Elevator etiquette and rules (lots of 'em)

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On the inside (N.B.) doors of a lift in Wuhan (yes that [in]famous Wuhan):

I will first romanize, transcribe, and translate all six of the signs, from top left to bottom right, then I will provide annotations and explanations:


yánjìn pāidǎ


"slapping / swatting / flapping / patting / tapping / thwacking / beating / spanking  strictly prohibited / forbidden"


yánjìn bā mén


"clinging to / pawing / pushing aside / holding on to / holding open the door strictly prohibited / forbidden"


yánjìn chāozài


"overloading strictly prohibited / forbidden"


jìnzhǐ yīkào


"leaning is prohibited"


huǒjǐng dìzhèn shí qǐngwù chéngzuò diàntī


"please do not take the elevator when there's a fire or earthquake"


jìnzhǐ xīyān


"smoking is prohibited"

China must have a real problem with people taking things into their own hands (so to speak) when they are dissatisfied with elevator operation.

The photo above was taken by the same person who took the photo of the "When a failure, don't blindly save yourself" sign in the Guangzhou elevator featured in this post from two days ago.  I can confirm from the person who took both photos that the Guangzhou elevator sign was also on the inside door.

Selected readings

These are merely a sampling of the prohibition signs that we have covered on Language Log.

[Thanks to David Lobina]


  1. David Morris said,

    August 13, 2023 @ 3:33 pm

    But prolonged manual handling (eg caressing) is permitted?

  2. Adam C said,

    August 14, 2023 @ 12:04 pm

    Do the Chinese have a problem with people slapping or thwacking others in elevators?
    If someone in an elevator tried to thwack me, I'd slap him too!

  3. Terry Hunt said,

    August 14, 2023 @ 1:52 pm

    I find the "Not leaning" admonition puzzling. A career in Facilities Maintenance, including regularly liaising with lift technicians, and a grandfather who worked for Otis, has never given rise to the idea that leaning on the wall of a lift cabin (unless of the very obsolete metal-grid design) is a technical problem, so is this a reflection of some more general aspect of Chinese etiquette?

  4. Adam C said,

    August 14, 2023 @ 2:20 pm

    @Terry "If ya got time to lean, ya got time to clean." ;p

  5. ohwilleke said,

    August 14, 2023 @ 3:37 pm

    By analogy to Japanese subways, I wonder if the "no slapping" warning isn't intended to mean something more like "no groping."

    I also wonder if the "no leaning" is referring to the doors that open and close and not the other sides of the elevator.

  6. David C. said,

    August 14, 2023 @ 8:47 pm

    @Adam C

    Here it's referring to banging on the elevator panel or the door – in any case some part of the elevator, and not people.

  7. Andreas Johansson said,

    August 15, 2023 @ 1:18 am

    @Terry Hunt:

    I've seen similar "no leaning" signs in elevators in Sweden. Always, I think, ones of the kind where the car lacks one or two walls, and leaning on a the shaft wall when the car moves is presumably potentially dangerous.

  8. Taylor, Philip said,

    August 15, 2023 @ 3:40 am

    I would suggest that "no leaning" is indeed cultural — someone leaning aginst a lift wall is not presenting him/herself at their best, whereas were they to stand upright, unsupported, looking engaged and focussed, then fellow lift passengers would be motivated to treat them with respect.

  9. John Swindle said,

    August 16, 2023 @ 12:26 am

    Humans and others sometimes lean on elevator walls because they need help with balance in the moving car. In the building where I live, one large, elderly canine friend used to press me against the elevator wall to support both of us. I suspect the sign may be about not leaning on the elevator door.

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