Many expats may be surprised to discover how safe Shanghai is relative to Western nations. The rate of violent assults, murders, and other forms of crime is fairly low and well controlled by the government. However, the little accidents in Shanghai, and China as a whole, are what threaten the safety of the people
On the Road
If you are not the tiniest bit careful while driving on the streets of Shanghai, soon you will be driving towards your immediate death— no joke. Although there are plenty of traffic regulations set, not even half of them are followed through by both the driver and the pedestrian. Reckless drivers speed, drink-drive, and do not give way to the pedestrians while impatient pedestrians cross the pedestrian line during green traffic light, walk in the lanes built for vehicles, and do unexpected things in the middle of the street. However, keep in mind that there are a total of more than 3 million vehicles on the streets of Shanghai so as a driver, you can get nowhere without aggressively driving. So when crossing the street, do not automatically assume that a green pedestrian light means all is safe; it is out of habit for Chinese to obey traffic laws so as mommy would put it “make sure to look both ways before crossing the street.”
Expats often question how these reckless Chinese drivers get away with traffic violations. For one, the large populationpf drivers way exceeds the number of traffic guards hired to monitor the streets of Shanghai. Luckily, since 2013, traffic rules have become stricter, including the deduction of six demerit points if drivers run on red lights (12 points equals the suspension of your driver’s license.)
Violent crimes in Shanghai are rarely seen but nevertheless, do happen. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Shanghai leads the country with an impressive 98% conviction rate, ensuring citizens a safer environment compared to most Western nations. The main concerns when it comes to violence centers in districts with a bustling nightlife. Bar fights break out due to various conflicts and taxi assaults occur when you are not careful. Like in any other country, avoid walking in the dark alone, especially if you are a female, and stay away from suspicious strangers.
Shanghai may not be a city full of violent crimes but petty crimes associated with money are commited daily.
Pickpocketing for one is something to watch out for. In the eyes of a local Chinese, expats are seen as wealthy individuals carrying a lot of money or valuable items on them. In commercial districts and tourist destinations where there are crowds of people, sometimes a large portion of which is from overseas, keep an eye on your personal belongings, especially your bag and wallet. Similarly, theft is also a big problem. Train stations and metro stations are two risky places where thieves can easily steal your personal belongings. Every year, there are thousands of reported incidents on stolen luggage, missing valuables, or when riding the train or metro. Same applies to public buses or long distance bus rides. Best solution is to keep all valuable belongings, such as wallet, passport, ID, etc on you while keeping a close eye on any other bag you might also be carrying.
Cheating presents the biggest issue of safety in China, not to mention, Shanghai. In the busy areas and expat populated districts of Shanghai, beggars of all forms can be seen everywhere on the streets. Nowadays, on metros there are even beggars singing while grabbing on to a young child who holds a can, begging for money. However, most beggars in Shanghai are fake— cheaters who are trying to find the easy way out for money. News investigations show an underground network of human-trafficking from the rural areas of the city; some people kidnap children to help beg for money. Even though this is not the case for all beggars, differentiating the truth from a lie is extremely difficult in this populus city. Avoid beggars and if they continue pestering you, find the nearest guard or police officer to shoo them away.
Aside from begging, there are incidents where a local female may cheat an expat, especially a male. Usually, two attractive local females may approach a male expat to take a picture with them and eventually the situation develops into one where the three go to a bar or tea shop to “practice English.” Sounds like a friendly encounter right? It would be if the two ladies did not have the intention of purposely ordering expensive refreshments and threatening the expat that they will call the police if he does not pay the over-priced bill.
Lesson learned: always take precautions in your actions and be wary of the people that approach you.