What did people talk about during Chinese New Year (apart from the Olympics and Gǔ Àilíng)?
Here are two things: money and relationships.
So that’s what we’ll discuss this week.
Conversation worth consuming: interviews with busy side-hustlers making a profit while everyone else goes on holiday for New Year.
Words of the week: idioms about battle and conflict - resisting pressures to get married when going home for Chinese New Year.
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1. CONVERSATIONS WORTH CONSUMING
It wasn’t over-eating and endless family visits for everyone over the Chinese New Year holidays.
As we learn in interviews with hardworking side-hustlers (36Kr - in Chinese) in Beijing and Shanghai, some people were making some extra cash while most other people were spending it.
The seven-day Spring Festival holiday for most people is an opportunity to spend time together with family. But there are always people who do not even rest during the holidays. They hustle while most people take a break from the pressures of ‘involuted’ work, busy making a bit of extra cash.
Popular holiday side-hustles include:
代养宠物 dài yǎng chǒngwù
pet sitting - also affectionately known as a ‘shit shovelling officer’, 铲屎官 chǎn shǐ guān
卖二手奢侈品 mài èrshǒu shēchǐ pǐn
selling second-hand luxury goods
主动报名加班 zhǔdòng bàomíng jiābān
proactively applying for over-time at big tech firms
春节减肥师 chūnjié jiǎnféi shī
Spring Festival weight loss coach
电影黄牛 diànyǐng huángniú
cinema ticket tout / scalper
There are plenty of useful words in the interviews. The whole article is well worth a read if you get a chance.
Here are a selection of words about work, reward and timing.
春节经济 chūnjié jīngjì - Spring Festival economics
大厂们在春节期间都在备战“春节经济” - The big tech companies are preparing for economic opportunities brought about by the Spring Festival holidays.
搞钱 gǎo qián - make money
总有人，还在背后偷偷“内卷”，即便放假也还在努力搞钱，忙着利用春节的假期，小赚一笔 - There are always people who do not even rest during the holidays. They hustle while most people take a break from the pressures of ‘involuted’ work, busy making a bit of extra cash.
More: more of a slang usage compared to 挣钱 or 赚钱. Implies money made through activities which are less reputable. ‘Making a bit of extra cash on the side’.
犒劳 kào láo - reward
春节前后，会赶上各大企业的员工发年终奖，大多数女生会想买一个比较大的物件犒劳一下自己 - Around New Year is when the big companies issue end of year bonuses. Lots of women like to buy something quite expensive to reward themselves.
Note: 比较大 here means expensive, not big.
饱和 bǎohé - saturated, at full capacity
我初一到初七的单子就已经接满了，工作量都已经饱和了，不能再接了 - I’ve taken on as many clients as I can for the seven days of the holiday. I’m now at capacity and I can’t take on any more.
不菲 bù fěi - expensive, high price
这份工作我就不需要付出太多的时间精力，时间上也非常灵活和自由，还能获得不菲的报酬 - This job doesn’t require too much time and energy of me. It’s also flexible and there’s a lot of freedom in terms of timing. And it pays quite well too.
高潮期 gāocháo qī - peak time
第一个高潮期是在过年前，很多人都有为了回老家前减肥的需要 - The first peak period is before the Chinese New Year. That’s when lots of people want to lose weight before they go home to see their families.
忏悔期 chànhuǐ qī - period of repentance (equivalent of Dry January)
还有一个就是过年后，在放纵吃喝后，大家就会进入忏悔期，也有这方面的需要 - And the next peak is after the New Year. That’s at time when people repent after over-indulging themselves. They need support to lose weight at this time too.
放纵 fàngzòng - indulgence
买菜钱 mǎi cài qián - money to buy groceries; pocket money, extra cash
我其实只能算是个小代理，想在春节期间赚点买菜钱 - I’m just a small agent, making a bit of money on the side - a bit of extra pocket money.
图一乐 tú yī lè - do something you enjoy
也挺感兴趣这个行业的，而且这个也不会耽误太多时间，就是图一乐 - This industry is really interesting. And it also doesn’t take up too much time. It’s just a bit of fun for me.
