Breaking the rules when you live abroad

Breaking the rules when you live abroad

There are times when it feels the life in China is nothing but an exercise in skirting rules and regulations. Everything is legal here, until you ask someone whether something is illegal – so in most cases, it’s better not to ask.

Everything is legal until it isn’t.

This week, the government banned scooters (they banned scooters last April as well, but that must have been a different ban, because this is supposed to get over 5 million illegal scooters off the road, and the other ban was supposed to get over 5 million illegal scooters off the road.. oh wait.) The streets have swarmed with police officers stopping unprepared foreigners and demanding to see papers that none of them have, because when they bought the scooter, not having the right paper saved them a couple of hundred RMB off the scooter price. And now everyone’s scrambling to get their scooter guy to call his fapiao guy to issue a proper invoice, but that doesn’t seem to be solving the problem at all.

Life in China is a game of cat and mouse. If the first thing you did is outlawed, move on to the second thing, then the third thing, then the fourth, then go back to the first thing, because the government is so busy regulating the fourth thing that they forgot what they had banned in the first place. It’s utterly ridiculous, but that’s the way it works in Shanghai.

Smoking indoors is banned, except that sixty-year-old shushu in the Shanghainese restaurant will flick his cigarette butt in your face if you dare tell him to stop. Riding scooters in the street is banned, except the last time I was stopped, the police man gave me a $3 ticket and then purposefully drove the other way because he knew I would stay on my scooter. Four Lokos were banned in the US a few years ago, but I could have sworn I saw one in City Super the other week. It’s exhausting to follow every law, so we don’t. We can’t.

So then how do we decide which rules to follow?

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