Not a noob, flummoxed nevertheless — Chris’ frustration with China’s confusing holiday schedule

January 21, 2013ChinaGamerGuy11 Comments, , , , , , , ,

Chris Toepker is a contributor to Ministry of Tofu. He hails from the United States, has been living in greater China since 1990 and has recently relocated to Beijing.

After so many years in greater China, I thought I had things straight. Sadly, my first-time, full-time working in Beijing apparently presents many new opportunities to learn. So, while I’m not shocked at the surprise, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the confounding New Year holiday schedule!

Before getting started, let me just say this is not my first new year in China. I’ve been in greater China for a couple decades, living and working in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Still, most of the living (and therefore paying attention to holiday arrangements) were not in the mainland. Nevertheless, I thought I new what time it was. Sadly, my calendar was off.

It unfolds like this: On Dec. 29 (Saturday) we worked and were told we’d be given the following Monday (not an official holiday) off. That makes some sense. Trade a non-working weekend day for a working weekday and receive a three-day holiday. Terrific!

new year 2013 expectations

I thought I’d have a nice day off. Instead, I had a couple doubt filled days and then worked through a weekend. Huh?!

Funny thing was, on the January 2, I went to the office. Walking over though, I couldn’t help noticing how empty the streets were. Not many cars, no one honking endlessly, very few pedestrians. Seemed strange, but who knew? Maybe denizens of The Jing just party that much harder for the new year? Non-noobs see the mistake already.

Still, when the whole office building was pretty much dark I had my first glimmer that I was the odd man out. When 10:00 o’clock rolled around and not a single other person came in, it seemed clear: I was the fool. So, I checked some websites in English and Chinese, which oddly reported a mix of either January 1 or January 1-3. Any way I cut it, I had the day off.

So, after enjoying the day, but keeping my doubts, I came by the office on January 3 too. Still dark, and I had learned my lesson, so I skipped merrily by, all the while wondering “why the heck take these days off, return for one Friday (January 4) and then take a weekend?”

New Year Reality

Despite expectations, this is what really happened.

So, Friday morning I come in and finally there are my colleagues, and then things get stranger because I begin to hear them making plans for meetings on Saturday (January 5). I can hear you far-away readers wondering along with me, “What?!?!” Yes. Saturday. After being “given” January 2-3 off, we were required to come to work January 4-11.

No matter how I look at it, I can’t accept the “given.” They were traded, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

I wish that were the end of it, but then I asked about Chinese New Year (CNY, in early February this year). Turns out we’re getting the same gift then too! You see, the official holiday falls on February 9-11 (Saturday-Monday) and everyone will be “given” February 9-14 off. But then will have to work February 15 – 22 straight.

CNY Expectations

Here are the days published as “off,” sadly they are on the weekend. Oh well, better a three day weekend than none.

I’ve asked all my colleagues (I’m the only foreigner in the office) about it firstly because I wondered how’d I’d missed it. Certainly, there was no announcement. What I learned was, this is just the way things are. No one felt the need to explain it. Secondly, because I wondered if they’d thought the situation over, especially when a holiday falls on what is already a holiday (like CNY falling on a Saturday).

The reactions came in increasing easier to understand flavors. Firstly, I can’t understand the common “we strictly follow the national guidelines” because that just makes no sense. It’s a Catch-22 because the national guidelines are *also* to take weekends off. Secondly, I can kind of understand the “that’s just how we’ve always done it,” but have little patience for things that are just habit. Thirdly, I can allow for the folks who told me, “well, everyone else is off and I was working when they were not or vice versa, it would be no fun. So, I just go with it.” Finally and clearly, the response closest to my heart was “yeah, now we have to work eight straight days. Nice, huh?”

CNY Realti








The far sadder thing was, based on my experience in other…dare I say “more civilized”?…China, my real expectations for the Chinese New Year holiday were much grander. Indeed, given the mass migration and the long factory closing and all the rest I’ve very familiar with, my tickets were already booked for the whole week off. That is to say, February 9 to 17. So, it looks like I’ll be burning through my vacation days really early this year. What is the New Year equivalent to “bah! humbug!”????

CNY Real Expectations

This is an impossibility in the workers paradise. Bah! Humbug!

Related articles:

11 comments to “Not a noob, flummoxed nevertheless — Chris’ frustration with China’s confusing holiday schedule”

  1. Blacksoth | January 21, 2013 | Permalink Reply

    Seems to me the author is just getting a taste of what the average chinese worker has to put up with all the time.

