Young Chinese are fighting back against scourge of Lunar New Year: interfering relatives

09-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Even before Lunar New Year was on the horizon, Shen Yi was planning how to avoid her family during the holidays.

“I won’t visit them, I just won’t go this year,” she said firmly.

The 32-year-old from Nanjing in eastern China’s Jiangsu province became tired of her relatives after years of being criticised, especially at family get-togethers during the holidays.

One year, an older cousin told her she had a bad personality and questioned why she was still single, while another suggested she should wear more make-up.

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Shen is far from alone in experiencing this treatment from family members. More and more younger Chinese people are complaining about their relatives’ interfering ways, especially at Lunar New Year when they feel compelled to visit those they may not have seen since the previous new year celebrations.

Last week, comedian Papi Jiang prompted discussion with a three-minute video about courtesy when visiting relatives for new year, listing taboos and examples of questionable behaviour. Her tips? Never ask people about their test grades, monthly salary and when they might marry or have children and definitely never forcibly set them up on blind dates.

Furthermore, you should never brag how great your life is, never show off your children, don’t force people to drink, don’t force their children put on a show or force others to watch your own children perform,” she said.

“Be civilised, act civilised, be a decent relative, have a happy holidays.”

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Her message resonated with many who viewed it online, who said she had pinpointed all the annoying behaviour they wanted to avoid.

“Instead of forwarding this to my family, I will project this on our TV screen and play on loop all the time, except for bedtime,” one person wrote in the comments.

Others recounted their own miserable experiences. One said a relative bullied her into teaching her child English. Another said a relative tried to set her up on a blind date without telling her. She opened the door to the relative’s house to find the young man sitting on the sofa, waiting for her.

In recent years, almost any mention of annoying relatives has set off heated public discussion.

Just before the new year in 2017, a video of a song by the Shanghai-based Rainbow Choir called What I Do is For Your Own Good was posted on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, and was quickly shared more than 90,000 times.

The seven-minute song describes how the protagonist is hit with an onslaught of questions and criticism from relatives during new year before the visit of a neighbour roughly the same age as them belittles them even more.

The neighbour, the successful “Wang”, wears an armful of watches and owns several hectares of rice paddies and 13 Land Rovers. His start-up has just received financing and is moving its headquarters to Shanghai.

With criticism raining in from all sides, the chorus, accompanied by applause and whistling, asserts: “I just want to live my life, how can I forsake my ideals and become a version that I hate the most?”

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The notorious behaviour of Chinese relatives, specifically their perceived lack of respect for individual privacy, is traced by some back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when the government encouraged people to become informants.

“During that time, invading others’ privacy became common,” Liang Jingyi wrote last year for business website Huxiu. “Personal letters or relationships were required to be public.”

In an article published in the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review in 2005, Cao Jingchun suggested that the concept of privacy had become popular in China only since the 1980s, after it began its reform and opening up.

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“The developing economy brings people wealth, and globalisation brings people the latest knowledge, which makes people begin to be aware of their rights and encourages respect for others’ rights and interests,” the author wrote.

Young people, it appears, are ready to fight back. Not only are they forwarding these videos, songs and discussions, but some have come up with some enterprising solutions.

A search on e-commerce platform Taobao finds sweaters that “prevent relatives’ questions”. The red garments bear the slogans “Don’t ask about my grades”, “I’m not seeing anyone”, “I have difficulty communicating”, “I’m trying to lose weight” and “Whatever you say”.

One shopper, after ordering one, commented: “I hope I won’t get beaten up by my relatives.”


Category: China

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