If getting out of your comfort zone is part of your (Lunar) New Year’s resolutions, then you only need to follow this guide. You can only enjoy the good times more, if sometimes you have a swift experience of pure, unadulterated awkwardness. Let me show you how.
- You let yourself easily be convinced to attend a certain event. Even better if it is paid so you will not want to skip on it. Even better if it is on a topic you like, but you know there is a readon you normally do not attend these things. The community aspect is not what attracts you, but you can always try right?
- Follow the build-up to the eventintensely so you can imagine how you will be liking it once it happens. Realise this is not your thing but the pain of your hard-earned money just wasted hurts even more. Try to stay optimistic, you often have situations where low expectations generate the best results.
- Make sure you are pretty tired and/or have any other physical inconveniences that are not bad enough to deter you from attending. A runny nose, or some muscle ache always helps. Perhaps the weather helps and it is cold or wet outside so it makes you not want to go nor leave.
- Hang out with some nice people on forehand. Ideally get invited to a hangout session by your friends or some confirmed nice people but decline it for the unknown, quite reliably less entertaining option.
- Create a moment of introspection by eating alone or grabbing a drink to gather some confidence. Do this near the venue, thinking you could get a sneak peek at the event, but in reality nothing will be visible.
- Park your bike in front of the venue and struggle with your bike lock. Wonder if this is a sign you should not go but persist because you are a well-functioning adult.
- You enter and exchange a few words but you already see the people at the entrance are busy and know each other. You try to see where the event is happening, but they tell you it is all the way in the back. You buckle up (figuratively) and go for it.
- Once in the back you realise literally nobody is known to you. You try to match some people you see to faces you have seen in online posts and photos. The one person who you would recognise is also not seen.
- You decide to go the toilet as an escape. But after walking 3 rounds, there is no toilet to be seen. You try to see again if you recognise somebody and walk around again thinking you know someone. It is not the case so you walk back, stand on the side and look at your phone as a substitute.
- Walking around you seemed quite confused apparently because somebody approaches and asks you “Are you okay?” It makes your skin crawl a little, but you ask for the toilet and are politely pointed where to go to.
- On the toilet you hear voices from people who are going to the same event but have signed up together. You are not sure what you will be doing, but it has only been a few minutes. You inhale, exhale and go out again.
- You try to get a free drink, because that is one of the few tangible things you can get out of the event. The bar is busy but also weirdly ignorant of their customers. You commiserate with someone else in the line but his turn comes up earlier than yours and you just wait and get ignored for a while by the staff.
- After you finally get your drink, you look around if there are people striking a conversation that clearly shows they do not know each other. You latch onto a person who is semi-interested in what you do, but also do not feel a real connection in the topics you discuss and the conversation as a whole.
- The one person you recognise at the event suddenly turns up and you exchange a few words. The person you were talking with leaves, but also your new conversation partner is hauled away to take a photo. You decide to get your second drink to make sure that is at least ticked off. You are being ignored again and it seems people behind you are whispering about how long you had to wait.
- Checking the program for the fifth time, you see the performance should already have taken place, but decide to wait it out just to get a good idea of how uncomfortable it is to not have someone to talk to. You think it is quite a funny paradox how this is a community event, but you feel like such an outsider especially with so many similar people around you.
- You get your phone out again and someone points out you dropped something. you try to make this a conversation starter but fail. You try to listen in on some other conversations, but cannot really follow anything and just try to read something on your phone
- People are clearly starting to prepare the room for the performance and you help with moving chairs to have something to do.
- The performance finally takes place and it is cute but also a little bit lackluster. You decide it has been long enough that you can go to the toilet again. You spend some time there and then decide it is fine for you to go. You slip past the entrance people and deeply inhale and exhale once you are outside.
- You struggle with your bike lock again and fear you may not be able to get home quickly. But fate is friendly after this evening and lets you go.
- While reflecting on the event, you decide to write something about the whole thing so it was not entirely useless. You have faith if any event happens again it will be better since you should know some people by then. And you try to convince yourself of the value this experience brought to you.
It may seem like a daunting list of things to do, but the end result is guaranteed. Happy New Year everyone!
It is the first day of the year of the ox. It is also Carnaval in catholic parts or Northwest Europe. And of course Valentine’s Day is coming up. I was just thinking about the ways everyone celebrates differently, but some things keep coming back. An incomplete list:
- Good food. I was talking about this a while back with friends and we determined that the one holiday in China which does not heavily involve food is probably Tomb Sweeping Day. Judging by the name you can probably guess why. That said, most other celebrations are mainly about the food, and the same actually counts for many Western holidays. Truth be told, chocolate eggs do not make me drool as much as mooncakes or zongzi, but I will take what I can get now.
- Family fights. I talked more about this in this blog. One of the best New Year’s stories I have.
- Family reunions. We know we will fight and have to listen to aunts and uncles complaining about everything, including our own accomplishments, but we always suck it up and just do it. It is funny how much of a change blood and the knowledge that it only happens once a year makes for our toleration of others.
- Decorations. I like decorating as much as everyone else, but if you really think about it does not make any sense. Why do we have all this stuff which we show to everyone once a year, but it inappropriate the rest of the year. I actually do get those Chinese Christmas stickers that are not removed.
- Annoying kids.
- Unrealistic ads.
- Unrealistic expectations.
- Dressing up.
- Travelling distances to gather. I am lucky to not have had the need or space within the country to travel very far, but it happens. On a large scale. Voluntarily.
If you think about it, we are all united in making it hard for ourselves during a time we are supposed to relax and enjoy. We not only pressure ourselves, but also each other to be happy about situations we normally would not put ourselves in. That is a universal holiday message.
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.
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.
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.