    How can you live in China for so long and not get that this is how it is? Been too sheltered as a foreigner it seems.

    • ChinaGamerGuy | January 25, 2013 | Permalink Reply

      Too sheltered? Do we know each other? That’s quite an assumption. In any case, among the funny things are the different Chinese reactions to the same holiday situation – everything from “yeah, I hate it too” to “it is great!” so, the “put up with” is also a strong assumption.

      Be that as it may, the article is meant to poke fun at myself and my own assumptions. In that, I guess it doesn’t work so well. Oh well. Next time.

      • Blacksoth | January 26, 2013 | Permalink Reply

        Yeah, I did make an assumption. Does that mean I’m neccessarily wrong?

        You shouldn’t take things so personally. You put something on the internet and you’re gonna get feedback and not always the kind you like.

        You should prepare for negative comments. I thought mine were pretty mild by comparison of what’s typical.

        • ChinaGamerGuy | January 27, 2013 | Permalink Reply

          Thanks again for the comments. Yes, they are mild for the web. I just found the reflections interesting, especially yours. I’ve been called plenty of things, on the Internet and IRL, but not sheltered.

          • Blacksoth | January 28, 2013 | Permalink

            I don’t say things just to bash. I have plenty of reasons to say what I did, but I don’t think you’ll like any of them so I’ll just leave it at that.

  2. Markoff | January 21, 2013 | Permalink Reply

    author living in china 20 years not knowing this? next time he will discover that in morning they sell on street jian bing and jidan guanbing and few years later he will find that donkey meat is widely popular in china, please stop posting “articles” like this, it’s not even funny and it makes author to look like…

    • ChinaGamerGuy | January 25, 2013 | Permalink Reply

      Sorry you didn’t like it. It’s a first attempt at humor, and maybe doesn’t come off as intended. In any case, I can assure you I’ve discovered those things and much more. Why do you use pin yin like that? Why not 汉子? 无所谓,下次过来,请你吃一点香肉吧。

  3. Mad Dog | January 22, 2013 | Permalink Reply

    This is the way it was done in Japan for many years. When we had a holiday, the next Saturday was a work day. For NY, a long period of time off is given so folks can travel, etc., but it used to be that some of that time was made up on the weekend. Not a big price to pay and not that unusual in Asia. However, a lot of that has gone in Japan, even though there are still places that give very little time off to begin with. Not too sympathetic in the author’s case. Seems a bit generous to have the long holiday in exchange for a weekend.

    • ChinaGamerGuy | January 25, 2013 | Permalink Reply

      Yep, that was among the reactions – “it gives us a chance to travel.” In my own case, the situation happened because I got more hung up on the word “give” (给), which led me to assume things were like elsewhere in China. My mistake! In any case, I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I found the whole thing a joke on me. Laugh along, that’s the point.

      As for being generous, there I have to disagree. I’ve never been “given” something and then had to return it a couple days later. Not much of a gift at all, let along “generous.”

  4. Chris | January 24, 2013 | Permalink Reply

    Thanks for the comments, all. Well, the point of the article is to have a laugh at myself. So, as long as you’re asking “how could you not know” with a smile or a smirk – it’s all good with me. Indeed, that is exactly the point! I assumed too much, and so did my colleagues. And we all know what happens when you assume, right? 算我猪八戒吧。

    As for being too sheltered as a foreigner: that’s a bigger laugh for me. Let’s not make too many assumptions when commenting either. OK? 那么,用拼音让我知道中国人吃驴肉,等等实在太可笑!下次到这儿来,一起来吃香肉,好不?

    So, indeed, I’m not asking for sympathy. Just poking fun at myself as I “look like…” and note that there are always surprises.

  5. Chinese_oversea | February 7, 2013 | Permalink Reply

    I had the same problem when I was in China for the “short” period (especially compared to others) I was there.
    I totally understand the fact that for having a longer holiday, you can compensate by working on a saturday (luckily didnt have the experience on working on sundays). But does it have to be the saturday before the holiday?

    Wednesday 06-02-2013 is a holiday
    Monday & Tuesday 04 & 05-02-2013 is given off by compensating on a saturday.

    Why take the saturday (02-02-2013) just before that “long” holiday , take it a week before that (or after), saturday 26-01-2013. This way you will be given a 5 day holiday instead of a 4 day holiday.

Leave a Reply