Public Transportation Etiquette: China vs Canada

Typical Chinese long distance bus. Note the careful packing

Typical Chinese long distance bus. Note the careful packing

When I ride on public transportation in China I realize there are a whole different set of rules. I’ve long gotten over getting upset over small breaches of etiquette, particularly pointless because the Chinese do not believe they committed any error. Cuss all you like. In China, follow Chinese etiquette.

Acceptable Behaviour: China

  • Not Yielding your Seat: Most buses have no reserved seating for the elderly, the disabled, the pregnant, or for kids. You payed for your ticket, so you sit where you want. There’s no moral obligation to give your seat to anyone.The old foggies and kids need exercise anyway. Ditto the pregnant lady. Disabled people can stand up or they should stay home. In China everyone is treated equally. I have my ticket and you have yours.
  • Kids get their own seat: Only if they have paid for a ticket for the kid and you can prove it. Babies and small kids are free.
  • Kid’s shoes dirty up your pants: Ok. The little darlings may be the Devil Incarnate but they can still intentionally soil your trousers. Proper etiquette is to smile nicely to the brat and swear at them under your breath.
  • Carrying livestock: Oh yea, it’s alright to hang the chickens upside down, or to have a net bag of turtles, with their heads sticking out of the holes.
  • Loud talking or yelling to your friend: Even if your friend is at the front of the bus and you are at the back, yell and have a conversation. No one really cares.
  • Carrying large packages and leaving them at the door until you get off: It’s all Ok, no matter that it blocks everyone else’s access. They can climb, can’t they?
  • Reading your neighbour’s newspaper: Share and share alike, yea, go for it. I’ve even seen strangers demand parts of the paper before the owner was finished.

Personal Hygiene

  • Spitting:
    1. out the window: Perfectly acceptable, bonus points for hitting a cyclist or pedestrian. Spit forcefully enough or lean out the window so that passengers a couple windows behind you don’t get any blowback,
    2. in the vehicle: This must be directed at the ground, near your feet and cannot hit your neighbour’s feet or baggage
  • Smoking on the bus: A given in rural locales, very acceptable everywhere else
  • Cutting fingernails: Join in and be part of the gang.
  • Eating sunflower seeds and spitting the husks on the floor: Very acceptable. Ditto for egg shells and other refuse. There’s no need to clean up, the garbage will automagically disappear.
  • Sharing food with strangers: More common in rural areas, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Getting on and off

  • Stooping on the ground: Before the bus comes you can crouch on the ground like everyone else. Over time you’ll get used to it. Split and clear your throat as much as you like.
  • Getting on: Every man for himself. You need not line up to get a bus or subway. It’s simpler to just push/shuffle your way to the front, the harder the push the better.
  • Pushing others out of the way to get on: Only acceptable for the elderly. This is common throughout China
  • Yelling at the Bus Driver for the next stop: Very acceptable. You can even yell at him to drop you off before the next stop
  • Let people off the bus before you board: Whomever is quickest and strongest gets on first. Some of those old people have sharp elbows, so beware.
  • When on an airplane that is taking off: sitting in your seat and fastening the seat belt is strictly optional
  • Move someone’s bag or package so you can sit down: Go for it! Totally Ok, and within your rights. You did pay a ticket.
  • Sticking your head out the window: How else can you spit accurately?
  • When your stop approaches, yell at everyone that you’re getting off, then start pushing towards the door: With finesse, even a laowai can learn this. If others are also getting off they will tell you, so don’t push them out of the way.

Acceptable Behaviour: Canada

  • Slouch so that you take up 2 seats: Yes, it is often done. Look like an escaped murderer and stare down anyone who even thinks of asking you to move your stuff.
  • Playing music so loud that the who back of the bus can lip synch: It’s done all the time, feel free.
  • Talk loudly on your cell phone about your personal life: It’s all ok and it does not matter if others hear you. They are strangers.
  • Show your underwear and your low cut jeans: Thongs more than Ok. Boxers in the breeze are Ok.
  • Apply makeup on the bus and subway: It’s done all the time
  • Ladies first: Hmm. That’s a tough one. Maybe for the older folk.
  • Crowding around the front of the bus: No matter what the driver says, you can huddle near the front door, no matter that there is lots of space at the back of the bus. Other people waiting to get on can take the next bus.

4 thoughts on “Public Transportation Etiquette: China vs Canada

  1. Pingback: Public Transportation Ettiquette: China vs Canada | Real Rumors

  2. David Ing

    Civility is a major benefit in living in Canada. It’s partially handed down from a British heritage where protocol is mostly followed.

    The Canadian behaviours that you mention aren’t acceptable, but aren’t uncommon. They’re often the result either of inadequate parenting, or lack of sensitivity by newcomers to Canadian standards. Both could be corrected with some feedback, but speaking up is somewhat UnCanadian.

  3. Lan Yang

    Anyway, I think you have been through some very unpleasant experience in Chinese rural areas, very rural and wild. As a Chinese, I am greatly shocked by your experience and your style of writing, reading the anger and sarcasm in it.
    Maybe you hate Chinese rural residents, but remember that they may be the ones who provide you with food and clothes, even you.

  4. dontai Post author

    I have spent a couple of years living in China, so almost all of my bus experience is from one of China’s largest cities. In contrast when I have visited rural China the bus experience is very pleasant and not at all “wild”. Rural Chinese are more polite to each other in general. If you ask for directions, rural Chinese will try to help you, where as people in the big city may not be interested. The bus is usually not as nice looking, but the people are so much nicer.

    There is no intended anger or sarcasm in my writing, but if my writing shocks you then I am pleased.

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