Friday, February 6, 2015

Afraid to go home for Chinese New Year? You're not alone

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By Xing Zhao, 12 February, 2010

Chinese New Year Crowd
PHOTO: Chinese New Year Crowd
Photo by AFP/GETTY Images

It's one of the most family-oriented holidays of the Chinese calendar, but many people are fearful of going home this Chinese New Year, and it’s not just mom’s cooking they’re dreading.

Will being home for Chinese New Year be more or less stressful than this line? That is the question.

It's Chinese New Year, but not everyone in Shanghai is excited about the country's most important holiday season. As a city of migrants, many of Shanghai's residents return to their hometowns for the holiday.

However, many of them do not want to go home. Those creative geniuses -- Shanghai's netizens -- call these people the 'Fear to return for Chinese New Year' tribe.

Lunar New Year: Tales from Beijing Railway Station.

They are concerned about two things: money and family pressure. Although the local manifestations might differ, these two concerns are universal.

Financial issues
In 2000, the number of university graduates in China, according to, was 1.07 million while in 2009 the number climbed up to 6.11 million. With the huge numbers of university graduates flushing into cities like Shanghai and Beijing for work, a bachelor's degree in China no longer gets you as far as it used to, and even those who manage to get jobs aren't raking it in hand over fist. So making the trip home is difficult on the mind and the wallet.

A popular post on is about the life of a graduate who lies to his parents about his income and position. He told them that he works at a law firm making RMB 3,000 per month. In reality he's a handyman in a small law office and earns RMB 1,000 per month. “I had to lie to my parents that my phone was broken while I was really too afraid to call them,” says the young man. “I simply can't face my parents for my failure. Besides I can't afford a trip home.

Even those who earn a decent wage can find it difficult. Mr Chen works in Shanghai and earns RMB 3,000. He says, “RMB 800 goes to my rent, RMB 600 for food, RMB 50 for the bills, RMB 200 for communications and RMB 100 for my phone bills.” But even saving over RMB 1,000 a month, he can't afford to go home for Chinese New Year. “Travel plus buying presents for my parents would cost my whole month's wage,” he explains.

All in the family
Some don't want to make the trek home for Chinese New Year for other familial (relating to or occurring in a family), and familiar, reasons. Mr Wu makes a decent wage but fears seeing his parents because “they've been nagging me about getting married since I was 26. We have many fights about the girlfriend issue.” And he's not alone in not wanting to face the immense pressure at home to marry. It's not just Aunt Rose asking if you're found 'Ms Right' yet.

Julie, 29, works in an office on Nanjing Xi Lu, and instead of going home for Chinese New Year, she is flying to a small town in Yun'nan. “I just can't handle going to the numerous dates my parents set me up on when I go home anymore. I'd rather have a quiet holiday alone.

Mr Zhao has bought an apartment in Shanghai after working in the city for six years, and he doesn't feel like going home for Chinese New Year for the fear of giving hongbaos. “Everyone back home thinks I'm well off because I bought the apartment, but I really can't afford meeting their expectations of giving those RMB 1,000 hongbaos, not to mention my relatives all want to borrow money from me.

Tang Xiaofei, an office worker who also isn't spending Chinese New Year with his family says, “For me, the best way to spend it is to eat some fast noodles, play some computer games and watch Chinese New Year Gala show online.

It may be China's most important time for family gathering, but for some it's just too much.

By Xing Zhao, 12 February, 2010

Now a writer and art communicator based in Shanghai, Xing has also been covering the Shanghai's LGBT issues for local publications since the summer of 2009.
Read more about Xing Zhao (

For me, the best way to spend [Spring Festival] is to eat some fast noodles, play some computer games and watch Chinese New Year Gala show online.— Tang Xiaofei, office worker