Just Another Lunch Break in China

My office at the public school

My office at the public school

When I’m not actually teaching, I try to spend as little of my free time in the office as I possibly can. My coworkers, as nice as they are, have no concept of a quiet, communal work space; whenever they’re not actively working they’re yelling into their phones, shouting out what I’m usually sure are friendly debates, and playing music and movies at full blast. Lunch breaks are two and a half hours long, and the first half is spent eating, chain smoking and having what I can only imagine are screaming contests, while the second half is spent sleeping wherever they’d happened to be when it hit the halfway mark. Tables, desks, multiple chair beds, wheel barrows… I’m convinced that the Chinese can sleep anywhere.




Even ballers gotta sleep

But not me… No, I barely even sleep at night, and I’ve come to view these long afternoon siestas as an invaluable opportunity to lesson plan, explore and write. The streets are packed with people running errands, stretching their legs and grabbing something to eat, and it’s the perfect opportunity for some mid-day culture shock. Lunch breaks in my school’s area, which is one of the older and therefore slummier parts of the city, are practically guaranteed to deliver on this too; street food vendors brandishing bamboo sticks at each other over territory, a restaurant bill dispute that was solved by throwing dishes at the management, as well as a guy who’d been in such a hurry that he’d felt the need to take a hammer to the cars blocking his in, resulting in a massive brawl. Even if my office was a productive and relaxing environment, I’d still be out in the streets every day hoping to stumble onto one of these ridiculous situations.


They’ve since learned how to share


High-stakes poker games every Tuesday in 上沙公园


Work with whatcha got

Even in early March, Shenzhen afternoons are already 80 degrees, and it’s the perfect weather for gambling in parks, strapping over-sized objects to your bike, and of course… selling pig carcasses out of the back of a pick up truck. Call me crazy, but I’ve always been under the impression that meat and hot sun were a bad combo. Maybe I’m wrong though, or maybe I just don’t have the entrepreneurial spirit that these guys have, to sit in front of a shopping mall with a scale and attempt to sell half of a pig to anybody passing by. Guts and entrails would spill out onto the pavement whenever they’d found a customer who values a good price over food poisoning, leaving puddles of rusty brown scattered all across the sidewalk. I’d only witnessed one sale, and after the hacked up torso had been weighed and paid for, some kitchen worker casually walked away with it slung over his shoulder, headed back to a restaurant that I’ve decided I should avoid like the plague. Just another day out and about on my lunch break, and just another reason why I avoid pork in China.


Business is business.


Discount pork off of Exit 17A


5 second rule, YA KNOW?!

The 20 Things You’ll Need to Be Able to Do in Order to Get Your Driver’s License in China

You can’t live here for a year and a half without picking up some Chinese, and mine has gotten pretty good over the last 8 months. I recently got the chance to check out a preparation manual for the Chinese driver’s license exam, and after reading through all of the different rules and laws for driving here, I’ve realized most foreigners probably know very little about the driving etiquette here in China. Below is a translated list of the 20 major things every driver should be able to do to get out onto the road. Learn and enjoy, I hope this prepares you for traffic in China!

Driver’s license requirements. You must be able to:

  1. Whip your car down a one-way street going the opposite direction, slamming on the horn at anybody in your way.
  2. Slam on the gas to cover the 5 meters between you and the car ahead of you, then brake hard to avoid rear ending them. Space between cars means lost time.
  3. Pull a U-turn anywhere at anytime. Slamming on the horn is optional.
  4. Jam your car ahead of other cars to gain access to that lane. You only have the right of way if you’re blocking another vehicle.
  5. Never use a turn signal, and instead slightly jerk your car in whatever direction you want to go in. If cars move out of the way and nobody slams on the horn, proceed to swerve into that lane.
  6. Slam on the horn if people are crossing the road ahead of you, regardless of the distance and whether or not you could even make it to them before they’d finished crossing.
  7. Slam on the horn as you cut into another lane to pass a vehicle that’s only slightly exceeding the speed limit.
  8. Slam on the horn if you’re stuck in a line of cars due to an obstruction up ahead. It doesn’t matter if you’re the second car back or the sixth car back, you must show how displeased you are about being stopped for several seconds by laying on the horn until you can move forward again.
  9. Slam on the horn at anything, for any reason, at anytime.
  10. Drive into the oncoming lane to go around anything that is blocking you. Lines in the road are only suggestions, and you can cross them whenever it allows you to get where you’re going faster.


    Notice how there’s oncoming traffic on either side of our taxi? I guess that bus had somewhere it really needed be

  11. Swerve across 3 or more lanes in one swoop.
  12. Get your car as close as physically possible to any object blocking your way, even if it impedes them getting out of your way. Slam on your horn to announce your presence.
  13. Ride up on anything that has less wheels than you. Bikes and motorcycles are supposed to drive on the sidewalk anyways
  14. Go as fast as possible regardless of what is ahead of you. When needed, slam on the brakes.
  15. Park wherever the fuck you please.IMG_3392

    Shown here is a perfect example of the half on half off technique that ever driver in China has mastered

    Shown here is a perfect example of the half on half off technique that ever driver in China has mastered

  16. Parallel park your car in no less than 8 moves, blocking traffic while you do this.
  17. Avoid pedestrians only if they’re in a group of 6 or more. Any less than that and you’re not responsible if you clip one of them.
  18. Purposefully block another car from overtaking you, regardless of whether or not your vehicular stand off could cause an accident. It’s their responsibility to swerve and aggressively pass you. This skill especially applies for exit ramps and turning lanes.
  19. Make a bus drivers life as miserable as you possibly can. Never yield or allow them to get where they need to go. It’s their fault they’re driving a vehicle that’s larger than most of the cars on the road.
  20. Stop your car wherever it’s most convenient. Vehicles behind you are expected to swerve around you.

Remember future drivers, if it doesn’t give you a flat tire or wreck your axle then you can swerve onto it, slamming on the horn is always recommended, and the key to defensive driving is driving as aggressively as you possibly can!

TL;DR Drive like you want to cause property damage

Although nothing could compare to the first hand experience of being bounced around the backseat of a taxi as it swerved through rush hour traffic, this video does a pretty good job of showing how recklessly impatient and aggressive Chinese drivers can be.