Dangerous or Amusing?

With all the recent panic in the USA about possible dangers coming at us, it occurred to me that not every culture seeks to wall off the same threats. Some cultures seem to be downright fearful of exposure to things we view as totally benign like disco music. When traveling to another country, these fears can be somewhat perplexing. Some of these I also find amusing. I am going to show you three items from China and let you rate them on your own personal scale of danger/threat.

Here’s a scan of a customs form handed to me in China around 1990. I certainly understand why a few of the items listed are dangerous like arms, ammo, narcotics, poisonous drugs (planning to poison someone?), but in the 21st century to adhere to the radio transmitter and receiver they’d have to confiscate everyone’s cell phone. Of course, they try to block certain transmissions, so I’m sure they don’t even bother to ask you these days. You can’t bring plants or seeds into this country either, so I get that too. What really makes me laugh, though is that they ask you to declare your arms and drugs.

I see that in the USA at the airports, too. The TSA has a poster telling you not to bring explosives on the flight…But I digress.


Next are documents from hotels. Both were placed in the hotel rooms so you don’t see the rules until you get to your room. The first one’s from a hotel in Shanghai. This place is so very polite. Rule one is common sense. Don’t smoke in bed. Then we get to rule number 2: “Please refrain from gambling or engaging in indecent or immoral in the hotel.” So no poker games, casino activity and no immoral. What activities does that encompass? And number 4: “Please do not bring with you the following articles into the hotel: Pets, Malodorous articles, Explosive, volative or flammable materials, Unlicensed firearms or swords, Radioactive or other items or articles which may threaten the safety of other hotel guests.” SWORDS? Wow. And radioactive? What could that mean? They’re requesting cooperation of someone who’s carrying around radioactive material?


The final document is from a hotel in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

formTHREE1988The form starts out with Chinese numbers, but after 5, it suddenly reverts to “western” numbers. I have no explanation for this. My favorite is number one. “Wild drinking, Disturbance, Gambling, Drug-taking, Lecherous acts, Prostitutions, Obscene and superstitious painting, Calligraphy and videotape recordings disseminating and projecting are strictly forbidden.” Superstitious painting? What’s wrong with calligraphy? I’m completely stumped here. I’m also very fond of number 6: “Burning substance, setting of fire-crackers, piling up flammable items and the washing of objects with flammable liquid are prohibited in the main buildings.” Oh, so I can step outside and set off a five minute coil of fireworks? YAY.  And not shown, because I was too lazy to scan the back of the page, is glorious number 7: “Raising birds, poultry and livestock is forbidden within the room.” Remember, this hotel is located in a very large city. They’re either very paranoid or they’ve had some interesting guests.

Now that you’ve seen the safety measures in place in another country, my fellow Americans, you can perhaps adjust your perception and relax. I hope, at least, I’ve made you smile and forget the evil world that’s probably not coming to get you.

Mickey Hoffman is a printmaker and the author of two mystery novels, Deadly Traffic and School of Lies. Visit the website to see etchings and check out the novels at www.mickeyhoffman.com


~ by mickeyhoffman on October 17, 2014.

2 Responses to “Dangerous or Amusing?”

  1. There are legitimate reasons to travel with arms, though…and I don’t just mean the ones attached to your shoulders. If you were traveling with a gun legitimately, you would be willing to declare it. Drugs, well, maybe they also mean prescription drugs?

    Having lived and traveled in Ecuador, I can well imagine people keeping poultry in their rooms. Say someone comes from a rural area to sell their poultry, and stays a few days, taking the birds to market each day until the flock is depleted…or maybe they just like their eggs REALLY fresh. 🙂 But then, I have no idea how nice the hotel was.

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