About six months ago I was at the Shanghai train station waiting for my train to Suzhou when a Chinese businessman came and sat next to me. He broke the ice by asking me something about my mobile phone and soon we were chatting away about this and that. As usual, when chatting to someone local, questions like 'what do you think about China?' and 'what are your biggest likes/dislikes about living here?’ came up. The businessman then asked me if there was some Chinese habit that I found particularly strange/weird. Just as I was about to answer a train announcement silenced me, telling all passengers taking the D444 train to Suzhou that they were about to start letting people down to the platform to wait for the train. Apparently a lot of people were going to Suzhou because the second the train announcement came, a load of people got up from their seats and rushed towards the gate to the station platform. Some people even started running. It was 20 min until departure. The businessman and I watched the people stressing for about 5 minutes, until he got inpatient too and got up to go to the platform. I followed and then, when we were standing in the line to the gate, I told him that I found it funny that Chinese people always are so inpatient/stressed when they are taking the train somewhere. Even though there was still 15 min to go people were acting as if the train was leaving any minute. Just as I said this an older lady pushed herself passed me and me and the businessman shared a laugh.
-You are right, the businessman said. We Chinese people really are inpatient when we travel. I guess it is an old habit for many.... People should try to relax more.
When we got down to the platform, however, the Chinese businessman showed that old habits die hard as he suddenly must have felt in a hurry and started half running towards his carriage. I couldn't help smiling. It was 12 min until departure and this man barely had time to say goodbye. Talk about feeling stressed!
For the last 6 months I have been a quite frequent passenger on the trains between Shanghai-Suzhou, so I've been entertaining myself with watching people rush towards their carriages even though there is 15 min until departure (my favourite people to watch are girls in high heels that run!).
Well, this has been my lame entertainment until I recently landed in Finland for a holiday. Seeing I had many places to visit in Finland (my bf's from there and his friends and family are spread out across the country) and no car, I've been taking the train everywhere... And how do you think I have been behaving on those trains? Well, just like the Chinese people I have been laughing at for the last 6 months!
First of all: I panic unless we buy our train tickets AT LEAST 4 days in advance. It doesn't matter that my bf tells me that the trains here rarely fill up, and that tickets never (unless it is Xmas) sell out. I refuse to believe him! I demand for him to reserve us tickets in advance, not leaving any room for being spontaneous when it comes to travelling.
Second of all: When a train reaches the platform (where I am waiting, normally standing up), I have realised that I feel a bit stressed about getting on the train. Especially if I am far away from the carriage where I am supposed to sit. One week ago, when my bf and I were at a small, small country station in the middle of nowhere and the train came, I even started running!! My bf was embarrassed, but I couldn't help it. I got scared that because we were at such small station the train might just stop for a mere minute and I wouldn't be able to make it.... I bet there were some people on the train laughing at me.
Thirdly: I always assume that my seat is always going to be occupied. Every time I get on a train and realise that my, assigned and already-paid-for-seat isn't taken I feel like something is wrong. In China my seat is normally ALWAYS taken by someone who is either taking a free ride or who's bought a standing ticket (although... can u still do that? No ticket office has offered to sell me a standing ticket for at least a year??) I ALMOST (but just almost) miss ushering people away?
I never, EVER thought I would say this... but I kind off, reluctantly have to admit that I miss the trains in Shanghai! Especially the prices, but also everything else that comes with a train ride in China. I almost always start talking to someone on the train/on the train station and try doing that in Scandinavia... Someone might reply to you but they'll definitely think you're a freak. Over here we don't talk to strangers.