Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The quest for individual identity in contemporary, post-中山装 China, tends to leave some interesting sights in its wake. Apart from the sartorial, my favorite thing to keep an eye on is the outlandish and funny ways in which people (middle-class) make-over their cars to flaunt wealth, match their personality, or just advertise their life. I should give this topic some more room for thought on the blog in the future, but right now I want to give mention to merely one aspect of this phenomenon: the faux "attention sign" sticker. You know, the "deer crossing" sign (yes, I come from Kansas), or the "railroad tracks ahead" sign. For decades now, these have been seen on the backs of cars, or suctioned in the back windows, as "Baby on Board," and so on. Well, these are totally the rage for the car owning elite in China. They are pretty much always in English and are often exact copies of something you might see in the States, or perhaps Europe. Of course, "Baby on Board" is popular here, often accompanied by a silhouetted pregnant woman. I've also seen the Chinglish version, "Baby on Car," which is most likely an attempt to clarify the original, but ends up being pretty funny and a bit dark (makes me think of something on "Jackass" or "Candid Camera"). Also, there are various dog-loving versions, such as "German Shepherd in Car" or "Husky in Car." But really, this is a diversion from what I actually wanted to show off, which is something I just saw this evening.

Beijing, and China in general, is full of three-wheel motor carts with small compartments on the back. In some places they serve as taxis, though they are also transportation for those without the cash for a full sized vehicle. They own the roads, they own the bike lanes, they drive in whatever direction they want and typically with little regard for anyone else out there. Being a cyclist and a foreigner, I probably get frustrated with them more than your average Beijinger, so it was a great laugh for me tonight when I came across one with a ridiculous "attention sign" sticker slapped on the back.
I was riding my bike, and moreover, I had no camera, so I had to pass on the task of visuals to an expert artist. But anyway, that is what I saw. It was probably being used for its reflective properties, even though these drivers throw most other cautions to the wind. But "Anfänger" is nonetheless appropriate for these death wish demons (in this case, it was a 50 or 60 year old man). For those with no German Verständnis, "Anfänger" is translated as "beginner." In my opinion, all drivers in China should have one of these pasted on the back of their cars. I'd also recommend that all cars be fitted with 30 km/h governors and flashing, yellow lights. Oh, I dream. But really, the question still stands, how does a sign in German get stuck on the back of a three-wheeler in Beijing? Well, let's leave that for another day.


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