Nostalgia is a powerful thing

It is almost time for the new year to start (again, more on that in my post of last last year). And this year, I am returning to Beijing where I lived for almost 3 years. Planning stuff with friends to do there is of course the perfect moment to think back on all those good times.

I actually do remember quite well that I was quite annoyed with Beijing when I left. It was way too noisy, the people rude, the air polluted, the food greasy, the temperatures too high or too low and the city all in all just did not attract me that much anymore.

Fast forward to having stayed in Shanghai for only a little over 6 months, and I am already telling everyone that I like Beijing more. Its noise and rude people seem eccentric now, the polluted air a ‘minor inconvenience’, the food flavorful and the temperatures are only a bit better in winter and worse in summer where I am now.

What is worse, this does not change when I actually return to Beijing. Everything seems nicer in a smaller time frame. Even when I am sad that things have disappeared, as they always do, the joy of recognition is much stronger. Oh, and chaotic traffic is the best. Not getting any fines when cycling as well. Not having to break out in cold sweat whenever I ignore a red traffic light, afraid a cop will suddenly turn up behind me is also pretty relaxed.

So I will be enjoying my new year in the best and worst place in China I know. I will give Shanghai a chance the rest of the year.

It is not the most wonderful time of the year

The holiday season has arrived. Christmas trees are all up, Christmas hats are on heads and ginger is in all foods. Not to put a damper on the whole atmosphere, but these are not the most fun times to be in China.

There are many holidays in China, mostly based on the moon calendar. They also often involve gods, family and almost always food. But Christmas and New Year’s are not included among those traditionally. That means the Chinese have a different perception of this time of year than most Western countries.

Discounts, shopping and food. Those are the most important ingredients for Christmas over here. It is that time of year when all those faded decorations that are there all year long suddenly make sense. The time when all employees are obliged to wear a Christmas accessory on their uniforms, which makes their poor service only stand out even more.

To make matters worse, for many students the exam season is often around Christmas. I remember studying here in 2012 and having the joy of getting delicious food pictures sent by my family while making exams. Although there is of course no shortage of delicious food in this part of the world.

All in all, December is already a bit depressing and the commercial and artificial atmosphere do not make it better. To cap it off, New Year’s is always a disappointment since no one cares at all. Oh well, in any case we get a second new year in February to catch up on all the festivities.

The beginning of a not-yet-new year

2018 is here! Or rather, it is in fact the start of a new year according to all agenda’s, forms and word documents. However, China is a bit of an oddity in that sense.

Of course a large part of Asia and South-East Asia all celebrate Lunar New Year. The date which so happens to coincide with Valentine’s Day this year, which will surely heighten the fun for everyone. This means that New Year’s Eve is utterly uneventful, unfestive and unexciting. I remember that on December 31st there were exactly 3 bangs outside of my house, after which I went to my window to see that there were indeed no fireworks being set of.

Most Chinese also tend to be quite lackadaisical around ‘western’ new year. There is a (shockingly) large amount of people dat just go to sleep at 23 o’clock, not only parents and elderly. There are not really that many parties being held and as mentioned the fireworks are often very limited.

It always seems mystifying to me that you do end the year and start a new one, mainly noticeable because of the different number, but collectively decide to not celebrate. Instead, you keep track of a different calendar, with all these spcial days and names, and collectively choose to celebrate the new year on an entirely different day and for the heck of it also take 1 week for all the fun.

What is of course not lagging behind, is the commerce. This year the zodiac sing in the spotlights is the dog. And thus, although the year has technically not started yet, we see all these dog outfits, mugs, notebooks and calendars waiting to be bought. Furthermore, train tickets for the new year’s travel will also be on sale soon, which will inevitably lead to being unable to buy train tickets to even the most obscure places. Yes, the new year may not have arrived yet, but there is enough to remind us that it is indeed coming.