The longer I live in Beijing, the more I recognize the lipstick and rouge that hide the blemishes of this town. Fear not, I won’t go on a Beijing bashing fest; I’ll save that for another day. Yet despite the many issues that come with living here, personal safety doesn’t feel like a serious concern.
During my lifetime I’ve survived: two break-ins (one in the USA and on in Israel), two stolen cars while living in different states in the USA, a camera theft in Cambodia, my wallet lifted by a pickpocket in Shenzhen, and 15 car accidents. Despite living in Beijing for over six years, none of the car accidents occurred here though I’ve encountered countless near misses. All these experiences have taught me the value of good insurance and the benefits of wearing seat belts.
Although none of these misfortunes happened to me here in Beijing, I have witnessed some harrowing events when it comes to bicyclists and large vehicles (link to old post). Yet with the exception of traffic injuries, I don’t hear much about personal safety here. To my recollection, none of my friends have mentioned break-ins, pickpockets, muggings, or threats to personal safety.
Beijing is one of the safest cities I’ve lived in. I’m cautious by nature, but I’m not worried about personal crime here. If a child gets out of my view, I don’t panic. If someone I’ve never met starts talking with my kids and angling for a photo, I don’t look at them as a threat (though maybe a nuisance). I’ve never seen a snatch thief or pickpocket at work here either (I use to spot them in Shenzhen and warn careless pedestrians).
Maybe this is why so many discussions in Beijing focus on health issues: air and water quality, food safety, and disease. It may not be safe to breath the air on a Friday night and I might not be sure what’s in my meal at that fancy restaurant, but at least I don’t need to worry about getting mugged while walking home – even if I am being followed by masked individuals.
Photo:Ell Brown (Flickr)