4. Sign language: Lost in… well I have no idea really

This week will be perhaps slightly shorter (phew I hear you cry), as I have had a hugely busy week being perplexed from all corners. But it will include what I see as many a witticism from the world of road signs and the Chinese translation industry.

You may imagine that we receive many a document at work which has been handily written in a very unique brand of Chinglish- understood by all parties, but only truly accepted in it’s purest form and beauty by the native English contingent. An example last week was on the company rafting trip (see below for a two strapping fellows and an altogether striking pose), where we were handed a memo, explaining that we would not have to provide our own food, as it would be ‘granted to use’ at regular intervals.

Up a creek without a paddle (literally!!)

IMG_2009                      IMG_2011 IMG_2010

With this in mind, I hit the streets of Changchun to have a look and see if there was a more city, and indeed country-wide, problem with instructional English.

Many of these come from the Manchu Puppet Government Palace within the city, of which the blog will hopefully be up tomorrow. If you are looking for a light-hearted approach to blogging in that particular edition of crashingabike, you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, I’d go as far to say that anyone who finishes it can award themselves a symbolic gold star…. Fair warning.

The first sign comes as a slight surprise, as more and more people are becoming conscious as to the effects of air quality and particularly smoking. With a packet of cigarettes costing around 35p, it’s easy to see why Chinese people do indeed smoke.

Imagine, however my surprise when I saw in a non-smoking area:


(NB. I like this a lot, as it suggests that someone might actually be up for it…)

Next up- as I found to our cost on the rafting trip- Chinese health and safety standards are not at the level that you, my dear reader may be used to. In fact, we weren’t even supplied with a paddle then (in fact we had a metal bowl, for unexplained reasons). However, I saw this gem of advice in the local park, which was fortunate, because I has brought my swimming trunks and everything:


(I won’t have it said that the Chinese are not a helpful bunch, ok?)

The next photo, on the other hand, perfectly portrays Chinese attitudes towards the helpful advice offered to them. This comes from local Nanhu Lake, barely a 10 minute walk from the office. Although this park and lake offer many stunning scenes of traditional Chinese culture, it is certainly not advisable to swim in there, or even eat the fish that come out of it. On the other hand, the chinese heed this warning and take a similar attitude to a Frenchman being told not to share a bottle of wine at lunchtime… that would be a firm ‘NON!’ then.

I smelt the water once and I think it could be used to unblock toilets. Nevertheless:


( I think this picture is like a good cheese- it improves with time. If you look again, you see a further 2 signs in the background warning people not to swim. Lovely.)

A personal favourite of mine, which really encapsulates the essence of Chinglish- the ability to get the message over, in a delightfully charming way, without getting any words that work at all:


(No need for a comment, just beauty to behold).

For the frenchies among you… What happens in the middle of this sign. Utter jibberish.


This sign I’m afraid I don’t find in any way funny. I’m just concerned. Not only this, my chinese colleagues can’t help me out either. I’d also like the word ‘makeshift’ defining please!!


A two-parter to finish. At first glace we see a lovely fountain. When we zoom in, we doubt the chinese quite seriously indeed. I’ve began to carry armbands and a attention-seeking whistle with me at all times, just in case I end up like Dr Foster. It appears from the evidence below, that I may have a point. As if to really hammer home the point, there was a dead fish in the bottom, which I can only assume drowned in the deepest depths….

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Hope you enjoyed some of China’s bemusing and concerning signs… I hope yo tell you all about the Last Emperor of China tomorrow, but if you are searching the fun, bring your own party hat and clown!!!


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