What ever you do don’t fasten your seat belt!

Sasha | January 25, 2012 | Comments (4)

*Disclaimer: This is a tongue in cheek look at China’s culture of not wearing a seat belt, please do not take any of this as actual advice!

Whatever you do, when you get into a taxi or private car in China don’t fasten your seat belt!  Too bad no one told me that before I came to China!

In Australia where I grew up, wearing a seat belt was drilled into my head from a very young age with public safety campaigns saying “buckle up” all over the TV and radio.  Not to mention the advertisements plastered all over roadside billboards reminding driver’s that if just one of your passenger’s doesn’t wear a seat belt when you’re driving you’ll be slapped with a huge fine.

When I arrived in China just like I had done my whole life, as if an action of reflex the moment I sat in a car I “buckled up” so the last thing I expected to get was this reaction from the driver when I tried to buckle up my seat belt on my first solo Chinese taxi ride….


Was all I heard as the taxi driver started waving his hands around in the air.  Having no clue what he was on about I continued to buckle up my seat belt and again he started waving his hands around and  bla, bla, blaaaaing.

I stared at him blankly, the shouting and waving was unnecessary, I had given him the address in Chinese what else could be the problem?

Finally figuring out that I was clueless as to why he was acting so irate he pointed at my seat belt and uttered ‘No’. No what? I thought, I’m pretty sure it works…so I clipped it in.

He looked at me angrily and again said “No” and un-clipped my seat belt.

I was shocked but finally understood, he didn’t want me to wear my seat belt.

This was not the first time I would come across this in China.  For the first few weeks I continued to put on the seat belt out of habit and was met with the same filthy looks and angry mutterings from taxi driver’s.

Call me a slow learner, but apparently wearing a seat belt in China was just not done nor was it acceptable.

Now I don’t understand this culture of not wearing seat belts, considering how mental the drivers are and how Chinese drivers have a tendency to swerve all over the roads, speeding up at red lights for as far as I can tell just for the fun of it.  Even more fun is apparently speeding up right before the light is about to go red, realising you can’t make it through and then stopping suddenly potentially throwing the passenger’s out the window.  So considering this maybe it would do everyone in China some good to wear seat belts…?

Despite what this sign says, what it's really saying is un-clip your seat belt!

But after living in China for some time now I think I’ve figured out why seat belts are a no, NO. If there is anything I’ve learned about China logic is that often it’s the exact opposite of our own western logic so keeping that in mind I figured if I look at this whole not wearing seat belts thing backwards then maybe I can make sense of it.

So here it is…

Everything that’s wrong with wearing seat belts…

They can give you whiplash…

In the very frequent case that you have to stop suddenly in order to not hit that scooter that appeared out of nowhere wearing, a seat belt is an extreme whiplash hazard.  If everyone had to wear seat belts considering the frequency of the times sudden stopping is necessary on China’s roads everyone would be walking around with a bad case of whiplash, now we wouldn’t want that now would we!

They encourage bad driving…

So your passenger’s are all buckled up safely so now’s the time to put your foot down and start drifting.  Wearing a seatbelt gives the driver the illusion of safety, the illusion that they can drive carelessly and do crazy things like burnouts and drifting around corners.  Wearing seat belts just encourage this kind of bad driving behavior!

They are an omen of bad luck…

If you wear a seat belt you’re asking for something to go wrong because clearly you’re expecting it.  Like all things in China some things are lucky omens and others are bad luck omens, wearing a seat belt is clearly an omen of BAD LUCK because if they were lucky every person in China would be buckling up without hesitation.

They’re an insult to the driver…

When you get in a car with a stranger like a taxi driver they want you to feel like you trust them, trust them to get you from A-B, trust them to not rip you off and trust them with your safety.  So when you go to buckle up your seat belt what kind of message does that send “I think you’re a bad driver and I don’t trust you with my safety” now that doesn’t exactly give them warm fuzzy feelings inside now does it and doesn’t everyone deserve some warm fuzzy feelings!?

So back to the irate ‘bla, bla, blaaaing’ taxi driver.  Through all that confusion and his adamancy that I shouldn’t wear a seat belt maybe it turns out he was doing it just for my safety, because after all maybe wearing a seatbelt in China is far more dangerous then not wearing one!

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Category: Health & Safety

About Sasha: Sasha is a sassy Aussie lassie who is living it up as an expat in Shanghai. When she’s not teaching English or slaving away writing her next story she can be found scheming her next grand travel adventure, dancing up a storm at Shanghai’s hippest clubs and taking an uncountable number of photos of random things. View author profile.

Comments (4)

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  1. James says:

    Also, since it has not been used since it was installed in the car, you will be the first one to pull it out, and it will leave fine dust all over your clothes.

    If you are wearing light colored clothing, the belt-marks probably won’t wash out.

    Writing from experience.

  2. What a hilarious post! I guess it is a “face” thing – losing face, that is. Bad for the driver’s ego and reputation. Ha, ha. Is it not a mandatory requirement for seat-belts to be buckled up on pain of fine?

  3. Sixlen says:

    How do you handle gracefully letting the taxi drivers know that you will, in fact, be wearing your seat belt without sounding negative?

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