China Culture Shock #6: Chinese Fire Drill


Part of the reason I was interested in moving to China in the first place was to explore a culture completely different from my own. I wanted to experience “culture shock” and challenge myself. I’ve been living in China for over two years now, and I’m still constantly experiencing things that shock me, or just don’t make sense. Here is a collection of my crazy stories and cultural insights as I explore this mystifying nation.

China Culture Shock

While preemptively snooping on the results of my Reader Survey, I was surprised to find that a lot of you love my China Culture Shock series. Since so many of you wanted the return of my ridiculous China stories, who am I to deny you?

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Chinese fire drill

The epic Chinese Fire Drill

As many of you know, last year I worked as an English teacher at a high school in “the middle of nowhere” China. One day I was in the office getting some work done, when I was informed that we would have a fire drill.

“Do I have to go?” I asked. “Or can I just go back to my apartment during that time?

I didn’t see the point in standing outside for an hour while all the students lined up. I’d been in enough fire drills in my life, I didn’t need to experience another one.

When the alarms went off, I gathered my things and threw them in my bag. I meant to head back to my on-campus apartment, but when I stepped outside I was in shock!

The students were running to the field. And by running, I mean sprinting.

What? How is this safe? What if one student slips on the way down the hard, tile steps on the way down from his 6th floor classroom? What if someone gets trampled??

Why were these teens running? Well, it wasn’t just the blaring alarm. The school had set off smoke bombs all over campus. You heard me. SMOKE BOMBS. With red smoke. It was like the whole school was actually on fire.

Screw going back to my apartment. I had to see this!

Chinese fire drill

Just your average fire drill

I followed the running students to the field, where we all gathered. No one was lining up by class. No teachers were taking attendance. Way to be safe China. Once we were all on the field (not that the school would know), we had the chance to witness a firetruck set out a fire on a BBQ with its fire hose.

So basically fire drills are now fire safety entertainment shows.

After the fire truck exhibition, I was about to head back when the administrators started passing out fire extinguishers to students. WHAT??? That’s right. About twenty students with fire extinguishers. The administration then lit another bonfire in the BBQ. It was definitely a small enough fire to be put out by one fire extinguisher, so the fact that there were twenty somewhat frightened me.

The students crowded around the bonfire, with the twenty chosen ones standing in a semi-circle. We waited as there was a quick demonstration on how to use the fire extinguisher. One girl accidentally set her’s off, and everyone screamed and giggled.

Then we were ready. ONE… TWO…. THREE….. GO! All of the students descended on the innocent BBQ with their extinguishers. The smoke from the extinguishers completely enveloped the crowd as we all ran for our lives away from the BBQ, coughing and laughing.

Chinese fire drill

Smoke galore

Was this Chinese fire drill really as ridiculous as it sounds? You be the judge. I have a video!



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

9 comments on “China Culture Shock #6: Chinese Fire Drill

  1. Err whaaat? That is crazy! Sometimes I’m sad I teach at an international school as I miss out on all this nutty stuff haha! We just have to follow the British regulations of calmly walking out, taking attendance etc- very boring compared to this!!

    • Working in a Chinese public school was actually ridiculous. You get the good and the bad: constant schedule changes, policies that make no sense and… crazy fire drills? hahaha. It was definitely an interesting job.

  2. Pingback: The Time I Accidentally Ran a Chinese 8k in a Dress (By Richelle!) | Unlocking Kiki

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