This is now the third time in seven years this has happened to me. In a nutshell:

1. The guests in the hotel room across the hall from my own turn their television on full-blast.

2. They then open the door all the way so everyone on the floor can hear their TV at maximum volume.

3. They then carry on a conversation, shouting at one another so they can hear themselves over the blaring TV set.

This goes on forever – or at least until I stick my head out the door and scream in Chinese that they should shut their door and their mouths. After I did this, they did as I requested and were much quieter.

The fact that I’ve now seen the same thing three times tells me this may be more than a coincidence. Maybe it’s a feng shui technique to drive bad spirits from the hotel room? Or maybe it’s just something Chinese people like to do when they’re at a hotel? Or…?

I’ve experienced this twice on the Mainland and once in Hong Kong. In the latter case, I presume it was Hong Kongers making the noise, as they were doing their shrieking in Cantonese.

It’s funny to write about it, but it’s not so funny while it’s happening.

The Discussion: 36 Comments

I guess they like the renao of it all?

January 16, 2007 @ 11:34 am | Comment

Welcome to China and the Chinese! If you’re going to stay in China, better get used to it.

January 16, 2007 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

“Or maybe it’s just something Chinese people like to do when they’re at a hotel?”

They like to do it at home as well. For some reason 2340hrs is the best time to have a screaming conversation (as is the chinese method) outside the neighbours front door. Of course at 0200hrs it’s time to set off the fireworks

January 16, 2007 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

I really do think there’s a feng shui element to it. Why else would they bother to open the door? Three times I saw this, with the open door!

January 16, 2007 @ 2:24 pm | Comment

It’s fairly common everywhere I have lived in China. Well, not so much in Beijing or Shanghai, but everywhere else.

When you have two or more rooms in the same group, they leave the door open. Or is they are expecting guests, they’ll leave it open. I have asked my better half, and others and they all give me a look of “why would we not leave the door open?”.

January 16, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

And to think- you were recently proclaiming how civilized things seem to be in the Mainland these days…

January 16, 2007 @ 2:47 pm | Comment

Perhaps you should invest in some earplugs or good quality earmuffs, Richard. Just a thought!

January 16, 2007 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

how very odd. i happened to to the exact same thing last time i was in dalian, and shanghai. i only did it for an hour or two after i arrived. i really cant say why i did it, but i just felt more comfortable with the door open. i think i have been heere too long.

January 16, 2007 @ 4:14 pm | Comment

also, if your baby starts crying in your apartment in the middle of the night, you should take it outside the apartment onto the landing, so everyone in the whole apartment block can share in the joys of parenthood.

welcome back to china richard!

January 16, 2007 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

Somewhat predictable, though I’m sorry you had to put up with it again.

January 16, 2007 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

It just happened again (it’s now a day after the original incident). The decibel level was so high I had to ask the hotel to talk to them. I know, I should cherish the local culture, but I have a headache and a cold (everytime I go back to China, literally without fail, I come down with a cold within a few days, God knows why).

January 16, 2007 @ 8:00 pm | Comment

And to think- you were recently proclaiming how civilized things seem to be in the Mainland these days…

Well, nothing changes from black to white overnight. I still am finding Beijing more civilized than before. As I said, I even experienced this in Hong Kong, and they are a pretty civilized place.

January 16, 2007 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Were they by an small chance dressed in nothing but their underpants?!

January 16, 2007 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

Welcome to my world….

January 17, 2007 @ 6:45 am | Comment

“I stick my head out the door and scream in Chinese that they should shut their door and their mouths.”

It’s their country and you’re a guest – is this the most appropriate response? As Penny said, this is China, you better get used to it.

January 17, 2007 @ 6:48 am | Comment

Misa, I paid for my hotel room and am entitled to be able to sleep. It’s their country – should I let them push me, throw things at me or steal my stuff? No. Respecting others is a key item in the social contract, and as soon as they were reminded they were keeping someone up they immediately stopped. I don’t see what they did as malicious or bad, just a matter of habit. I give the Chinese credit – they are willing to learn and improve. There really is a lot less spitting here than there was five years ago, for example.

