Don’t do that!

One evening last week I was walking Nico around our compound, as usual, when I saw a man sitting by a big white cabinet which is installed in the garden. You know, one of those cabinets from the gas or electricity companies, with cables, buttons and controls for the whole compound. The man was playing with his phone and smoking a cigarette. He was sitting 30 cm away from a spray painting that read: DANGER! GAS CONTROL CABINET. NO SMOKING. The cabinet had several of these signs on all of its sides. The man could most probably read. He just chose to ignore the warning.

I have encountered many similar examples of this attitude while living in China. Rules seem to be just a suggestion. This is most obvious when looking at the traffic in China: it seems no one really cares about the traffic laws. To be fair, this has improved in recent years, since the points-based license was introduced. Or at least it has improved in Suzhou, where I live, because there are cameras everywhere and if you run a red light you are most probably going to get caught, fined and your points deducted. Pedestrians are not much better: it seems jaywalking is a national sport! It doesn’t surprise me, though, considering that when the traffic light is green for pedestrians, cars turning to the right can still pass (and yielding to a pedestrian is unheard of in this country), so they don’t have much of a choice. C. always says 中国人不怕死 (Chinese people are not afraid of dying) and that could be a good summary of how crossing the street here feels like.

One of my all-time favourite China pictures is this:


It was taken in the Purple Bamboo Park (紫竹园) in Beijing. Everybody ignored the warning but in this case it seems they were right to do so: the ice was thick enough to skate safely.

Chinese people are not the only ones who ignore rules and warning signs. During my trip to Japan last February I saw this:

What?? Japanese people also rebel against the rules!

What?? Japanese people also rebel against the rules!

I also saw bikes parked next to a “Don’t park bikes here” sign in Amsterdam, but I didn’t take pictures.

I’m glad I didn’t catch anyone breaking this rule, though:

Picture taken in Hong Kong.

Picture taken in Hong Kong.


In Spain it’s also fairly easy to see people ignoring the rules. For example, too many people don’t pick their dog’s droppings or throw cigarette butts on the ground. We don’t really have signs or warnings telling not to do it but it’s common sense and civism, right? I don’t need a sign saying “Please pick your dog’s droppings” to know I have to do it.


How is it in your country? Do people usually follow the rules or ignore them?