China, Shanghai, Metro, Queue

China and the Endless Number of Rules


China appears to be a country and society obsessed with rules.  Over the years I have observed on many occasions how the rules are constantly repeated, over and over again, on the planes, on the train, on the subways, in the banks, and on the street…and those same rules are hardly followed and more often than not, actually broken.

Years ago, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember going to the bank and being very surprised to see how many people were involved in a transaction like exchanging US$100 into RMB…so in several occasions I used to ask in an innocent tone, “why does it take so many pieces of paper and so many people to do the transaction…?”

In all cases, my question was answered and if I continued to ask, I was usually stopped with a statement “Shi Guiding…”  = “it is the rule”

That actually meant “Stop asking questions and be quiet” (my interpretation)

Nowadays, the story continues.   I am constantly surprised by how rules are repeated on speakers and blatantly disregarded. 

For example:

  • I have been on multiple flights over the last 12 months on multiple different airlines in China, where upon boarding the plane you hear the statement that you need to shut off your phone and not use it while on-board.   What do you think happens on the plane though?  Majority of passengers – obviously very able to hear and understand the announcement stated in crips Mandarin, continue to use their phones, in some cases even making calls…
  • Then you go for landing at your destination in a Chinese airport – and immediately comes the announcement that you cannot turn on your phone until you are off the plane.   This announcement is “greeted” by the well recognized barrage of audible signals of phones coming on-line….
  • Switching to the streets of Shanghai – very cosmopolitan city with tons of people.  I am constantly surprised at the large number of people who try by any means possible NOT to wait for example for a green light when crossing the street…and all that in order to may be save 1-2 minutes of wait time.   It is really frustrating to start crossing the street on a green light and then out of nowhere you have this guy or gal rushing onto you with their electric scooter and beeping at you to get out of their way..!!!
  • Then, there is the case of the metro manners – you see the famous video cartoon that teaches all of us residents of Shanghai to be orderly in how we get on and off the metro – give way for people to get off the train before you get on….But then the reality comes in – I have seen it too many times – I am waiting for the metro to stop and doors to open and inevitably, there is the man or woman who comes and stands directly in the front of the queue and blocking the door for passengers to get off the metro car — in a singular objective – to rush and get on the metro before anyone else….

At any rate, so much about rules and regulations.  It is very obvious to many here that those rules are very much a guidance and not really to be “followed”  – right…?

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