Shanghai expat community concerned over possible removal of English language road signs

Published:  25 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China
Expats living and working in China’s massive metropolis of Shanghai are worried the city’s road authority may decided to remove English language directional road signs.

Given that very few expats in Shanghai are competent enough in the Chinese language to be able to read its thousands of characters, concerns that English signage may be removed are a real cause for concern in the community. According to an article in the English language newspaper China Daily, the Shanghai Road Administration Bureau is actively considering the scheme. If it goes ahead, foreigners working and living in the city would be totally unable to find their way around, however used they are to driving on the crowded roads.

The signage in question is mostly found on major roads as well as at exits from elevated highways and ring roads. Although the authority is conducting a survey amongst motorists, it’s written in Chinese, giving foreigners in the city no way to express their worries. Apparently, signs at popular tourist destinations, in the central business district, around transportation hubs and at major road junctions may be allowed to be dual-language, but signage on routes to, from and around the city centre may not.

The reasoning behind the removal of English language signage is that more space could then be given for the much larger Chinese characters, effectively a convenience for Chinese drivers. However, there are around 170,000 foreigners living and working in the city, many of whom have driving licenses. When asked, foreign drivers noted there was no Chinese language requirement as part of the application for a license.

Expats who don’t want to chance driving in the city are using the signage to make sure taxi drivers are taking the right route. Most expat drivers, however, are worried that having to find their way around without English signs would be extremely dangerous for other road users as well as themselves.
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