There is a special flow to driving in China that is both unspoken and dangerous. While complicated and messy, what seems as complete and utter chaos on the roads in China is not the result of confusion on the road but rather complete awareness and understanding of the traffic.
When taxi drivers or drivers in general almost graze one another on the roads or when they seem like they are going to hit a car from behind they almost always manage to miss things by an inch. How is that? There is a certain flow to the traffic that everyone knows; that is- because there are so many vehicles turning every which way on the road and everyone wants to go at the same time no one can leave space in between, so you better drive close and personal at all times, otherwise, expect the next guy to drive in and overtake your position.
It sounds like a bit of a game but it’s more of just a natural process for Chinese while on the road. The walk close together, stay in small spaces with one another, and to no surprise drive really close to one another. This may seem very aggressive and rude to outsiders, and while there definitely are some drivers that flat out suck at driving, that is the how the flow of traffic operates in the country whether you like it or not.
All I can is that if you have been in China/Taiwan long enough you know what I am talking about. At first it seems scary but the more you are exposed to it and observe, the more you see that there is a certain kind of mutual understanding between drivers that allows this to occur. Fender benders occur as well, but overall the unspoken system seems to work for them.
There are also some other characteristics about Chinese when they drive that I find interesting:
1. When they park they back in rather than drive straight in. I’m not sure why this became a custom but I was told that when leaving a place Chinese like to feel as if they are moving forward the whole time rather than getting in the car, awkwardly trying to back up and then taking off.
2. Cars are luxuries in China even if they are not high-end models. In addition to homes, cars are often major purchases for Chinese and they are willing to spend lots of money to get that one special car that will give them security, status and face.
3. However, another reason why Chinese spend so much money on cars is because they are much more expensive than in the West. This is because of high import taxes set by the government, which is often 100% of the car’s total price. This explains why so many Chinese are surprised when they hear that a US$100,000 BMW actually costs US$50,000 in the US, causing them to say “wow that is so cheap/怎麼那麼便宜！”
4. Chinese have not really developed a sense of buying energy-saving cars and tend to think that hummers are cool for their appearance and functions rather than some kind of gross bi-product of Western culture that many people in the West take it to be.
5. Many Chinese remain incredibly relaxed even in the most serious traffic jams. Perhaps that is because many are used to being in heavy crowds in general.
6. Most Chinese don’t coast around the city in their cars for fun unless they are going somewhere. In the West it can be fun to drive around for fun but not in China, at least not in the cities (which are most areas), again due to the traffic. Any other areas that aren’t packed are probably not safe to drive on anyways.
7. Additionally, one of my favorite (insert sarcasm) moves by Chinese drivers is when they know they are cutting you off but pretend like they don’t know that they’re doing it by avoiding eye contact. I have watched drivers over and over again do that to one another and if they make eye contact it almost seems like the bad driving move was done intentionally whereas if no eye contact is made the attitude is “oh ok forget it/沒事，沒事”. Therefore, if you are going to cut someone off in China pretend that you are not aware it is occurring, which in the West would be rude as you would be blamed for not having the awareness needed to drive.
Despite the high costs in purchasing a car in China/Taiwan, repairs are significantly cheaper than what they are in the West. Places like the US rip people off all the time but in China the work is regarded as low-cost labor that shouldn’t break the bank for people.