I’ll give you an example from the city I live in, Shenzhen. There are two giant parks I live near, Shenzhen Central Park and Lianhua Park. I regularly go walking or “ninebotting” through those parks at 2AM or later. I wouldn’t try doing that in San Francisco or New York City.
Last time I got scared in the park, it was 4AM and I heard a strange noise from behind the trees. I went around the corner to investigate and there was an elderly couple practicing Tai Chi. Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed to be afraid after that.
Edit: I want to add something that has kind of been blowing my mind lately. There is this new thing here called Mobike. Not sure how popular it is throughout China, but it is so big here, there are at least 3 other startups doing the same thing in Shenzhen. What is Mobike? It’s a bicycle sharing service, but here’s the catch, you just abandon the bike on the side of the road, or in the middle of a park. There is no high security bike station you return the bike to, just a little lock screwed on and a GPS you could easily chop off. People just don’t steal the bikes, or at least not often enough to sink the company. I can’t imagine that working anywhere in America or even Europe.
Clarification on the bike thing…. They have this here:
This is what most people have experience with. No one uses it. Mobike and it’s competitors look like this:
You just grab a bike you see lying around, scan the QR code and you’re off. There is a lock with a servo on the back tire and the bikes have a GPS. You pay 1RMB per hour (about $0.14USD). The bikes are pretty nice. I passed about 40 people using these bikes on my ride to work (10 minute 9bot), about 2 people riding their own bikes, and zero people riding the rack bikes.
你只要拿起你看到的自行车，扫描二维码就可以了。后轮胎上有一个带伺服的锁，自行车上有一个GPS。您每小时支付1块人民币（约0.14美元）。自行车很漂亮。我路过了大约40个人，他们在我上班的路上使用这些自行车（10分钟9个月），大约2个人骑自己的自行车，没有人骑机架式自行车。 Some have pointed out in the comments that people lock up the bike for their own use. This is unfortunate, because there are so many bikes in town, it’s pointless to lock them up so you have one available later. They are everywhere.
My apartment door opened to a corridor, which stretched fifty feet on both sides. The elevator was to the left, and was my normal destination. One day, my girlfriend asked me why I always look both ways while stepping into the corridor like I was at a stop sign.
I had never noticed that I did that but I started to notice my odd little habits. Checking both sides of a corridor to get a read of the situation and to make sure that no one was lurking outside. Clenching keys between my knuckles while I walked to my car.
Not my first day in China, my office sent a Chinese assistant to help me get from the airport to the company apartment and to help me get situated. We rode 45 minutes in a taxi at night through the bar district in Sanlitun until we were in the narrow hutongs near Dongzhimen.
We stepped out of the cab and she checked the address again. She had never been to the apartment before but had a passing familiarity with the area. We started walking through the narrow, dark streets—I could only see her from her illumination from her cell phone’s screen. Every so often we would pass these groups of men huddled around smoking cigarettes looking at us.
I started feeling anxious because I would never have been caught dead in a place like this in the streets. A young woman and I walking through unlit narrow streets with luggage, laptops and cell phones, with groups of young men smoking cigarettes outside.
Suddenly, she turned to a group of young men and started showing them her phone asking for them to give us directions.
Fuck, now they know we’re lost and trapped here. I thought to myself.
Instead of the horrible thoughts going through my mind, he instead acted like all people should act. He simply started giving us directions and then turned uninterestedly back to his friends and cigarette.
This example is typical of my time in China. I’ve been to Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and other cities, and the vibe is the same.
You really don’t feel any risk of violent crime—it’s as if they don’t even think about it. No one is worried about getting murdered off of Craigslist (or whatever its Chinese equivalent is) nor getting harassed by their cab driver (with the exception of them trying to not start the meter and bilking you for more kuai).
There is some risk of pickpockets, but if you’re smart about it then your risk drops dramatically. I just hold my phone in my hand and use it on the subway.
You can walk through the bar districts with women and not have been catcalling the women you’re with. In fact, Chinese culture seems to have a strong sense of equality so I’ve never seen any women be harassed by Chinese men (especially during typical scenarios in the US like 40 year old business men drinking and harassing the young waitress). The annoying people are just the foreign men who get drunk and act creepy—they live up to the expat loser stereotype well.