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.

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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:(…..)

The I-Don’t-Know-You-That-Much-Code

    Sorry, it’s been a while since last time I updated. I didn’t mean to take this long to finish this one, but things just kept popping up all the time!

 

    The I-Don’t-Know-You-That-Much-Code was first noticed on my Facebook account.

    The thing is, there is a twin website called Renren.com in China. Since Facebook has been blocked in MainlanChina, the RenRen is quite popular here. And if you have a Facebook page, you will know where to check out how many “Friends” a person has on Facebook. I did a very simple survey today (Actually I’m afraid it is not even qualified as a survey, it only cost me 10 minutes..), I picked out 8 random people on Facebook and Renren each, then calculate the average number of “Friends” for the two websites. The results show that Facebook scores high by 792.5 “Friends”/person, while Renren only has 407.2“Friends”/person.

    Well..This “survey” is obviously biased, due to the number of sample size and the manual selection method. But it is a fact that Chinese people have a narrower circle when it comes to friends. And I believe one of the reason contributing to this fact is that Chinese people don’t get close to others that easily. It takes extra efforts to shorten that distance in between. You may argue that most Chinese are pretty friendly and warm hearted, yes they are. They will give you a full explanation of how the Seven-day National Holiday works, they will give you a ride home after a late working night ends, they might even volunteer taking care of your cats when you are planning to travel for a long time. But let’s face it, what is really going on under that fancy “CARPET”?

 

    Ok, let’s take a look at how many ways a Chinese can make a new friend:

People I know from University: This one could be easier since universities are basically where youth catch up with peers. But under this scenario, the new guy has to be REPEATEDLY presented to us before we enter a new contact in our phones.. Ie. The two are both stuck in same research groups or study activities, thus have to endure all the painful tasks or celebrate any success they manage to achieve.

People from Work: Normally, people from work are ALWAYS people from work. You don’t want them to mess up with your careers by spreading out who’s your one night stand last weekend. But there are exceptions, you can meet your best buddy in the bathroom while trying to sneak out having a cigarette. Generally speaking, you should always put up some guards for your colleagues. Among Chinese, it’s more than just true. I’ve been told more than 5 times by different people that I should keep a certain distance from colleagues. Bleeding examples of confronting a passive-aggressive colleague are countless. Since colleagues are going to work together on an everyday basis, it is required be friendly above the “carpet”.

People from Clubs/Bars/Pubs: I have to say: Most Chinese don’t go to these places that often. It’s a social rule that people in Clubs/Bars/Pubs are bad.(Stupid, I know, but still..Oldschool concept passing down from our mums and dads.) If you must say “No! They definitely DO go to bars all the time!”, well, I really can’t think of any of my friends who’s such a party animal except those works in a band.

People I know from public places other than Clubs/Bars/Pubs: Such as restaurants, Café. Except the fact that Chinese food can be really tricky sometimes (ie. Noodles with half in my mouth and the other half hanging down from my chin),I’d love to have a nice conversation during a meal. Actually, food is a really important part of every Chinese. InBeijing, we even say “Have you eaten or not?” instead of “How was your day?”. It is a very convenient way to build up a close friendship in a comparably short time. (My high school teacher even called it “effective and efficient”) So if you want to know more about a certain Chinese: Invite him/her to dinner.

People introduced by my friends: This could be the most reliable way meeting with new friends. The “agent” is someone close to us which can make we feel safe and easier to drop that invisible “Great Wall” to have a soul-handshake. But still, it depends on a lot of things other than just this “agent”.

    It all lies in the big word TRUST. Chinese can “like” you very much, but deep down they might not trust you at all. We spend a lot of time judging whether a certain person is trustworthy enough to be “under our carpets”, so that we can share the most intimate feelings and secret stories hidden below. While at the same time, we spend an equal amount of time making ourselves look good to those “above our carpets”, by warm greetings and helping hands. It takes a lot for us to “know” someone, even when we act like “you are my best buddy”. Yes it does sound code, and if someone breaks this code by crossing the line, it is time for us to act weird: Oh, sorry I can’t. I don’t think I know you that much.