Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First get your license. Then learn how to drive

Now it all makes sense...

Last night (after a gym work-out, I re-started my “new, healthy life” for the 2984698264th time yesterday –I know, I know, such a cliché!) I caught up with my old language partner from Suzhou who was in Shanghai for Qing Ming Jie. If you have followed this blog for a while you probably remember her: she’s the one who learned English with Desperate Housewives, only ate apples in order to lose weight, and had a boyfriend who made her a “home gym” when she said she wanted to start exercising. Gosh, I’ve missed her!

Since I left Suzhou she has gotten married and she and her hubby has bought a car.

-Great, is it a new car? I asked.

-Of course. In China, no one would buy an old car.

(I always forget!). So do you drive every day to work now?

-No… my husband drives. I have a license but I cannot drive.


-Yeah, I bought my license some years ago but I don’t know how to drive.

-You BOUGHT your license?

-Yes! What… you cannot buy a license in Sweden?

-Eh… hell no you cannot!! You have to pass several tests… driving tests as well as written tests about rules, signs, etc.

-Oh… OK. Well, I am learning now. My husband is teaching me.

-Did he also buy his license?!

-Yes. But he knows how to drive now. He has learned.

Holy cow! Now, I knew this kind of market existed, but I didn’t think it was so common. People here buy their license, buy their cars and THEN learn how to drive? No wonder that there are so many car accidents in China!

-You know, once I know how to drive maybe we can go on a road trip!

-Ehhh… let’s see about that.

Yeah, I don’t think so. Oh, and I will metro everywhere this week.


Anonymous said...

I am not fit to drive. I blank out on a daily basis. Unfortenetly for me, public transportation in America SUCKS. That is one thing I do miss about Taipei.

E said...

in the middle 80s and early 90s, china had extremely rigorous driving test. one of my father's friends from china told me that you had to maneuver your vehicle through of maze of unbelievably positioned bamboo poles.if you touch a bamboo you fail! big legitmate driving schools in china today still use this sort of training system although bamboos have been replaced with lasers and a bunch of high tech crap haha. they also taught students how to perform basic repair and maintenance.
unfortunately, such high standard has long lost in the rapid economic growth. having a driver's license is like having a high school diploma. it symbolizes both you are competent enough to drive and you plan to buy a car if you dont already have one. you lose face if you don't have your driver's license. i'm definitely not surpised your friend "bought" her license

Novel Names said...

I love your stories about your local friends.

Just to be clear, your friend was not talking about provisional driving licenses right? I mean, in most countries you first pass your written test and then get a provisional license. This allows you to "learn", providing you have a qualified driver with you at all times (plus you are advised to put "L" or "P" plates on your car). I guess these "rules" don't apply in China either?

Anonymous said...

I've heard from multiple people in my city that there is in fact a practical 'road' test to get one's license but that like so many other things, you can just pay someone else with more experience to take it for you and no one checks. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that people just buy their license here too.

My husband took a bit of a training course, got his license, but has never actually used it. He says he is afraid to drive!

I wrote a post just this week about Chinese drivers and I think that a lot of what I wrote about can be attributed to this lack of driver training. I hope you'll check it out: http://wp.me/p1gDo1-2H

Jonna Wibelius said...

黃愛玲 -I'm also quite big on public transport. It's sustainable! :) Can't u get a bike?

E -That's weird that they have gone from super strict to super lenient.. or then again, maybe the actual test is not lenient, but obtaining an actual license seems so easy that anyone can do it. When I asked my friend if she was scared of learning how to drive she said: "no, why would I?!" I would be terrified if I had to learn and I didn't have a skilled teacher by my side.

hksarblog -Yes, it's a personal license. I don't know about the actual process over here, I just tend to compare it to Sweden where it is super rigorous... Most people fail their driving tests several times before they get their license. It can be something silly, that you look to the left for too long (or too short of a time) before making a turn?! You can also fail if you hesitate.

kjsandor -no, it is probably common elsewhere too, but I still think it's crazy. Where I come from it would not be possible. I'll def read your post!

Chinese Traveler said...

That's why China has so more fatal traffic accidents than any other countries in the world on per vehicle basis. I have read that Shanghai has an average of 4 fatal traffic deaths per day. Is that figure correct?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish! I live in South Florida so unfortently, it's even more dangerous to ride a bike. You see, many of the roads are not "bike friendly." It's not like in Europe. Many roads don't even have a section for people/bikers. Hit and run is very, very common here. Many people in South Florida are illegal immagrants, so they just take off leaving the body. =/

ordinary malaysian said...

I think on a per population basis, Malaysia has more road traffic fatalities than China. Drivers here become altogether different people once they are behind the wheel. Incidents of road rage are not uncommon and no matter what the authorities try to do, nobody pays much attention. Part of the problem here is the lackadaisical enforcement of traffic regulations. At one time too, it was also quite easy to obtain a driving licence without one having to go through a test, what we call the "kopi-o" licence. But buying a car without first having obtained a driving licence is rather uncommon if not unheard of here. But I must confess that I bought my car before I obtained my driving licence!

E said...

i'd like to add a little bit more to this discussion
i think chinese drivers had a greater responsbility than now. the vash majority of vehicles on the road were owned by companies since it was practically impossible for any average individual to afford a car. consequently, people took driving courses quite seriously and driving schools provided better service because that's what people wanted.
in the past 15 years or so,driving schools across the country saw a large influx of student as a result of increased buying power. the focus has since shifted from quality to quantity. sadly, students did not care either.
it did not matter that much if the actual test was hard or not when your driving school just bribe the examiner for you.

FanFanX said...

I have a friend from the Philippines and she was explaining how she obtained her driver's license...pay the instructor and get the license and then learn to drive.

So she moved to the US a few years back....she could easily 'transfer' her licensed status from there to here. And recently, she's been 'learning to drive' even though she's had a full California driver's license for the past 3+ years....scary thought, eh?

Scared the **** out of me!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Chinese Traveler -I don't know. For me it seems that most traffic accidents occur on the country side or outside of the big cities. But I could be very wrong.

黃愛玲 -that's horrible! better stay in your car then!

ordinary malaysian -that's scary. And I thought driving and sms:ing (that is currently under discussion in Swe) was a big thing...

E-Thanks for adding. Very interesting and very sad facts. But nothing is going to change I believe.

chen.esseff-that is scary indeed! Sounds like this is a common thing in Asia though -now people have mentioned that it's common in Malaysia, China and the Philippines.

Hans Li Engnell said...

On the same topic, sort of...

Emmanuelle said...

well, the same here in Mexico:)You buy it every 2 years.. I was shocked compared to France with the tests and the long hours of learning before getting the opportunity to pass the final test.. And for sure, you also buy a new car even though you have no money to spend for a new one but hey, appearance is the ruler here:s