Are You Sure You Want to Drive in China?

There is a handful of things that you will hear joked about among Westerners in China, especially when you first arrive here. The roads, the signs, the “almost-only-counts-in-horseshoes-and-hand-grenades-and-when-you-throw-your-trash-away” attitude, the plumbing rules, the line rules (Line? What line?), and finally the driving rules.

Here are some of the rules for what I call “pirate driving” in China:

  1. Always follow the laws, especially when the police are watching and on bridges when video cameras do the police’s job.
  2. Remember that if a driver breaks the law, and no cop sees him, it never happened.
  3. If you are in an accident, both drivers will be assigned blame by the police (after all you both must have broken the law at some point, everybody does).
  4. The driver with the most money gets the most blame.
  5. If you are a Westerner, you automatically have the most money, and therefore the most blame,whether it’s true or not.
  6. If you see an accident happen you should: a) Stop to offer help. b) Call the police. c) Keep driving. The police will come by eventually and take care of it.    The correct answer to this actual question from the China driver’s test is “c”. Stopping to help may cause you more trouble than it’s worth in the long run. You may get blamed for a portion of the accident, and you will be considered to be in the way of police when they come to do their job.
  7. Remember this above all: Like the Pirates’ Code of Honor, the rules are really more like “guidelines”. So if you need to make a U-turn on a bridge or drive on the sidewalk don’t stress about it too much. 😉

I actually have a rather sobering reason for writing this. I saw something over on another blog that made me stop and be sad and think for a while. This man had been driving with someone out in the countryside and came across a body in the road. All the drivers, including the one he was with simply swerved around the body and kept going. No one stopped to call police or do anything. This is very sad, but as I thought about it I remembered something I’d read happening in China a couple of years back. Some families in China are too poor to bury/cremate their loved ones and so sometimes the bodies end up without ID in a public place where the police/state/government will take care of the body, because no one will claim it. By-passers won’t stop because they don’t want to risk being assigned any portion of responsibility. Yes, it’s really sad. It’s really China.

winner-winner, chicken dinner :-/


  1. Great post about driving here, and how sad about the dead people. I thought China had this ancestor worship thing that would preclude that type of behavior. I will try to cut and paste your post onto my blog and give you the props for it. I dont know how to do it the way that you do!!!


    • I either use the “reblog” feature on my subscriptions reader page, or I have installed a “Press This” link on my bookmarks bar. Reblog posts a portion of the other person’s blog plus a link in the post, and Press This just posts a link in the post. I think a lot of capability just depends on how you access the blogs.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.