The gnomes, the gnomes!

Just yesterday, when I was hanging out with Michael, we were talking about apartment noise. Living in a colossus of a city, traffic is bound to create a lot of noise pollution. Fortunately, neither he nor I suffer from a very noisy apartment location.

One reason Chinese apartments can be very noisy, however, is not because of the noise from without, but rather the noise from within. When you buy a new apartment, it comes completely bare. A concrete shell. Walls, floors, everything — must be constructed. That makes a lot of noise. Hammers, drills, buzzsaws (?) — whatever. And noise travels all too well through solid objects.

Michael is in the unfortunate situation of having a lot of neighbors who are remodeling. He can never sleep in. I told him I was very lucky in that respect, because I rarely hear that kind of noise.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. I jinxed myself.

I made the difficult decision to sleep in today, but the noise started around 9am. I managed to sleep through it a while, fitfully. But it’s been going on all day! (It may be Valentine’s Day, but my girlfriend’s in L.A. I have little better to do than play Gunbound.)

It sounds like there’s a little team of friggin’ gnomes behind my walls, eagerly tap-tap-tapping their way into my room. First they were trying to come into my bathroom from the ceiling. Then they were behind the kitchen wall. Now they want to break in behind my bedboard.

Damn gnomes. I have no choice but to blast my music.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I work nights and my apartment complex is made mostly of wood…so sound thumps right through the ceiling and walls. Mexican music with its ultra-obnoxious basslines that always sound exactly the same, no matter what song it is they’re playing. Retaliation by death metal has no effect, they can’t hear it…the sound won’t go up as easily as it comes down.

    I feel your pain, but for me it’s not about sleeping IN…it’s just about SLEEPING.

  2. Yeah, the gnomes started banging at about 7:30 today. I think they’re fixing the tiles on the balcony in what was Ben and Simonne’s room. I only managed about 5.5 hours of sleep thanks to them. I’ve never wanted to injure a group of strangers so much in my life.

  3. Da Xiangchang Says: February 15, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    By far the most obnoxious noise in China has to be the playing of the national anthem “March of the Volunteers” every damn morning. I used to live on a street with several schools, and every single one of them blared it daily. You know, you can go through your daily routines in China, and almost think you’re in a normal country–but then they blare that shit whether people want to hear it or not, and you’re reminded China’s still communist. I mean, I’m all for loving one’s country and national anthem, but if some loudspeakers outside my window were booming “The Star-Spangled Banner” at 7AM every morning, I’d start hating the song too!

  4. Turn the tables on noisy Mexicans and Chinese neighbours. Get “E.A.R SOFT” earplugs and a super 7am on the Richter scale alarm clock.

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