Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Taiwan traffic survival tips

8/20/2014 Taiwan Explorer

A blog post linked on Taiwanreporter's Facebook page named Culture Clash: 6 Reasons Germans Could Never Survive in Taiwan caught my attention today. The Upworthy-style title is of course complete nonsense, I know a couple of Germans who are living in Taiwan for many years, and they're "surviving" quite fine. I know the title is exaggerating to grab attention, and not meant too be taken literally. The author is listing potential challenges Germans might face in Taiwan, and some of the arguments she makes are valid. But the last one definitely stands out: "Taiwanese people don't adhere to traffic rules". She explains:

"Foreigners need to be careful crossing the street as cars rarely stop for pedestrians, even if it is the pedestrian’s right of way. I’ve almost been run over 10 times since I’ve arrived. Scooters/mopeds are the worst offenders of running red lights. Germans could never survive in such chaos. They follow all traffic rules and get mad at those who inadvertently break them. I’m constantly getting yelled at in Germany. The Germans would be appalled at Taiwan traffic. I know I am, and I’m not even German!"

This is where I think she's wrong. First of all, if we take into consideration what she's describing, the title should be: "Taiwanese people don't adhere to German traffic rules". If Germans come to Taiwan, and expect German traffic rules, then she's right, they will have extreme difficulties to get used to what is often perceived as chaos by most Europeans (not only Germans) who come here. But that doesn't mean there are no traffic rules in Taiwan. To the contrary, there are many rules, that are quite consistently implemented, and even the author unknowingly mentioned some of them, such as:

- Cars rarely stop for pedestrians, even if it is the pedestrian's right of way
- Scooters/mopeds are running red lights

Taiwanese traffic rules

I want to expand this part, and add a few unwritten rules based on my own observations. Could be very useful for those very German Germans among my readers who do what Taiwanese rarely do - walk. These are my survival tips:

1) Traffic in Taiwan means survival of the fittest. As a pedestrian you are the lowest in the hierarchy, and are therefore expected to give way to all other means of transportation. Generally, the power structure is as following: Bus, truck > van, luxury car, police car, taxi > normal car > scooter > bicycle > pedestrian. For example, a bus has the right to push or cut off every other vehicle, and nobody will complain. A normal car has the right to push and cut off scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, but not vans, trucks, and buses.

2) Traffic lights are for reference only, don't rely on them. Always look left and right to be sure no kamikaze scooter is appearing out of nowhere while you make your first step.

3) Related to the first two rules, never complain being cut off or nearly hit. If that happened it's your fault, as you haven't been following the rules properly. As a pedestrian you are the lowest member in the traffic hierarchy.

4) If there's no car or scooter in sight, cross to the other side despite of the red light (don't be German about it). I've never ever seen or heard someone got fined for that.

5) When you cross the road, imagine you're playing Frogger, and the frog is you. Walk slowly, anticipate cars and if they speed, stop and let them pass. If you see scooters, you don't need to stop. Instead walk slowly, and they will either pass in front of you, or at your back.

6) If a car approaches you in normal speed, keep walking. He will not stop, but he will most definitely not hit you. He will slow down if necessary, or brake in the last moment, but generally he will try to avoid it, and hope you cross as fast as possible, so he doesn't need to interrupt his current speed level.

7) Never stop out of a sudden, or walk backwards, as it might cause confusion, and possibly trigger an accident.

8) Never argue with people who don't wear helmets on scooters, or who's kids don't wear helmets. It might shock you when you see it for the first time, but better mind your own business and move on. You won't change anything, because the police doesn't do anything about it.

Do you have any tips to add? If yes, drop a comment.