BEIJING: If some one's intestines are protruding from an open abdominal wound, should you:
A. Put them back in place; B. Do nothing; or, C. Cover
them with some kind of container and fasten it around the body?
The above is not from a first-year medical school exam, but is one of the 100 questions that
locals and foreigners alike could find on China's written driver's license exam. (The answer,
by the way, is C.)
Test candidates are given a booklet of 800 test questions, 100 of which appear on the actual
exam. While the questions dealing with traffic signs are universally understood, others have singularly Chinese characteristics.
Sometimes two of the three answers could be equally right, or the answer that is considered
right is obviously false.
Take the following example. "What should a driver do when he needs to spit while driving?
A. Spit through the window. B. Spit into a piece of waste paper, then put it into a garbage
can. C. Spit on the floor of the vehicle."
On one recent morning, a group of Americans, Russians, South Koreans and French
waited for the test at the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, in a room reserved for
foreigners behind the toilets.
A series of gory images flashed across a flat-screen television: a badly injured person lying
in a car's back seat, covered in blood; a dazed driver sitting on the ground after an accident;
mourning relatives in tears.
Nikita, a Russian who works for an aviation company in the Chinese capital, was the most
confident person in the group, after spending four days revising the multiple-choice
The 20 or so examinees took their seats, each facing a computer screen. The test began.
They had to write their ID numbers, pick a language, and click their way through the
computerised test: A, B, or C. True or False. Yes or No.
All 100 questions had be completed in 45 minutes, with a candidate needing 90 or more
correct to pass. Results were given immediately.
A group of US embassy staffers left the room, mostly in a jubilant mood -- all had passed
except for one man, who only got 82 percent correct.
"We spent the entire weekend cramming," one of them said.
A woman tried to console the candidate who had failed. "It would've been an even bigger
pity if you had scored 89," she said.
Nikita, for his part, was utterly devastated. Despite all of his hard work, he only answered
45 questions correctly.
"I couldn't understand a word of the Russian used on the test," he said.
Once the written test is over, foreigners who have a driver's license in their home country
are not required to take a practical test, unlike the Chinese.
But they do have to have their eyesight checked, and this seemingly simple exercise also holds
its fair share of surprises.
At a nearby hospital, a nurse asked the latest candidates to read letters from a lighted panel,
covering the left and the right eye in turn.
But they have to read the panel in a mirror. And the letters listed do not exist in any known
A backwards E? One that is upside down? How do you pronounce that?
Somehow, the candidates passed the sight test, and most left the traffic management office a
short time later with licenses in hand.
But reality will soon set in.
At the entrance to the parking lot were two cars crumpled like accordions, and on the streets
of Beijing, no one seems to pay attention to the rules of the road.
Drivers routinely overtake on the right, taxis breeze through red lights, cyclists ride against
traffic and pedestrians jaywalk.
Last year alone, 73,500 people were killed and 304,000 injured in traffic accidents in China.
Welcome to China's roads, among the most dangerous in the world.
Vest recalls his Written driving examination in Hong Kong (Fragrant Harbour)Aug 62.
Maximum time allowed 1 Hour. Out of approx 200 participants in the hall,. I was then
told to wait for the pep talk when the hour was up; when I was first to put my questionnaire
in the box. Our new Ist Lieutenant who had arrived In Honkers on the same plane as myself
who remarked "Clever dick' was third. Later he told me it would have been dreadful if he had
failed, particularly you having knowledge of it.
Excerpt from memoirs:
While in Hong Kong, Rosemary would buy ice cream from the vendor
across the road. One day she was attempting to get back over the zebra
crossing but the traffic wouldn't stop. The ice cream was melting fast, so
Mary ran across. A taxi stopped suddenly and there was a huge pile-up.
The road was blocked for quite some time with several banged-up cars.
Many fingers pointed up to where we lived.
Our first car was a four square Jowett Javelin, but we later opted for a
Blue Ford Prefect XX511, which gave us two years of comfort and
One beautiful sunny day, we caught the car ferry over to Kowloon
and drove to Castle Peak Bay, where I parked under a tree, the shadiest
spot available. As we were leaving, I was presented with a parking ticket.
It wasn’t a huge amount. The following week when we arrived again, I
found the Governor Generals car parked in the exact same spot. I
approached the Chinese policeman who spoke English, and asked why
this car didn't have a ticket.
He replied, “Very important man.”
I said, “So am I.”
“Your car not look as important as this car,” he said. So I took a
picture of said oriental genius with the Governor Generals ‘Very
Important’ car and sent it to the Hong Kong traffic people, along with a
note indicating that my money would be forthcoming when they had
provided proof that the Governor General had paid his fine. I never
heard from them.
Our XX511 Ford Prefect had never been in an accident in eighteen
months. After we sold it, however, it failed to stop after leaving from
high in the Peak and travelling fast down Garden road. It then pranged a
large green tram that was coming from Wan Chai, and was subsequently
3 August 1964 That sad incident occurred two days before our family flew
back to England. On hearing the news Rosemary said “"What a shame; I really
loved that car"”. I replied. “"Darling it must have loved us too, it just could
not live without us". By the way, the driver survived.
- My recent eye test, left my Chinese Doctor confused. I was asked to
cover my right eye and read the bottom line of the poster on the wall.
I replied, "Made in China".