Festivals!

  Soon it will be Christmas!! Yes, in Chinawe have Christmas. Though we don’t celebrate it the same way as yours, we celebrate Christmas like every other western festival imported to China– we eat and get together with friends, after work.
  Although I cannot shake the idea that I’m going to have one extra day off on Christmas, it’s better to introduce to you some traditional Chinese festivals first.
  Spring Festival — This is the most important festival for Chinese, and probably you have already heard of it on news before. Basically it’s the lunar New Year and every family get together at the New Year eve waiting for a brand new start to begin. It’s a 15 days of firework, by the night of the Lantern Festival (15th day of the 1st lunar month), spring festival is officially over and everyone goes back to work. In 2012 the lunar New Year will begin on January 23rd. It’s impossible to write down all the details in one post, but I’m thinking I will give you daily-posting from the day Chinese begin to prepare for this big festival!

  Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month) – It’s a festival commemorating the ancient poet Qu Yuan. Chinese celebrate this day by eating a traditional food – Zong Zi. One of my friends has told me about his first time dealing with Zong Zi: “Aw…It’s sticky!” There are dragon boat competitions in southernChina which represents the way people search for QuYuan when he committed suicide in 278 BC.

  Tomb-sweeping Day (usually around 5th day of 4th lunar month)– On this day, Chinese go visit their relatives who passed away by cleaning their tombs and putting fruits and food beside the tombs (in this way those who passed away can have a nice meal in the other world). Amazingly, it is always raining on this day, it’s like the tears from the above world.

  Mid-autumn Festival (15th day of the 8th lunar month) – It is said the moon is the roundest at this time of the year. Round shaped is always standing for something fully fulfilled and perfect. Family members get together and share moon cakes (which are also round shaped).
  Besides all the traditional ones, Chinese also celebrate the Christmas, New Year (Of course!), Valentine, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day.. Sometimes when it gets so real that I can even have a day off on Christmas! You might ask what’s my plan on this day, well, I will treat it like every other Sunday in this year, but thanks to the Christmas discount I might go shopping!
  Western festivals became so popular since early 2000s, retailing companies introduced them to Chinese when people have extra money to spend on things other than necessities. Honestly speaking, most western festivals equal to shopping festivals to Chinese (while at the same time, you can also find out people in church who really believe in Christmas spirit). Friends get together after work and have dinner together then they spend some time together.
  But as more and more Chinese begin to pursue a work-life balance, I believe there’s still huge potential for further development with more and more festivals being introduced to Chinese. On the other side, Chinese, especially those aged between 18 and 30, show a great interest in and positive attitude towards Western festivals. I believe it won’t take long till Chinese begin to appreciate the meaning of western festivals other than just consider them as shopping discount day.

Invitations for peeking!

Chinese keep an eye on everyone else.

In traditional Chinese culture, there was no such a word as “Privacy” before it was imported in China from western culture. Collectivism gives us a moral responsibility to keep an eye on others, to look out for the neighborhood, and to help them out when needed. So Chinese all naturally have a sense of sharing and caring, to make sure no one is left behind or forgotten. I remember when I was on my first day of internship, I sat in a corner of the whole finance office. Nobody could see me from unless they intentionally made a U turn and came to where I was positioned. But surprisingly, our head manager of this whole department came to my desk just before lunch break and int roduced me to a colleague, with whom I could have lunch with.

But a drawback in this genetic monitoring system is that Chinese sometime pay too much attention on others but less on themselves. If one has too much attention like this, s/he must be living in other’s expectations instead of his/her own. This explains why most of the teenagers want to go to colleague without having a slightest interest in their majors. And, of course, an extra amount of unwanted attention. Last week when I managed to make a progress at my last piece of WatchingTheChinese writing on my laptop during lunch break, two guys sitting by my side all put on their glasses and tried very hard to figure out what I was doing. And they didn’t even bother to keep it secret, because later on one of them just asked me in a very LOUD voice: “Can you tell me what is the writing about? I can’t quite see it from here.” If stare leav es a burning mark, the back of my sweater must be in ashes.

Hey, is that Chinese behind you peeking at this blog now?

Standing-Out & Fitting-In

In the last three weeks, I almost used up my lifetime volume of group study and group work during company training. My Intercultural Communication teacher once taught me about Collectivism vs. Individualism, stating that westerner emphasis more on expressing individual opinions while Chinese love about fitting-in. Although this is not always true in a highly accelerated nation like China, everyone is fighting their head off to catch every opportunity — nobody pays attention to whether do it in an old fashioned and artistic way. But in occasions where no personal benefit related, you can easily identify or trace back to those lovely fitting-in attitudes.
The basic definition of fitting-in is to play at average level. That means, not too bad, not too good, everyone is just like everyone else. Ancient philosophy promotion of being modest has everything to do with it. Standing out means drawing all the attention on one single person, and since Chinese value collaborate work more than individual talent, standing-out could be mistakenly translated by other Chinese as “Oh, s/he wants all the credit!” or “S/he is so proud. S/he doesn’t care anyone else but her/himself!”. Of course, if this shinning performer doesn’t delivery a good speech, the audience will definitely bring the heaviest rock they have while aiming it at the stage (Only mentally.).

Another reason why fitting-in is still popular in 21 century China is that Chinese don’t like the confrontation between different ideas. It’s always faster to get to a conclusion with everyone agreeing on one thing. And Chinese always think and consider what are the other options proposed by group mates. So unless what the majority voting for is totally silly and absurd, Chinese will think about it, convincing themselves, and finally, accept it. For those disagreements, Chinese will bring it up in a peaceful way, either in the form of a question, or kindly suggestions.

But every group has its strongest muscle. What this piece of poor thing should do to avoid this inherent disaster? Keep in mind the two points above and provide personal opinions in a delightful and uncertain way: “I have an idea, I don’t know if it’s the best solution here, I will just walk you through my thinking patter, correct me for anything you noted, please interrupt me anytime.”

Another important notice under fitting-in is that every Chinese has some unique yet smart ideas, they are just too shy to express them all out. You will just have to dig harder to find out.

(BTW, WordPress has been blocked in Mainland China. I will have a very hard time crossing that firewall in the future:(…..)