Monday, January 31, 2011

Chinese New Year Build-Up

For all practical purposes, it’s here.  The Chinese New Year;  Year of the Tiger is going out with a whimper and Year of the Rabbit is coming in hopping! 

JLmade’s last day at the office was last Friday.  A good portion of our team even cut out before then.  Those last few work days; we were organizing, prioritizing and planning for the post-New Year madness – “battening down the hatches” before the storm of yearly relaxation, you might say.   
The factories closed a week before, around the 20th.  Workers were en route to their homes, sales offices were no longer quoting, and there wasn’t much “real time” work for us to do.

Leeds and I went and ran some errands yesterday, which was a Sunday.  During this time out, it made me consider a few things I took for granted the first 22 years of my life living in small town USA

a-  “In and Out”: There’s no such thing as “in and out” in this country.  Everything is a big deal.  If you want to go into the grocery store to buy a few items, you might as well go in to buy a whole buggy full and prepare to spend the day.  

When you consider the time it takes to find a parking space, muscling past the crowds to get into the store, walking through the labyrinth of little shops that lead to the actual store you want to go to (no outside entrance to super-stores or super markets here…they are usually buried or hidden in the lower or top levels of mega complexes.  Remember, this place is extremely crowded, they are very clever with compacting and utilizing space).

Why Not Park on the Sidewalk? 
b-  Traffic:  My wife and I are eventually planning on moving to the country-side outside of Suzhou.  One of the main reasons I want to “head for the hills” is the traffic.  And I don’t necessarily mean the driving traffic; I mean the cars parked on the sidewalks (can this be called “parking traffic”??).  I mean the cars that drive behind you while you are on a sidewalk and honk at you to get out of the way.  When you are walking, you can never have a nice leisurely stroll because a car can pull up behind you at any time and start blaring away on the horn…YES ON SIDEWALKS.  This is the fruit of the most populous country, becoming car crazy.  Sometimes from the bathroom to bedroom I night, I look over my shoulder to see if there is a BMW with a first-year driver honking behind me in my hallway…

Someday, instead of sidewalks, we'll be walking on car hoods

c-  Banks:  This is another example of “in and out” being thrown out the window.  Going to the bank?  Take a good book with you.  The simplest bank transaction can take more than 30 minutes on a quick day!  And as I sat in the bank yesterday and looked around…nobody seems to care.  The customers who come in don’t have the mindset of “let’s get this over with” and the employees and tellers also seem to hold a laid-back mindset of “of course this will take all day”.  It’s almost as if nobody expects and upholds to a standard of efficiency for a daily errand-style task.  I’ve said it before in previous blogs, the Chinese are more group-minded than individual-minded.  As a group, they can build multi-level skyscrapers in no-time-flat, as an individual, basic banking seems to be a hurdle.    

I love living here, but there are some luxurious aspects about home that will never be duplicated.  It’s no wonder that so many Chinese that study overseas, don’t come back.  I’ve heard the air quality cited as one of the things they like most about being abroad…I wonder where the lack of crowds rank for them?  


  1. Happy New Year Jacob and Leeds! Our local supermarket has an entire section for the new year, all packed with TsingTao beer and tons of food imports from China. Never realized there were so many Chinese in the South of France.
    Wish you all the best for the year of the Rabbit, health, happiness and prosperity.

  2. Appreciate the wishes, John. Yes, Chinese New Year is becoming more and more international. From working in export; the first few years I was here (01-04), you would have to constantly remind the buyers to be ready for the Chinese New Year lull. Now, to spotlight the rise of China, most buyers are well aware of the upcoming holiday (but they still fail to get in their inquiries before the time..grrrr :) )

    Hope you and yours are all well and prosperous, looking forward to networking with the "Expat Don" well into the Year of the Rabbit.