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Surviving Beijing Subway Rush Hour

The Beijing subway is dangerous terrain for the unwitting commuter. Follow these simple guidelines to survive Beijing’s subway rush hour.

Rush hour on the Beijing Subway (Běijīng dìtiě, 北京地铁) is what naughty children are told will come and take them if they don’t stop misbehaving. Rush hour tends to run from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Take these steps to ensure your personal health and safety:

  • Have your card ready to tap as you approach the pay gate. Don’t fumble like a fool and hold other people up.
  • After going down the stairs to the train platform, make a U-turn and walk behind the stairs instead of forward. This could be a spot with fewer waiting passengers.
  • Do not push into line during rush hour. Just don’t—sure, some people do it, so what? If they jumped off a building, would you too?
  • If you must push in, wait until the line disintegrates into a rush as the train doors open, and make your move from the edge of that rush.
  • Once you’re inside the train, don’t be shy to get all close and personal with other people. Chances are, you won’t have a choice anyway. Breathe and remember, everyone hates this as much as you.
  • You will see some people using their phones in the crowded car and thus taking up precious space by having their arms in front of them, and it might irritate you. Subdue your desire to hit people on the head with their own phones.
  • Closing your eyes for a minute as you sway with the movement of the train, your body supported on all sides with the soft padding of human flesh, is acceptable.
  • Try to start your inching movement to the door when you hear your station announced.
  • When you need to get off, you can ask the people who are in your way, “Xiàchē ma?” (下车吗?), or excuse yourself as you attempt to pass them on your way to the door, “Jiè guò” (借过).

You think you’re off the hook, just because it’s not rush hour? Here are some pointers for normal subway hours:

  • Queue on either side of the where the train door will be, but not in front of it. You may get instructed by a station attendant to face the door while you’re waiting, perhaps to ensure your complete dedication to efficient boarding.
  • Let people get off the train before you get on.
  • If there is an older person, a person with a disability, a pregnant person, or a person with children, surrender the seat you were sitting in or were aiming for. You can tell that person you are offering your seat to them by saying “Qíng zuò” (请坐).

There is no right way to take the subway, but there are certainly lots of things you can do wrong. Don’t do them and your ride will be pleasant and peaceful… Until the next rush hour.

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