He who pushes, wins!

My commute to work over the last couple of days has been a somewhat unpleasant experience. Anybody who has traveled on public transport in China will relate to the fact the the vast majority of people have no concept of queuing in an orderly manner. When the train or bus doors open it is literally a shove fest so that seat can be obtained, and in my experience is the elderly people you have to watch. They have years of practice and know ever trick in the book. I tell many visitors that the Shanghai public transport traveler motto seems to be “He who pushes, wins!”.

My commute to work starts at Longyang Road on Shanghai’s Subway Line 2. My final destination is East Huaxia Road, just 6 stops in the direction of Pudong Airport. However, it is not as direct as it seems. At Guanglan Road, the 3rd stop, passengers must alight the train, cross to the other side of the platform and board another train for the rest of their journey. This all sounds fairly straight forward doesn’t it? In reality it isn’t. Each train carriage has seats for about 48 people, however at rush our these carriage carry in excess of 160 people, all of whom want a seat on the next train and will stop at nothing to claim their prize.

Yesterday the train from Longyang Road was unusually empty and when it arrived at Guanglan Road. I was standing behind two girls at the door waiting to alight. As the train came to a stop we could see the crowd of people on the platform who had come from the train at the other side of the platform, all with a blood thirsty look, ready to fight for the seats on our train.

Most polite people would allow alighting passengers to leave the train before boarding, but this is China and getting a seat is more important than anything in the world. As the doors opened a wave of people pushed their way on to the train which startled the 2 girls which were then instantly pushed back onto me, knocking me off balance and on to the floor….people could easily see that I was knocked down but carried on with their quest by trampling on me and my bag. I started shouting profanity, got to my feet and shouted in English that people should get some manners. I know that some people understood what I was saying, but most probably thought I was a rude foreigner, after all to them it is perfectly normal to push people to the ground in the hope of being the first to a seat.

Today, I happened to be first at the door as the train arrived at Guanglan Road and I could see the seat thirsty crowd waiting for the doors to open. But this time I put my full body weight (I am probably close to twice the body weight of most Chinese people) and legs in a resistive pose so that I could take on the onslaught of pushing. As the door opened a guy headed towards me and tried to push me back, I did not move, instead he crashed into me and then the guy behind him tried to push him and me. At this point, I pushed them both back towards the station and said affirmatively that they should learn some manners and allow people to get off the train first! There was a look of shock on their faces, and one grunted at me (probably because he lost the opportunity to get seat, not because he was sorry for being a jerk).

It’s going to take a while for me to educate 1.3 billion people to be courteous to fellow human beings when traveling on public transport. Unfortunately I cannot send them all to Japan to see how pleasant boarding a train should be. Hope is not lost because even the Chinese Government realises something needs to be done as earlier this year they issued some travel etiquette tips for Chinese citizens traveling abroad.

As much as I love China and the majority of the people, the more time I spend here the more points in this blog post I begin to agree with. Come on China, pull up your socks and show the world how good you can be.

Safe travels in China, and remember “He who pushes, wins”

Paul Git @PaulGit