This is the largest annual human migration in world history, and there seems to be more than a negligible cultural shift underway.
Just as many newcomers to the U.S. are often unable to be with family during the major holidays in America (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc.), we were also “homeless” in China during this year’s Spring Festival. We spent Chinese New Year with a group of local friends who were also without their immediate or extended families. Several of those who joined us were young single adults here in China (early twenties to mid thirties). You will see why their single status is important to this discussion below.
Several articles have been published suggesting this trend of choosing not to visit family is a reflection of the new “selfie” generation.
Listening to our friends, we learned that it is not just for selfish indulgence (travel, unique experiences, time with friends, etc.) that more and more young adults are choosing not to go home for this holiday. Like most places, there is a lot of family dysfunction that is just too painful for some young (single) adults to want to endure “one more time”.
Here is a list of the Top 10 reasons our friends shared for why some young adults choose not to go home:
1. Eat all the time
2. Drink (liquor) all the time
3. Match making (Xiang Qin) – this is where the parents work hard to arrange a marriage with local eligible men (this seems to be much more prominent with daughters)
4. “FBI” – this is the “interrogation” by parents about: job, salary, employer, guys (girls seem to get more pressure about marriage than the guys), everything personal like bank account, how much money is saved, size of house, value of house, car model, value of car, etc., etc., etc.)
5. Playing Majiang – one of China’s most popular games (played with tiles similar to dominoes) almost always involving gambling (sometimes to catastrophic levels – see #2 above)
6. Red Packets (Hong Bao) – these are red envelopes with cash inside that are given to family members as gifts. With China’s increasing affluence, the pressure is growing for these gifts to be “significant”. Some nieces and nephews of these young adults now expect 500 RMB or more per envelope (almost $100 US). For a young, single adult, meeting Red Packet expectations among extended family members can become a real financial hardship.
7. Class Reunions – in China, class reunions are not restricted to high school and college. Primary school and middle school classes also have class reunions, which basically amount to a repeat of Items #1, 2 and 4 above.
8. Visiting Relatives – there is a LOT of this and it is basically a repeat of Items 1-6 above.
9. Travel expense and hassle – joining the mass of humanity to travel across China during the peak travel season is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult. Given the choice, why not catch a direct flight to Thailand and enjoy some peace and quiet on the beach…or just stay put and avoid this entire list?!
10. So they can be with us! (not really…but hey, it’s better than nothing!)
Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016. All rights reserved.