Just returned from a great trip to Shenzhen and Seoul. As always, I get several questions on my trip to Korea and China- and specifically on subjects like crime, food, censorship, fear of the government, and language. Since all of these can have some pretty in-depth answers I will answer them in several blogs. In the mean time since I still need to get out a blog or two on gear we have been testing, I will focus here on China.
Let me provide some of my background on the below subject area before I dive into it. I spent 13 years of my life traveling to both the brightest and darkest places on our planet. I have been in just as many 5-star hotels as well as hell-holes where life seemed to be one big eclipse. In that time I provided both personal and property protection to some of the most important resources for my country. I have degrees and certifications in law enforcement and resource protection, trained with some of the world’s top experts in counter-terrorism, and have a working knowledge in second and third languages. Those days behind me, I enjoy travel for different reasons…now back to the blog…
China is a wonderful place to work and visit. Beyond getting warned about drinking with young girls who have my body parts removed as I sleep, I guess the biggest question I get upon returning, is if I was afraid of getting mugged – specifically in China. I have to say, not once was have I ever been fearful of getting hurt or robbed. I have been in situations in Shanghai where a counterpart and I were getting targeted, but I took positive control of the situation. Like anything large city though, Shenzhen can have its share of petty crimes. So does any other city. What I have found is most of the time, you are in control of the situation. As I travel large cities, I find purse snatching or pick-pocketing to be the most invasive. This can be controlled by how you place your items. By the way, the story about a businessman having his kidney stolen and waking up in an ice bath is complete urban legend.
I carry a backpack with me everywhere. Really good pick-pockets can get into your zippered bag without any difficulty. Because I do strap my pack to me and buckle both the waist and sternum straps to prevent snatching, the back part of the bag is at risk of being tampered with. One method I use is to place a small carabiner to secure the zippers. This makes it difficult to un-zip. Additionally, I make sure that when in a crowd I give myself plenty of space, and when I find someone camping out directly behind me I will either move or turn to face them momentarily. If I have an opportunity to place my back to the wall I will do so. This gives me protection from any wrong doing that I can’t easily detect.
Another threat is when you are standing at a red light – waiting for the light to change. I will back away from the street so that everyone else is in front of me. This takes away the opportunity to tamper with my bag and gives me a few feet of comfort area.
Getting scammed is probably a greater threat. I was fortunate that when coming into Hong Kong to have a driver pick me up. Shenzhen is a growing city and even though there is access to any place you want to go by bus, rail, or taxi, you need to be careful about the taxis. The authorized taxis in Shenzhen are red and grey/white. They will have a meter in them. Getting into any other cab can result in getting scammed and a 20RMB ride can cost a few hundred RMB. BTW- there is a small surcharge for fuel that won’t show up on the meter and you will need to get two receipts when you exit the cab. As another side note, depending on your sense of adventure, the cab rides can be interesting. You may feel unsafe- but in reality you are ok. These guys are better drivers than most of us. Also- the horn is a device for communication and not aggravation. You will get honked at- don’t get offended.
Another way to get in trouble is if you are asked to go somewhere with someone. If they want you to see their shop, go to their apartment, go see a watch collection, etc….don’t follow them. I am amazed at people who allow them selves to get involved in a scam so quickly.
Finally, if you want to find trouble, you will. Again- amazed at people who insist on getting involved with drugs or prostitutes- and then wonder why they got robbed. Stay away from trouble (people/situations) and more than likely you will be safe. Both prostitution and drugs are illegal in China. Not only do you risk your own personal safety, but you also risk arrest. It’s simple…enjoy China and don’t be stupid.
I enjoyed my time in both Seoul and Shenzhen. The people are fantastic and curious about westerners. I walked in many streets, back-alleys, parks, and shopping areas and not once did I feel I was in danger. I will cover more about food, weather, getting around, and other subjects in my blog, podcast, and v-log. Both Korea and China are great places to visit and work and I enjoy each opportunity I get.