Qingdao and Traffic

12483Qingdao is a coastal city east of Beijing. It used to be a fishing village until the Germans arrived and set up a colonial garrison. One of my great-grandfathers actually volunteered to go to China with the Imperial expedition force to quell the boxer rebellion. Doubt he saw combat, but his wife married him upon his return because he “looked so sharp in uniform”.

A century later, his great-grandson would be the first family member to “return” to China. But I carried a box of chocolates and not a rifle.

The Qingdao airport is a small, simple affair. It’s almost completely not noteworthy. If you know the Hamburg airport from before it was fixed and renovated: That is the impression the Qingdao airport left with me. Not that I really cared what the airport looked like: What mattered was that I had finally arrived at my destination. Total travel time: 15h from my doorstep.

I got picked up and didn’t have to worry about taxis or such. The airport turned out to be quite far from the city; maybe 30-40 minutes by car.

The first thing you’ll notice about Qingdao is that the pollution is much better than in Beijing. In fact, it’s so low that it’s not really visible. The second thing you’ll notice is the construction: There are hundreds of construction cranes between the airport and the city proper.

And the third thing you’ll notice… is the traffic.

Now, the car traffic in Qingdao is light when compared to Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur (and Beijingl, as I would later find out). But what makes it so scary is how bad the traffic is. Pedestrians generally have no rights over cars, and have to be careful not to be run over (I doubt most Chinese drivers would actually stop for them). Drivers are constanly lane jumping, driving in between two lanes, and so on. It’s an organized chaos, an eat-or-be-eaten world of motorized transportation. My poor mother, considerate driver that she is, would never get from point A to point B in China. Bless her for her good driving manners.

My first reaction was of course one of fear. I think it mst have seemed amusing, to a Chinese driver, to see me cower in fear when a bus cut in front of us. My expression must have been one of continued amazement.

But later, when I thought about it, I realized that it’s really not that surprising. A part of the problem are probably bad traffic rules, and those could be fixed. But the deeper problem will likely go away in due time: Most Chinese drivers are utterly inexperienced at driving. They haven’t had much time to learn “good traffic manners”. And in China’s emerging semi-capitalism, egoism is probably very fashionable.

We survived the traffic and got to our hotel. We survived all traffic, but I think I have not gotten used to it in any shape or form.

2 thoughts on “Qingdao and Traffic

  1. Yes. But Qingdao is where I first witnessed the traffic; and it’s quite a culture shock. Also, I was riding shotgun in Qingdao, whereas we only used Taxis in other cities and I always sat in the back. Life on the roads of China seems much more relaxing when your view of the street in front of the car is blocked.

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