During Chinese New Year, the busy streets of China’s bigger cities will be deserted. Those who are able to get a train back home do so. For many people, Spring Festival is the only chance to see their friends and family in their hometown or native province.
But there are certain aspects of Spring Festival that spoil the enjoyment for some netizens: they will be faced with nagging questions from their parents and relatives.
On Weibo, the question “What questions are you most dreading for Spring Festival?” (过年你最怕别人问你啥问题) is shared amongst netizens. The following 5 questions are the most dreaded ones.
#1: “How did you score on your final exams?”
Getting a good score on your exams is considered to be the ticket to a good job and bright future for many of China’s young people. China’s educational system is very exam-oriented and competitive. For the college entrance exams, only the students with the highest scores get to go to the best universities. But reality shows that even those with high scores do not necessarily find a good job: China’s college graduates presently face grim employment prospects. The question ‘how did you score on your final exams?’ is therefore a dreaded one – it is never good for those who did not score well, but is also not necessarily promising for those who did.
#2: “How much money are you making?”
Making money and getting a (better) job are priorities for many young people in China, who are pressured by their family to move up in life. As described in China Online (Michel 2012), there are multiple words to label the different working class groups. There are the “Mortgage Slaves” (房奴), who have bought a house but struggle to come up with the mortgage due to China’s rising cost of living. The “Ants Tribe” (蚁族) are highly educated but cannot get a steady job on China’s erratic job market – they therefore end up on the outskirts of urban areas in insecure jobs. The “Corporate Insects” (公司蛀虫) are tied to their desks, and all of their private time has been consumed because of overtime work. The question “how much money are you making?” is a dreaded one for many people, who are already under a lot of pressure to get by in life.
#3: “Did you find a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?”
In a country of 1.3 billion, finding a suitable spouse is not always easy. “Why are you not married yet?” is a question many of China’s bachelors and bachelorettes get to hear on a regular basis. Especially during family gatherings, such as Chinese New Year, they recurringly have to listen to their parent’s plea to find a girlfriend/boyfriend and get married. Women who are still single at the age of 27 are often labelled as ‘leftover women’, although there are around 20 million more men under the age of thirty than women in the same age category. Both men and women face challenges in finding a partner (also read our articles on leftover men and online dating in China). Their parents’ pleas are not in vain: after the Chinese New Year, there is a 40% increase in blind dates. But some women just don’t want to face the questions, and rent a boyfriend to join them on family occasions. This way, their parents can stop worrying, and they will not have to go through the process of being asked nagging questions.
#4: “Do you have a house and a car?”
Home ownership is often considered a precondition to family happiness in China. That a man has a house and a car is especially something many women find an important prerequisite for potential future husbands. As the girls in the video below say: “If you have no house, and also have no car, then hurry move aside, and don’t block my way.” But with the cost of living in today’s society, many people simply cannot afford a house, or they refuse to become a ‘Mortgage Slave’.
#5: “When are you finally having kids?”
The biggest wish of many Chinese parents is that their (only) child will produce offspring. But China’s twenty-something generation has been postponing childbirth: they are getting married later and are therefore not having children until later on in life. Over the past thirty years, birth rates in China have been far below the world’s average. It is estimated that Chinese society will even have a negative population growth in 2030. Besides getting married at a later age, child-rearing costs are currently so high that many couples cannot afford to have a baby, let alone a second one. The pressure to find a job and continue working to earn more money also does not help in the decision to have children at a younger age.
– By Manya Koetse
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