Philipp Neumann (Germany)
Unfortunately, in Germany most of the people know almost nothing about China without assuming what they are missing viz. a country which offers endless exciting things to discover.
However, oddly enough one of the things which is quiet well-known in Germany is the Chinese or at least the Asian subway. But why do more people know the Chinese subway instead of for example the "Forbidden City" in Beijing? The answer is that China's subway is widely knows as a human battlefield and uncivilized place where employees pushing people with huge gloves in the subways, which is pretty strange, isn't it?
To be honest, this certain kind of image contains a grain of truth, however there is a lot more to say about Beijing's subway.
To describe Beijing's subway in less words I would use the words crowded, cheap, safe, easy and effective. But let's take a closer look.
Of course, Beijing's subway is more or less quiet crowded, especially the subway lines 10, 1 and the most crowded one 5 but regarding approximately 17, 4 million inhabitants it is not surprising anymore, right? By the way the subway in Beijing transports about 7 million people every day, which is about twice as much as the total population of Berlin. Can you imagine that? Sometimes I consider the transfer from one subway to another the equivalent of a migration because there are so many people which are really fascinating for me.
Therefore, especially during the rush hour Beijing's subway isn't a place for people who are suffering from claustrophobia. It is totally crowded,, people are "sticking together" and the situation can be compared to big rock concert where a famous band is performing. As you probably can imagine it consequently smells really bad, the air is not the best and it is insane warm. At least, you are not able to tumble down :-). But what is now with the employees pushing people with huge gloves in the subways, is it true? First of all, the image of huge gloves is indeed totally hilarious but absolutely not true. However, it is true that sometimes the employees have to push the people in the subway as otherwise the doors couldn't close. In fact, there are a lot of employees trying to coordinate, control and to calm down the mass of people with megaphones. Then, as soon as the subway is arrived and the doors are opened the critical point is reached. People are trying to leave and to enter the subway at the same time as fast as possible to get the best places. That's why I recommend: Be fast, know where the most comfortable places are, be lucky :-), be determined and take care about yourself. Otherwise, you may loose your shoe as my friend once, haha.
However, there are many things regarding Beijing's subway which I really appreciate. On the one hand, the subway in Beijing is really cheap. You only have to pay 2 RMB (about 30 cents ) for one ticket which allows you to use subway as long as you want while not leaving the subway station. Of course, as soon as you are leaving the subway station you have to hand your ticket in. Consequently, you could use the subway with only one ticket the whole day, discovering every subway station :-). That sounds like a plan, what do you think :-)? Bye the way, I have a friend who told me, that he sometimes takes subway line 2, which is circuiting just to take a nap. Ok, I admit that he is pretty crazy. Ah, some of you may think now that the subway is a kind of stone-age regarding the price, however due to the fact that most of the subway lines were just built up some years ago (most of them due to the Olympic Games in 2008), the subway in Beijing is totally modern, being provided with the newest technology and equipment. Moreover, the subways are offering a high frequency, being fast and effective without suffering from annoying technical problems. At the same time, the subway net is elaborated and clear and almost all the descriptions are in English. Consequently, you are getting familiar with the subway net very quickly without getting lost. After a short time, I knew almost all the different lines and how to get to every subway station, just following the useful descriptions.
On the other hand, another important point is safety! Every time before entering the subway you have to go through a security check where your bag is getting checked by one of these machines they also used at the airport, I think that you know what I mean. First, I was pretty surprised and honestly a little bit annoyed to give off my bag all the time, it felt a little bit weird (in Germany, there are no security checks in regard to subway stations or train stations) but after a while you are getting used to it and in the meantime I am personally convinced that it is a good idea in terms of all the terrorist warnings and attacks we have to cope with all over the world.
Furthermore, most of the subway rails are insulated from the people, so there is not the possibility to jump in front of a subway.
All you can see, compared to other subways in other countries, also compared to Shanghai the subway in Beijing is more reliable and effective, easier to orientate oneself, faster, safer and not overpriced. Just to give an example: As I was in Berlin with my friends for holidays, we spent a lot of time trying to find the right subway by asking many people, even though we were native speakers.
I am really impressed of Beijing's subway and a lot of countries should learn their lesson from the subway in Beijing.