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What can I do about noisy grannies, dogs, neighbors or schools in the Chinese mainland?

Photo by Daniel Case

China isn’t always the quietest place to live, especially in built-up inner city areas, where a more robust attitude to noise than you’d find in much of the West is coupled with densely packed apartment complexes and thronging crowds.

But there are certain noises that prove especially annoying to some residents, with dancing grannies, or “dama“, yapping dogs, noisy neighbors and the morning exercise routines of schools sometimes proving especially annoying. What can be done about these aural offenders?


Noise laws in China
Unfortunately, there is still no national law to control noise pollution in China. However, as there are growing numbers of reports and complaints, a few local governments have begun issuing rules to regulate noise in public areas. Anyone who violates the regulations could be warned, fined or have their equipment confiscated. Generally the noise limits during restricted times are limited to 90dB.

In Shanghai, it is not permitted to make excessive noise between 10 pm and 7am. In Guangzhou, loud noises are restricted from 1pm to 3pm and 10pm to 8am. In Shenzhen, noises are restricted between 9am and 7pm, and 9pm to 7am. Beijing’s government has yet to regulate loud activities, although some parks or residential communities make their own rules to restrict times. 

Most of the smaller cities do not have specific rules on controlling noise in public areas. You should check with the environmental bureaus in your local city to find out.


Dama, or “dancing grannies”

Seeing elderly ladies dancing together (sometimes inaccurately described as “square-dancing”) can be a cheery sight in Chinese metropolises, but if you’re trying to sleep and they’re dancing outside your window, they might seem a bit less cute.

So far the government has been reluctant to draft any real legislation to deal specifically with the issue of noise pollution coming from the dama. In 2015 the General Administration of Sport of China and the Ministry of Culture introduced 12 public dances choreographed for maximum health benefits with accompanying soundtrack, but they didn’t catch on and in any case there were no details regulating the recommended volume of music, permissible times for practice and prohibited sites for dancing. 

So if you do encounter a problem, it’s probably going to be down to you (and any allies you can find) to deal with the problem. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Politely tell ask to quiet down, and explain why. Talk to the dancing instructor directly; this will be the person who is in charge of the music. Try to put over your case as pleasantly and politely as possible, and explain why you need some peace and quiet. Maybe you’re studying, or you’re working late shifts, or you have a child who is being kept awake. Avoid confrontation at all costs – in an argument with an elderly Chinese woman, just about anyone short of the Premier of the PRC will be going home in defeat.
  2. Unite with other troubled souls and make some posters asking people in the area to keep the volume down. Alternatively, if you live in an apartment block talk to the management company about putting up some posters. This will impress upon them that their activities are affecting the local community. 
  3. Some communities have even put up barricades to block the dama out; we’re sure we don’t have to tell you that this is a bad idea, no matter how annoying they may be.
  4. Do not throw eggs, or anything else – others have done this through frustration, and it never goes well for them. Whether or not people are hurt (and it’s entirely possible that they might be) you will have to take responsibility and be punished, which will only weaken your position in the future.
  5. As a last resort, you still report the disruptive behavior to the police. If possible, try to get the number of your local station, or any police that may specifically oversee your apartment compound; otherwise, you can call 110 for the emergency police hotline. Naturally, this should be avoided where possible (especially to save the line for more urgent business), but the police are the only ones with the authority to move troublesome people along. That said, even the strongest-willed may find themselves being browbeaten into submission by the fearsome dama
  6. And if all else fails, you can invest in ear plugs or install noise-proof materials in your home.


Dogs and neighbors

If you are troubled by dogs and noisy neighbors alike, you should first go directly to the relevant person in question and explain how the noise is affecting you. If they refuse to change their ways or deal with the problem, you can complain to their landlord or the building management (if possible) to solve the problem. Otherwise, you should report them to the police, as outlined above. You could also go to court, although private cases in China can take a very long time to execute.



Both of the above cases prove difficult, but in the case of a noisy school, there really is little you can do other than buy earplugs or move to somewhere else. You could, of course, complain to the school’s administration about the noise, but this would be unlikely to achieve a lot. You could also file a lawsuit against the school, but it would probably not be worth your time and money. Realistically, blocking your ears or hitting the road are the only plausible routes open to you.


Useful Chinese words and phrases 

广场舞 guǎngchǎng wǔ Square dancing
噪音 zàoyīn Noise
体育总局 tǐyù zǒngjú General Administration of Sport of China
编舞 biān wǔ Choregraphy
调低音量 tiáodī yīnliàng Turn the volume down
投诉 tóu sù Complain
报警 bào jǐng Call the police


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