2. WORDS OF THE WEEK
What not to talk about during Chinese New Year
Interviews with 20- and 30-something women about their ‘fear’ of going home during Chinese New Year reveal the social pressure to get married that still exists in China.
On returning home from their high pressure working lives in city, they face a different kind of pressure from their family and friends in their hometown. It’s called 催婚 cuī hūn, pressure to get married.
Going home for Chinese New Year there are three fears: fear of parents having a heart-to-heart chat, fear of relatives asking how you are, and fear of meeting old school friends. Because in all scenarios there is no escape for this 28-year-old woman from being nagged about getting married.
The story of one of the interviewees, 小雪 Xiǎo Xuě, is typical. She lives in Shenzhen, is approaching 30-years old and still doesn’t have a partner.
For young women like me, who are away from home working in China’s cities, pressure to get married is an inevitable part of going home for New Year. Resistance to it, in turn, becomes an essential tactic to learn.
There is so much useful language in the 36Kr article and would recommend putting 20 minutes aside to read the whole thing if you can. Very entertaining read.
Here is some of the language your could drop into conversations about 催婚 cuī hūn.
愁 chóu - worry
他们就愁得睡不着觉，整夜失眠 - They are so worried they can’t sleep. They are awake all night.
相亲 xiāngqīn - blind date arranged through family, friends or an intermediary
28岁那一年，林然被亲戚们介绍了9个相亲对象 - When she was 28, Lin Ran’s family arranged 9 blind dates for her when she was home for New Year.
Related: 反相亲派 fǎn xiāngqīn pài - anti-blind-dater
作为坚定的反相亲派，刘曦无法接受自己像商品一样 - As a dedicated anti-blind-dater, Liu Xi cannot accept being treated as a product for sale.
奔三 bēn sān - ‘running three’ - hurtling towards 30 years-old
已经在“奔三”路上的90后，有46.4%的人目前仍为单身状态 - Of the women born in the ‘90’s who are fast-approaching 30 years old, 46.4% are still single.
招数 zhāo shù - tricks, tactics
也有一些年轻人，经历了多年的被催婚后，总结出了一套反催婚招数 - Some young people have developed a whole range of resistance tactics after many years of being pressured to get married.
Related: 套路 tào lù - strategy (usually negative tone - see 10 July 2021 newsletter).
谈资 tán zī - topic of conversation
再也不会成为别人茶余饭后的谈资了 - Will never again be the topic of after-dinner conversations around the New Year dinner table.
Related: 茶余饭后 cháyú fànhòu - leisure time after dinner conversation
卖惨 mài cǎn - ‘selling suffering’, seeking sympathy through sharing pain, giving a sob story
本来以为‘卖惨’可以让妈妈反省，没想到适得其反 - I really thought that the sob story I gave to my mother would cause her to reflect on what she’s doing to me. I did not expect it to have the opposite effect!
适得其反 shìdé qífǎn - backfire (see 17 July, 2021 newsletter).
一股脑 yī gǔ nǎo - the whole lot together
把工作和生活的压力、被催婚的焦虑，一股脑地发泄了出来 - She vented all of her frustrations about work pressures and pressure to get married in one go.
Related: 一口气 yī kǒuqì - in one breath, can also mean ‘in one go’
道德绑架 dàodé bǎngjià - put moral pressure on somebody, emotional blackmail
父母的催婚话术，有的可以说是到了道德绑架的地步 - Some of what my parents say when pressuring me to get married, I would say is going as far as being emotional blackmail.
Idioms in these conversations are, tellingly, about covert operations, conflict and going into battle - great examples of how ancient Chinese idioms are used in modern settings.
暗度陈仓 àndù chéncāng - advance secretly along an unknown path, act before the enemy is aware
有人创办年轻人思想的公众号，“暗度陈仓”反催婚 - Some people start social media accounts for young people, quietly rebelling against the pressures on young women to get married.
