Beijing Taxi Drivers – Beware The Garlic!

I recently read an amusing news article asking whether Beijing taxi drivers should stop eating garlic and onions during the Beijing Olympic Games.

Here are a couple of choice quotes from the article:

No Shi Xiangpeng, a political consultant from Hong Kong, raised the issue last March, saying one-third of the taxi drivers he had hailed here stank of garlic. I believe Shi’s ratio is right but his concerns are misguided.


The fellow who owned the cab always stressed the importance of having fresh odorizers in the car just to ensure a comfortable trip for customers. But considering the massive chunks of garlic Chinese people like to eat, not even an industrial strength odorizer could do the job.

Although it’s amusing, there are some serious questions underneath:

  1. How far should taxi drivers (and Chinese people in general) go to make sure the Olympics are as successful as possible? Do they have to go as far as even changing their eating habits?
  2. And what about visitors, especially Westerners – shouldn’t they be expected to be tolerant of things that may seem odd or unpleasant back home?

I’ll write more about tolerance in a future post, but for now I’m interested to know what you think about the first question.

4 Responses

  1. Stephen:

    This is a very interesting post. In the northern China, people ate garlic as part of their life. It’s the culture. It’s like cheese in the western country.

    I think eating garlic is not changable. The driver should at least be nice to respect their customers.

    Great photo! Awesome choice!

  2. I think they shouhld eat whatever they want to eat. From what I remember about my visit you arent that close to the cab driver and there was a barrier between us and driver. One thing that a lot of may need to do that would be a big help is learn some basic english. There were times when my wife and I found it hard to communicate but my cell phone saved us. I dont know how many times we called our hotel or guide to translate to the a person we were trying to convey a message to. I would do it again though and I am going to look at learning Chinese – if I’m in their land I should learn how to speak some.

  3. Hi Terence, Yes, garlic is very important up here. I’ve seen some dishes that must have 5 or 6 whole garlic in them. It’s used in quantities much greater than I’ve seen anywhere else. It’s lucky I like garlic!Hi Gerri, I agree – I voted they should eat what they want. I have to say I’ve never noticed it as a problem, but then again my sense of smell isn’t great!The government actually do have a program in place to teach the taxi drivers (and pensioners and probably many other groups) English before the Olympics – but I’m not too sure how successful it will be. It’s hard to learn enough of a language, to really make much of a difference, without a lot of effort. Of course it helps if you’re actually in the country whose language your learning. I’ve learnt a little Chinese simply as part of survival! I should have learnt a lot more, but this little thing called blogging has prevented me from spending enough time on it! 🙂

  4. Hawaii Pictures

    Wow, this is an odd situation…well, maybe not odd but definitely a subject that most do not make that big of a deal of.

    I really don’t feel that garlic odor in taxi cabs will have a substantial negative effect on the tourism industry in Beijing. It’s a small problem, and people won’t stay away from China because of the bad smelling taxi cabs, right?

    If they are worried about reputation points, than I don’t know. The way I see it, there are much bigger issues to be concerned with than garlic odor.

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