January 17, 2007 @ 7:58 am | Comment

The China that I had left behind in 1980 was certainly never like that…it was way too grey and sombre for such displays of exuberance and chutzpah. I always thought it was a Cantonese thing when the Hong Kong immigration wave swept Vancouver and loud group therapy sessions started to be heard in school hallways, shopping malls, buses, everywhere…

Had crude HK pop culture simply made its way north onto the mainland? Or perhaps I had it wrong all this time after all. Could this noisiness be an inately Chinese cultural trait that simply came back to life once the weight of totalitarian rule had been eased? I wonder how Taiwan would rate in this department…Sounds like a good topic for a sociology project…

January 17, 2007 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Hey… at least they weren’t playing Mah-jong as well. 😉

January 17, 2007 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

I recall a Lonely Planet guidebook of the 1980s, writing about Chinese in Malaysia doing the same thing, saying: “They say it is impossible to whisper in Chinese.”

On a serious note, Beijing must by now have some sort of Olympics etiquette ombudsman who takes these popular peeves and turns them into public campaigns, no?

January 17, 2007 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

Oh yeah, I feel your pain. Last summer in Lijiang, staying at a courtyard guesthouse, charming to the nth degree, all blooming flowers, caged songbirds, intricately laid stone courtyard with bamboo rocking chairs….and Chinese tourists/families yelling at one other from across the courtyard, doors open, TV’s blasting, screaming rugrats chasing the dog around…

I get the whole renao thing, but have there been any studies on long-term hearing loss in China?

January 17, 2007 @ 1:49 pm | Comment


How do you say “热闹” in English? If you can read Chinese, trying to ponder on its meaning.

It’s a cultural thing. “热闹” is definitely celebrated in China. Same thing can be said of SUV in USA.

January 17, 2007 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

Oh, SUV is yesterday, Xueleifun! We all are into Priuses now! 🙂

Though my Chinese isn’t that great, I think 热闹 is one of those concepts that has no exact English equivalent. That’s why I mentioned it in my earlier comment.

January 17, 2007 @ 2:45 pm | Comment

“There really is a lot less spitting here than there was five years ago, for example.”

I’m sorry Richard…I have to strongly disagree. I have lived here in China for five years myself and…at least here in the south…the level of spitting has not changed one iota from the time I first arrived. I now entertain myself in the mornings from home to work by counting the number of spitters I see/hear. I think you are indeed being much too kind. However, you live on the opposite of the country as me, so who knows…

January 17, 2007 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

Earplugs are an absolute must in China. Don’t go anywhere, including your own home — and certainly not a hotel — without them. Stock up with a new boxes everytime you go back to the US.

People in China, I submit, have a higher tolerance for noice than in US; ex a. cab drivers listed to radio at a volume that’s about 30% too loud for western ears. Discuss.

January 17, 2007 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

The spitting in Beijing is way down, Canrun. I think SARS really scared a lot of folks and changed some habits.

January 17, 2007 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

Bear in mind that this is the country that accommodates one fifth of the polulation on this planet, and thus, probably,so do its hotels.

January 17, 2007 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

On the other hand, I’m also stuck in a hotel in Beijing but let me throw some props to Home Inn (Ru Jia). It’s like somebody took a Holiday Inn Express and dropped it on Dongzhimen. Clean rooms, strong walls/quiet neighbors, actual service, and friendly staff…for about US$25-30 a night…

I had to check my ticket to make sure I’d landed in the right country.

I’ve had my share of bad hotel experiences in China too, I guess I lucked out on this one.

January 18, 2007 @ 3:33 am | Comment

Oooh, I have to book a hotel for end of next month. Maybe I’ll check that one out. Don’t think I’ve ever stayed in Dongzhimen…what’s around there?

