OPINION> Patrick Whiteley
Going with the flow and getting happy
By Patrick Whiteley (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-17 18:20

Going with the flow and getting happy

Getting behind the wheel of a car on Chinese roads is a good way for any new expat to better understand how things work here.

Things appear to be utterly crazy at first because it appears everybody is ignoring all the rules.

But when any new driver accepts the way things are, and not the way things are "supposed to be", life on the road (and off it) becomes a lot easier.

One balmy night last week in Beijing, I was waiting at a red light and weird and wonderful China passed me by, quite literally.

Before the light changed green, a taxi suddenly used the pedestrian crossing to make an outrageous U-turn from the extreme-right bicycle lane across three lanes of traffic.

It was a bold and hilarious act but as I looked sideways at the Chinese drivers beside me, they were completely oblivious to this motoring madness. They were not laughing out loud like I was; they accepted it and moved on.

When I first came to the Middle Kingdom, all the different ways of doing things really threw me, on and off the road.

Why don't people say what they really mean? Why don't drivers use indicators and push their way into lanes? Why do so many drivers give way to the left and shoot dangerously onto main roads? Why did you start the story from that point?

The answers to these questions really didn't provide peace of mind. Instead, when I learnt to go with the flow, and fit in with the large majority of people doing the right thing, life became dou keyi (all OK).

The key was to move at the same pace as everyone else, and when I did, I started to hear what people were saying and better understand what was going on.

I've learnt that I'll never change China, especially its taxi drivers, but I can always change my attitude and myself.