Behind the Wheel - Cover ImageNEW
Photo Credit: Wang Siqi

Behind the Wheel: Learn the Language of the Roads in China

From impatient instructors to common mistakes on the road, here’s a language guide to driving in China

In October 2021, when traffic police pulled over a driver on the highway in Hebei province, the man had a novel excuse for not carrying a license or ID card: He claimed he was an alien from outer space.

Sadly for the driver, the officers only reminded him that everyone needs a license to drive in China, no matter what planet they come from, so they fined him 1,000 yuan and detained him for several days.

Luckily, almost everyone else on the road in China does have the proper documentation and training to get behind the wheel. According to the Ministry of Public Security of the PRC, China granted over 20 million driver’s licenses over the past nine months alone, with the total number of licensed drivers nationwide reaching over 461 million by the third quarter of 2022.

Driving schools, then, have no shortage of business as they work to churn out licensed drivers. Like in many countries, learning to drive is a rite of passage to adulthood for youngsters in China, though passing the exams is not always simple. Trainees need to learn the traffic rules, various driving maneuvers, and safety procedures, while instructors (驾校教练 jiàxiào jiàoliàn) have to be innovative, patient, and tolerant to improve their students’ skills.

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author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

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