Itried hard to think of a positive side toChinese Spring Festival. But the truthis, I can´t. Not because I dodt want to,but because there is a cultural block. Idon´t feel any emotion connected with SF,because it isn´t part of me. I didn´t grow upwith it; I don´t have any family close enoughto really appreciate its significance.
For the 3 years that Ilived in Shanghai,I observed SF from the outside. I Googled; Iread; I listened; I watched. I asked questions.Some very kind colleagues trAed to explain.BUT, I never really understood.
The pattern was always the same. 2 weeksbefore SF the tension would increase. Thechatter at lunchtime focused on one topic; Ihetravel home. Everyone needs to be with theirfamily, everyone needs a ticket. Everyone has aplan, and a back-up plan, and a second back-upifthe first back-up fais. Every route is explored;Plane (usually too expensive), train (preferred),bus (ok for a few hours travel), car (ifyou knowsomeone else travelling to or past your home-town). Feel the anxiety. Guanxi is called in,spent, begged, given, traded. The boss mustshare the pain. Look the other way as yourteam disappear for 3 hour ´lunch-breaks´ to goto the ticket office. Share the joy when a ticketis delivered. Like a prize in a lottery. Checkthe details (twice); Kiss the paper. Relief. Bigsmile. Phew, mum will be happy now. rlhinkabout the gifts. What to take? Food is tradi-tional. Healthy fruit? Spicy meat? Yes. Snacksfor the journey. And of course the hongbao.Can you get me three red envelopes please.Oops no, four, I forgot my new little brother (cousin). How much to put in? Can I aford onehundred. Yes, ifl don´t go out next week. Butthe dinners with colleagues. Oh, I will managesomehow. Family will understand how difficultit is; how much effort I made to be there. I havemy ticket. That is the most important thing.
Everyone wants you to enjoy SF. Buthow? The usual questions; What are you do-ing for SF Mr Laowai? Will you travel? Areyou kidding? Join l.3 billion Chinese, allwanting to be somewhere else? My night-mare-I´m staying at home.