Civilizing Me

Earlier this week I set out for work one morning only to discover that my bike was missing. It wasn’t where I parked it in my apartment complex, and it wasn’t anywhere nearby. I was surprised that a bike as uncool as mine, with both wheels locked, would be stolen from my apartment complex, but these things happen every day. I walked to work.

That night I decided to look for my missing bike a little more. The thing is, I had parked in an area I’m not technically supposed to park in. There’s a sign on the wall that says “don’t park here please,” but after seeing other bikes parked there on a daily basis for months on end, I decided to join them. It’s a more convenient parking place. (The proper place is underground, requiring use of the stairs.)

So I didn’t want to ask the guards, because that would mean admitting that I parked in the wrong place. I went to the nearest underground parking section, and sure enough, there was my bike. It had this note attached:

Be Civilized!


> 文明小区靠大家


> A civilized community depends on everyone.
Thank you for your cooperation
and support.

I had thought my bike was stolen all day, and I don’t appreciate that. But I’m really glad to see the rules being enforced a bit more. All around me, I see rules ignored on a daily basis: traffic lights, various kinds of queues, no smoking policies, etc. It’s good to feel a little progress. I’m happy to be civilized.


John Pasden

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


  1. It’s turning into Switzerland around here!?! Seriously, I think the enforcement of “rules” will be arbitrary for oh, another several thousand years.

  2. Ha! 要文明一点啊!I’m still trying to shake the 随便 cross the street mentality I picked up in Nanjing.

  3. wait… how are we supposed to cross the street? ahh crap.

  4. John’s first encounter with “river crabs”!

  5. I crossed the street on a red light several times today.

    When will I learn??

  6. 維特利 Says: April 26, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Vigilantes, uh?

  7. Are you going to thank the guards (or whomever) for reminding you to be civil?

  8. A SLOGAN country is a slogan country, sometimes with numerous watchwords and codes. Thank god they are now simplifying some of them and it works 🙂

  9. I couldn’t agree more; progress in this direction is great. It’s still amazing, however, to see the irregularities in law enforcement in China. The smallest issue will attract great attention and expenditure of effort while a clearly more significant problem will be completely ignored (well, I guess that makes the problem not so significant). Anyway, I just finished writing a two-part entry on my blog that illustrates a pretty humorous example of this challenge. You might be interested:
    The link.

  10. The next step will be for them to post a sign where you originally parked your bike illegally to remind you to put it where it belongs.

  11. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  12. krovvy Says: May 7, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Yeah, the laws get enforced as long as they’re enforced against foreigners. Seen it a million times – usually it’s in business, though.

  13. Did you ever figure out how they managed to get the locks off?

  14. Ben,

    They didn’t remove the locks, they just picked up the bike and moved it.

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