It will save you loads of hassle in the long run. If you don’t mind interest rates you rich git.

4.  Don’t believe any of that nonsense about the online bank transfers. In reality online bank transfers between British banks and the Bank of China are about the Longest thing in known history. A friend was left penniless for weeks after attempting this godforsaken feat, when his money left his UK account and disappeared into E-money limbo. Not only that but the actual process is so mind bafflingly insane that you’d have to be an Assad level sado to even attempt it. Or probably just be a rich git.

4, Worship your card. Don’t get it stuck in a ATM machine, don’t use a dodgy looking ATM machine in Family Mart, and please God don’t do what I did and lose it. Treat your card like you were a fourteen year old holding Justin Bieber’s snot rag and just NEVER let go. Cus if you lose that shit, it’s gone. Forever.

(well, for two weeks, whilst you wait for a replacement during which time you can’t even physically withdraw money from your account, not even FROM A HUMAN CASHIER, ‘cus haha, guess what?! You need your bloody card!!!)

5.  Have the patience of a Jedi, Ghandi, and a saint all rolled into one. There are a lot of people in China, and they all descend on the bank at precisely the moment you desperately need something done fast.

6.  When entering a bank speak to the security guard first. As bizarre as this sounds, this cheeky chappy is unique in two ways. First he’s gotta be the only security guard in China whose uniform and hat ACTUALLY fit him, and secondly, he really knows his shit. He’s genuinely more clued in than half the staff put together.

7.  Love Western union.

8.  Be a rich, rich git. Because then even in China, you’ll never have cash flow concerns.

9.  Be a gangsta and just carry cash. Looks cool, and cuts out the longest middle man in history! Or maybe don’t…

Thanks for reading, I love you for it. And do be assured that all these problems could probably be easily avoided by just possessing an ounce of intelligence. But heed those words anyway poor traveller. Heed them close. I’ll be back next week with more China related Longness…

Every where’s a road in China…

Oh Green man, you hath forsaken me. You hath forsaken us all. Ok. So I feel like that’s going to need some significant expansion. So here goes: For those of you who never crossed a road in the “developed world”, the Green man is the saintly figure who boldly lights up for you every time it’s safe to cross a road at a traffic intersection. He and his arch nemesis Red man, work in unison to prevent anyone from dying every time they dart across the road with their chips etc.

Now in case that’s really unclear, which is to me now I’ve read it back, they’re not real men. They’re just lights. Not everyone in the UK is on hallucinogenic drugs. Yet.  However, here in Shanghai, the Green Man is about as useful as England, in well… erm, any world event. See, everything’s set up so easily for you here, (a little too easy for China), you arrive at a crossing, and prepare to cross. You don’t even need to press a button! In fact, there’s even a giant second’s countdown timer hanging bravely above every intersection! So you stand at the crossing, countdown the seconds, soak in the petrol fumes and incessant honking of car horns, do what the Hedgehog said, and “stop, look and listen”. And then, Let there be light! The Green man emits his brilliant dazzle and traffic ceases to move, scooters, electric bikes, Yam selling rickshaw guy, grandma on her bike, they all stop. All 10000000 of them. And you cross in peace.

Except do you bloody balls. In reality, absolutely Geoff all stops, and they go at it faster than the guy next door who paid his One Child Policy expansion fine. Crossing a road is sheer, terrifying madness. And that’s literally the most astronomical understatement ever made. The Green Man lights up, and apparently here that means everyone, and I mean EVERYONE can go. You step into that road, and you better have packed supplies. You better have fancier footwork than Ali in the Jungle. ‘Cus you gonna be dodging cars turning right, other pedestrians, bicycles, electric bikes, motor bikes, scooters, rickshaws, pet sellers, hobos, prostitutes, stray dogs, rabbits, and dead, dead hedgehogs. Ok, so I lied about the hedgehogs. He didn’t even bloody try here. He stayed the hell home. Which is coincidentally what you wish you did every time you brave an intersection in Shanghai.

Now for those of you who are thinking, “ohh, you’re just a cowardly Wai Guo Ren, embrace the culture, choke that smog down and cross the road like a man.” I’m here to tell you, you’re right. Essentially. Haha. But allow me to illustrate a point for you. The other day I stepped out of my building, glanced up at the brilliant Autumn Shanghai sky, sucked in the “safe” pollution levels, and made my way out to pavement in front of my building. And there, I stood, by the edge of the road, patiently waiting for the cars and bikes going both ways on the one way street to give me a chance to cross, when something hard smashes into my leg. I look about incredulously and I’m met with the sight of a middle aged Chinese fellow, lying spread eagled on the floor, having crashed into me on his moped.

He crashed into me, when I was stood completely still, on the pavement. And the cream of the cake is he’s looking at me, like I done made a bad. He gets up, dusts himself off, and commences with an all too common round of “blame the dirty waiguoren”. This guy actually rants at me with the full fury of hell because I was stood, completely still, on the pavement. But of course, maybe he’s right. Because in all honesty, everywhere it seems really is a road in China.

In Shanghai the motto seems to be, if you have the capacity to not walk, ride. And with Electric bikes going for just under 1000 kuai (£100) it’s all too easy to save your legs, and crush everyone else’s.

So, in short, if in China, specifically Shanghai, take the utmost care as a pedestrian, EVERY WHERE. Here are some handy tips to help you survive:

1.  The pedestrian is stronger in groups, so shuffle like a penguin with any group you can find.

2.  Stop, look, look, look, walk, look, walk faster, walk, look… run Forrest RUN!

3.  Ignore that deceitful Green Man. Remind yourself frequently he’s there for aesthetics. Nothing else.

4.  Don’t stand too still. Like all warriors, a moving target is harder to hit.

5.  Remember that pavements are roads too! Always be weary of that guy on a 500cc motorbike who just can’t be arsed with the road, and drives along the pavement honking his horn with the full jubilation of a man who just created a new road all for himself!

6.  Get a bike, scooter, car, or moped and join the throngs of machine powered evil?

7.  Don’t go outside. Ever.

Thanks for taking the time to read my nonsense, I assure you, there is real hard truth buried in there somewhere. I’ll hopefully survive outside long enough to bring you another post next week on why everything can be long in China, not just the wall…

P.s. sorry for the shitty pic, but do appreciate I was literally fighting for my life at that point.

A-K Wright