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Learn Chinese in China


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Don't blow your horn




Following on from last week, still on the theme of noise.


Where are you not allowed to sound your horn?




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Is this a thing in China? How do you alert people that they are about to run into you? I know in Florida a lot of people like to use what we refer to as a 'Cuban Doorbell' (aka driving to your friend's house and honking) which most consider rude. But a horn is there for safety purposes. I always find it odd when areas ban the use of it.

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On 27/01/2018 at 12:35 AM, KanaGai said:

Is this a thing in China?


I'm not sure what you mean by "a thing", but the way horns are traditionally used in China is different to, well, let me say the UK, as this is where I am familiar with. In the UK, we rarely use the horn (in fact, I don't know if I've ever used mine), and as you alluded to, might only do so to alert someone you are about to run into (though personally I would use the brake in that situation). In China, however, the horn is often used to alert other drivers that you are there, for example when overtaking, so they don't suddenly switch into your lane. Now how often do you overtake another car on the road? Every few seconds. Which means that horns are often sounded several times per minute. Per vehicle. Which means that you end up with a constant cacophony of horn noise. This can, presumably, be very irritating to anyone who lives near to a busy road. So it makes sense that use of the horn is banned within the city limits. It makes a big difference. I'm not sure what the penalties are if you ignore the ban, or even how enforceable it is, but I'm sure emergency use would be forgiven.

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20 minutes ago, anonymoose said:

In China, however, the horn is ofter used to alert other drivers that you are there, for example when overtaking, so they don't suddenly switch into your lane

Ah. I've never heard of a horn being used in this manner. That would certainly make the roads a lot noisier. Reminds me of how in NYC they used to blow on the horn whenever the light changed green.

My Dad has visited Germany several times and he likes how you are not allowed to pass people on the right. Supposedly that is supposed to be a law or good manners in the US but few people actually practice that in our area. Much like using your blinkers to indicate turns or lane change is just a suggestion? -insert salty rambling here- xD

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2 hours ago, KanaGai said:

I've never heard of a horn being used in this manner.

It's one of the first things you notice about life in a Chinese city when you've come there from the UK. The horn is used so often in China that, apart from it being a nuisance noise for urban dwellers, as anonymoose suggests, it has lost something of its association with danger, and in the process created the danger that drivers don't react to it as they need to when a real emergency arises.


Use of the horn doesn't need to be banned; it just needs to be restricted to certain critical circumstances and the restriction properly policed. 

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"Ah. I've never heard of a horn being used in this manner."


Have you taken a long-distance bus in China? Or a taxi? There's a class of drivers -- usually professional drivers -- who feel the need to punctuate their driving every 15 seconds or so with a horn blast. It's almost like they're playing an instrument while driving. There's a pattern to it, a rhythm.  It's not just random honking. Frustrated musicians at the wheel, perhaps.

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My understanding is that, like anonymoose says, Chinese learner drivers are taught to use their horn when overtaking.  Conversely, in the UK, using the horn for anything other than alerting another driver to an impending collision would almost certainly mean you fail the driving test.


But let's not be cute about this, the use of the horn in China is almost entirely of the "Get the f**k out of my way" variety, rather than the "Be careful, I'm overtaking you variety".  It's just another manifestation of the way fundamental way that Chinese society is structured.  Funnily, they seem to find most frequent and frustrating expression in road use.  Other examples are: not giving right of way to pedestrians, driving cars on footpaths, not pulling over for emergency vehicles etc.  We foreigners get annoyed by these things, but my experience has been that if you ask a Chinese person about it their response is likely to be "You're still bothered by that?"

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I was taught you only blow your horn to alert other drivers you are approaching round a blind bend on a narrow road in the day time here in the UK. No need at night as your lights can be seen. Horns are not be used near hospitals or between the hours of 7pm to 7am so basically at night. Just like flashing your lights, you should not take either the honking of a horn or the flashing of lights as permission for you to proceed with a manoeuvre, flashing lights and horn honking are there only to alert the other drivers that you are there.

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