以柔克刚 yǐróu kègāng - fighting hardness with softness, playing the emotional card
林然与爸妈的催婚拉锯战，一开始是“硬碰硬”的反抗、吵架后来，她换了个思路，学会“以柔克刚” - Lin Ran and her parents would not give up in their disagreement. To begin with she took a hard approach to rebel and argue. But she eventually realised that she should change her tac, learning how to play the emotional card.
拉锯战 lājù zhàn - ‘tug of war’, evenly matched
剑拔弩张 jiànbá nǔzhāng - ‘draw sword, tense bow’ - confront each other
他们也是出于爱意，我也不想剑拔弩张，还不如套用职场闯关经验 - They are coming from a place of love, and I don’t want to confront them, so why not use some of the skills I’ve learned in my professional life.
More: 闯关 chuǎng guān - overcome challenges, make breakthroughs (usually in work, or in a game)
反客为主 fǎnkè wéizhǔ - turn from a guest into a host; gain the initiative; reverse roles
春节前，晓瑜发现，有一种“反客为主”的反催婚话术在小红书上收获了上万点赞 - Before the Spring Festival, Xiao Yu discovered a way to gain the initiative by reversing roles in the conversations about pressure to get married as a resistance tactic which received tens of thousands of likes on RED.
知难而退 zhīnán értuì - retreat in the face of difficulties or overwhelming odds
既让爸妈觉得自己态度积极，也让他们知难而退，因为很难找到符合条件的人选 - On one hand I let my parents think I’m being proactive, on the other I make them think that they should stop nagging, because it is difficult and takes time to find a man that meets my requirements.
This is the one colloquial phrase needed to discuss this topic.
男大当婚，女大当嫁 nán dà dāng hūn, nǚ dà dāng jià - upon reaching a certain age every male should take a wife and every female should take a husband
父母一辈仍被“男大当婚女大当嫁”的传统婚恋观念驱动 - My parents are of the generation that are still driven by the traditional concepts of love and marriage: ‘upon reaching a certain age every male should take a wife and every female should take a husband’.
More: the problem is there’s no clear definition of how old is the right age - 适婚年龄 shìhūn niánlíng - age to get married.
New features in the membership
Today’s words and phrases are already uploaded on the member site where you can listen to audio alongside the downloads and resources. Become a member to access them…
Also new in the member’s area this week:
Pleco downloads are now fully integrated into the Substack Archive and Downloads page! Under each issue of the newsletter you will find a Pleco download which opens in your Pleco app, as well as other resources, all next to the 🔥 Fire emoji.
There is also a new section in the membership area - Video Resources. This is where I will share my experiences on common challenges that come up when learning Chinese. I’ve already uploaded a 6-min video on how to use this newsletter to master your tones in Chinese. The aim is to do a new one each week.
As a member of the community you get access to unique resources to help you master modern Mandarin, learn, use, and understand Chinese language the way people speak it today.
📚 Resources: Pleco downloads, word lists, and example sentences print-outs and audio download for each issue
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🤓 Archive: full database of all words and phrases in the archive (nearly 1,300!) searchable according to word-type, sector and topic with audio and example sentences for each entry, updated weekly.
Finally, below are three stories which didn’t make the cut for this week’s newsletter, but are great for practicing your Chinese.
Consumers: 一墩难求，冰墩墩是怎么火的 - the surreal mascot of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Bing Dwen Dwen, goes viral in China and totally sells out. A new idiom is born, from the original 一票难求 yī piào nán qiú - tickets are hard to come by. This is a long read so grab a cuppa first.
Sport: 同工同酬！这是女足应该拥有的权益 - China women’s national soccer team defeated South Korea 3-2 to win the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Netizen’s mocked the China men’s team and ask why are the women not paid the same as men? This article is a very quick read. There’s a good one in SupChina in English too.
Politics: 人民日报评论：防止资本无序扩张不是不要资本，而是要资本有序发展 - a shorter and slightly more digestible version of the People’s Daily piece on disorderly expansion of capital. A must-read if you want to keep your political lingo on message and up to date.
That’s it for this week.
I look forward to seeing you in your inbox same time next weekend.
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