Letter of Apology from the Shanghai Metro

We were at the office today during Typhoon Day (hey, the last one was a total false alarm!), and one of my employees was late because the subway was running extra slow during the typhoon. She handed me this 致歉信 (letter of apology):

Shanghai Metro letter of apology

This was interesting to me, because I’d never seen something like this before. It’s pretty standard at many Chinese companies to require an official doctor’s note if you ever call in sick. But I wasn’t aware that there was a way to make the old “subway breakdown” excuse official. (Note that there is a serial number, a date stamp, and a hotline to call for verification. Super official!)

From a pragmatics standpoint, it’s interesting to me that it’s called a “Letter of Apology” when it’s clearly meant as an official form of “work tardiness excuse validation.” Now, if there were only a “my bus was late” letter of apology, we’d really be in business…


John Pasden

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


  1. These are common in Japan, where they’re called 遅延証明書. Some companies require them if you want to be excused from being late.

    The whole process is automated. Here’s a page for Tokyo Metro where you can find and print out letters for various combinations of lines and times:


    It looks like the minimum delay required for them to issue a letter is 10 min, which illustrates just how on-time the trains are (expected to be).

    • “Automated”? Hehe, that reminds me of the time last year that I got one of these from the Shanghai metro. The Lianhua Rd subway station gates were closed, and a poor lone guard on the wrong side of the gate (the outside; what was he thinking?) was getting mobbed for these handouts.

  2. I think they do this in Germany too. Good idea but leaves me with nothing to blame my tardiness on!

  3. the only letter i got when i was 20 was a citation haha
    i was smoking near the door way this MBTA rent a pig , served me and asked me for my ID, I said i had none on my, which i actually did though, and said “come with me ” he gave it to me, i ripped it up on my way out. and never paid the damn fine.

  4. […] sure to get one for myself. The following link includes scans and an explanation of the document: https://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2012/08/09/letter-of-apology-from-the-shanghai-metro. In short, if you are late to work because of a delay on the metro, you can present this letter to […]

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