First Impressions: Things Learnt in China That Perth Should Know

Perth, a city of 1.7 million people, is, without a doubt, very small, both in comparison to other cities in Australia as well as most other cities in the world! Having come from a small country town 4 hours south of Perth, with a population of around 8,000 people, you would think Perth would seem like a maze, surprisingly in my standards, as by any one else’s, it is to me, like a large small town with thankfully more than a general store for groceries.

Having travelled Europe in 2011 I was not overly culture shocked when I arrived in Beijing on the 1st of December 2011. The smog, the people, the vastness and greatness were all anticipated well in advance (with the help of Google and various blogs about China). The weather however, was more of a shock! Having expected, at the lowest, 3 degrees and “sunny”, coming from a sunny 35 degrees in Perth, I assumed I would be cold, but being freezing to frozen was a little bit of a surprise. However wearing almost every piece of clothing I owned on the first day almost solved this problem.

Despite the seeming lack of culture shock, there are certainly a few things (in particular transport related) that I have learnt in my first week, that I think Perth would benefit in following suit, things I will be the strongest advocate for, in the hopes of teaching every single one of the 1.7million Perth people.

Nobody gets personal space on public transport

Whilst I know in comparison to Beijing the population of Perth seems, and is miniscule, I can safely assure you that the problem of peak hour is not. Along will a lower population, Perth also has, and rightly so (I suppose) less public transport. However there a few key points that add to the frustration of Perth’s fine public transport system, and one is the inability and unwillingness of people to actually make room for capacity on public transport.

Being almost literally picked up and shuffled onto the subway this morning in peak hour, and being so tightly pushed each and every way, so much so that I was sure my aluminum cased Mac book was going to snap, made me realize how, although no matter how squashed it may be, the incredible efficiency the Chinese have in reaching maximum capacity on public transport. This was to the extent that although it was negative degrees outside, I was breaking out in a sweat from the amount of people on the subway. Although mildly uncomfortable for 20 minutes, it was, however, amazingly efficient.
I ask you now to close your eyes and imagine in Perth, with all its sun and trees, having to wait at least 15 minuets between trains (in peak hour) on any of the 4 train lines that run (yes 4).

After missing your train by one minute because the busses also have 15 minute intervals, to then be further annoyed if you have to stand and don’t get a seat.
Yes, standing is as tough as it gets on Perth trains, and the closest you will ever stand next to someone is close enough to read or see what they are doing on their phone, but never actually close enough to be forced to be pressed up against someone. Pushing and shoving is a crime and ‘sorry’ must be said if you accidently push someone on public transport in WA, and should you not be able to weave your way around people without having to ask anyone to actually physically move out the way, god help you!

Yes, Perth has it easy!

You can feel free to put your feet on the free seat next to you, and even let your handbag have a seat and simply avoid eye contact when someone acts as though they might want to take your handbags seat.

Having now experienced Beijing, I will make sure that when I go home, I push and shove and touch and not say ‘sorry’ to my hearts content, in the hopes that people will follow suit, to make Perth a better place, and to, all in all, fit more people on the train (and never make me late to work).

(Read more about Beijing’s Public Transportation System)

Road rage is unnecessary

One thing that I did find baffling, although maybe more amusing, about China, is the organized chaos that is the roads.

People cutting 4 lanes, merging whenever, beeping horns as more of a friendly signal than an angry warning and driving in the middle of lanes was probably the most culture shocking thing I have seen.

When driving in Perth, the horn is a tool used to show the other person exactly how wrong they are, and how annoyed you are with them. Cutting people off or merging without significant warning is not allowed, and should you drive in the middle of two lanes, even in peak hour I can almost guarantee you will have significant damage to both side doors and maybe your head after the abuse that would be hurled at you.

I think Australia could take a nice lesson from China in regards to driving, that being, there is more room on the road than you think there is Perth, and having one car merge in front of you is not the worst thing in the world.

So despite being almost hit by a bus on one of my first days in Beijing there is most certainly no hard feelings for the traffic or the public transport system.

All in all, I think I will definitely try and teach Perth a few things when I go home, although I am not sure how popular I will be on the train.

  • Bonnie Roche- CPG Marketing Intern

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