4 Awkward Experiences I've Had Spending Chinese New Year With Family in China | Speaking of China

27 Responses

  1. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary January 26, 2015 at 8:33 am | | Reply

    Receiving a red envelope stuffed with money from my husband’s grandmother created an awkward situation for me one Chinese New Year. I didn’t want to take it and I didn’t know if it was polite to refuse it. I blogged about it here. http://foreignsanctuary.com/2014/01/22/lucky-money-receiving-my-first-chinese-new-year-red-envelope/

  2. Sveta
    Sveta January 26, 2015 at 9:35 am | | Reply

    Wow…some of these sound very awkward. As much as I want to, I have doubts that I will experience celebrating Lunar New Years 🙁

  3. robert
    robert January 26, 2015 at 10:57 am | | Reply

    It’s always weird to see all the husbands getting totally drunk, while the women stay sober to drive them home afterwards. The ritualized drinking and toasting takes time to get used to, when you come from a culture where drinking is considered something more casual.

    When people start playing games it’s also a bit odd, but it’s wide spread in China. Although it always reminds me of children’s birthdays. Then again, games usually stop once the lads reach a certain intoxication level. Then it’s just toasting and ganbei-ing.

    The other challenge is to keep politely refusing any offers for cigarettes. That can be a bit awkward if the favorite uncle’s mini-game is to get the foreigner to smoke one of those terrible cigarettes of his… variations of the game are people who constantly want to toast to you and figure out oh much baijiu you can stomach before you drop.

    Then there’s the usual awkwardness, of being the only foreigner in the room, and with a few exceptions nobody speaks English, except for the one guy with the PhD and the student who wants to practice her English skills. Good thing is, you get a lot of bonus points if you join the drinking game (no need to talk there, eventually it’s just toasting, laughing, patting each other’s back and swearing friendship and brotherhood and stuff like that) – and more bonus points from the parents, who’re too old to fully participate, when you know when to stop 😉

    Can’t really say all this is especially awkward, but an experience nonetheless. Just play along, be friendly, don’t get smashed, be able to laugh at yourself and you’ll have a good time and many new friends afterwards 🙂

  4. Cat
    Cat January 26, 2015 at 11:47 am | | Reply

    I love how you don’t shy away from writing about awkward topics, I really admire that. Even though I am not living in China I spend a considerable amount of time at my Chinese fiance’s parent’s home here in Australia and I find there are so many (often small) things that are awkward, different or difficult. I find your blog such a great source for dealing with these things!

  5. Sarah@Diaries of a Yangxifu
    [email protected] of a Yangxifu January 26, 2015 at 1:19 pm | | Reply

    I love the first photo of you, Jocelyn, it looks very awkward!

  6. Nuria
    Nuria January 26, 2015 at 1:26 pm | | Reply

    I remember using a chamber pot (but no lid, made of plastic) until I was 5, and I’m just 28. I’m from Spain and it was normal back then. I think now it’s not so popular anymore. I only used it at night, so I didn’t have to walk to the toilet, instead I pulled it out from under my bed, peed, and kept it back down there. Next morning my mother would empty it and clean it :). One of my friends remembers having a transparent pot and using it while family was watching TV on the living room but instead she was watching the transparent pot getting steamy and opaque XDDD.

  7. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen January 26, 2015 at 1:46 pm | | Reply

    That first photo really illustrates your point. That’s an awkward (and painful) situation that can happen anywhere in the world, I suppose.

    The Chinese we socialized with in Manila never took the drinking competitions to extremes, but when my husband went on business trips to Korea, there was a lot of pressure to drink too much. He solved the problem to his satisfaction by drinking some of his counterparts under the table to prove himself. After that he was able to refuse excessive amounts of alcohol, and he even scheduled meetings for breakfast or lunch. It’s too bad he felt he had to go to such an extreme.

  8. Marta
    Marta January 26, 2015 at 7:28 pm | | Reply

    When you are not married, the most asked question during the Chinese New Year dinner is: “When will you get married?”, followed by suggestions of having kids as soon as possible, of course. I am lucky that I have never been pressured by my boyfriend’s family, I have only been asked once and it was because his grandma had been drinking a little too much huang jiu…

  9. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories January 26, 2015 at 8:40 pm | | Reply

    My in-laws also don’t have a conventional toilet in their home. They use a bucket without any running water instead. We stayed there once for a few weeks and I also got my period. Luckily, they live in a city and I could move into a hotel for that time. It would have been way too embarrassing to use the bucket. They don’t only use it at night, but also during the day.

  10. Mary
    Mary January 28, 2015 at 2:10 am | | Reply

    Wow Jocelyn, kudos to you on the chamberpot.. I could never do that!!! (especially on my period, eep!!).

    As for the pressure to get married, I personally never had to deal with it but my Chinese friend’s would bring me to their house for new year’s to take off some pressure. My friend told me, “if I bring an American to my village, they’ll all focus on you and won’t bother me so much about getting married!”

  11. Eileen黃愛玲
    Eileen黃愛玲 January 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm | | Reply

    When my husband was little growing up in Taipei, he also used the chamber pot. xD

    I can relate to number two so much. I remember my first Chinese New Year in Taiwan. Although, nobody vomited at least. Nobody asked my husband and I if we are going to have kids. It was never brought up not even once.

    Those are some awkward situations but you handled it with grace. 🙂

  12. Fred
    Fred January 29, 2015 at 6:32 am | | Reply

    @ Jocelyn.

    I am in agreement with your in-laws that it is about time for you and Jun to have at least one child. Remember, do not worry as we Chinese have a saying: “when the ship arrives at the port, it will somehow dock by itself.” Also, I recall that you told me that your parents in-law promised to care for and raise your child for you up to a certain age during the time when you and Jun are busily working in the big city earning the big bucks. So, you have nothing to worry about. Take care and I want to see you pregnant soon.!!!!

  13. HopelessRomantic
    HopelessRomantic January 30, 2015 at 10:55 am | | Reply

    I think you have a typo in item number one of your post–“As I’ve written before, being married for 10 years with kids can be a pretty awkward situation in China.” I’m guessing you meant to say that you are without kids, but typed it too quickly. 🙂

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