January 18, 2007 @ 4:03 am | Comment

It’s between the Gui Jie 24 hour food street and Sanlitun Embassy Row. (NE section of 2nd Ring) It’s right on the 2nd ring road and near the DZM metro stop.

I’m not sayin’ it’ll put the St. Reeg out of business with amenities and service, but as cheap hotels go in BJ, it’s the best I’ve stayed at so far.

January 18, 2007 @ 7:28 am | Comment

I looked and it seems to be booked, but I have a tentative reservation at another place in the ‘hood where I’ve stayed before.

Will you still be in Beijing end of Feb/beginning of March, J.?

January 18, 2007 @ 7:49 am | Comment

PD: I’ve experienced this twice on the Mainland and once in Hong Kong. In the latter case, I presume it was Hong Kongers making the noise, as they were doing their shrieking in Cantonese.

Hong Kongers presumably stay in their own homes, not in hotels. Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and where else? In fact, what is the province closest to Hong Kong?

January 18, 2007 @ 8:50 am | Comment

I have no way of knowing where they were from. But i can say when it comes to making a lot of noise, Hong Kongers are right up there.

January 18, 2007 @ 10:05 am | Comment

It’s ironic that you mentioned ru jia since when we were scoping out the company prior to its IPO we actually stayed there.

January 18, 2007 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

The Home Inn Guomao branch (which is actually at Baiziwan, just south of Soho/dawanglu) is also quite nice. Bit beyond my price range though, although we’re probably looking at price from opposite angles.

And Chinese people like a bit of noise, big deal. But at the same time, I know several Chinese who will go and politely ask offenders to knock it off if the noise level gets too high, though. Reminding people that there are others around who would prefer to get a bit of sleep or eat their meal without risking permanent hearing loss or whatever is absolutely the right thing to do regardless of who is in who’s country.

January 18, 2007 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

renao might be a Chinese cultural concept, but I have yet to meet the Chinese person who likes it all renao all the time. The guys in that room aren’t practicing some cultural tradition, they’re just being jackasses who can’t distinguish a hotel room (a place where people tend to sleep) from a KTV (a place where people are prevented at all costs from sleeping).

Now “getting used to it”, as Penny and Miso suggest – that might be a Chinese tradition, that fatalism that says “life doesn’t get any better than this, so just grin and bear it”. And Miso, you’re right, Richard is a guest – so maybe considering his comfort would be the act of an appropriate host? That hospitality argument cuts both ways. That said, I would’ve tried the polite approach before yelling at them. But that has nothing to do with China either; in any part of the world, IMHO, you should try diplomacy before resorting to aggression. Then again, they were being loud and by your argument this is totally appropriate within Chinese culture – so Richard should feel free to shout bloody murder too, right?

And Maoyuan, this is not a population issue, at least not the way you put it. The hotel is not overcrowded, Richard is not complaining of 20 people in a single room or people sleeping in the hallway. It makes no sense to suppose that China’s hotels “bear 1/5 of the worlds population”, or 1/5 of the hotel guests, or whatever. Population might explain the “get used to it” fatalism, though. If everyone is always surrounded by too many other people’s noise pollution, then they become unaware that its noisy at all.

So my question is, if population pressure is the cause of Chinese noise tolerance, why didn’t it turn out the other way? Why didn’t population pressure result in cultural peer pressure for everybody to be carefully sensitive to others?

January 18, 2007 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

A Beijinger friend commented:

s: usually chinese don’t travel a lot
s: and once they travel with friends
s: they start acting like kids
s: they are excited
s: they are happy
s: so they forgot there are also other people around
s: also, we didn’t have the education about how you behave when you are on the trip
s: these stupid , poor, local chinese
s: I met these kind people a lot
s: but only with the time..after chinese could go on the trip more and more
s: things will get better

January 18, 2007 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

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