A Teacher's Advice to His Students for Staying Safe During Spring Festival
As a teacher at a study abroad program here in Beijing, I feel it's my duty not only to introduce the wonders of Chinese civilization to impressionable young minds from America but also to keep them safe. Each year, it is customary for me to prepare a short talk to acquaint the students with the Spring Festival. Happy New Year to all and stay safe.
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Greetings China Newbies:
Tonight is the beginning of Spring Festival. For many of you this will be the craziest, happiest, and most exciting night of your time studying in China. I hope you all have fun celebrating the Year of the Flaming Cock.
Yes, a question…
No, that is neither a euphemism nor a reason to call your university’s legal department. It is the actual date on the Chinese Lunar-Solar calendar. Don’t blame me, blame the Yellow Emperor.
Yes, another question…
No, that is not a racial epithet or form of imperialist micro-aggression, it is his actual title. We okay? Good.
As you take part in the festivities this weekend, please consider the following advice so that you can stay safe and healthy.
Be careful with fireworks. Consider for a moment the amount of care and attention Chinese manufacturers pay to things like “Quality Control” and “Product Safety.” Now look at the explosive device you are holding in your hand and which you just purchased from some dude squatting in a tent on the side of the road. Fireworks are part of the culture and they can be fun, but every year at this time the emergency room is filled with horrible injuries. They are often the kinds of injuries which will leave the victim answering to new and interesting nicknames like “Lefty,” “Three-Finger Zhou,” and “No Scrotum Li.”
Question … You say you saw a grown man help his toddler son light a string of fireworks? Yes, that sometimes happens. Follow up question … No, I don’t think it’s part of a government program designed to retroactively return to the One Child Policy. The guy’s just an idiot.
Drinking is also an integral component of Lunar New Year festivities. Remember however that “baijiu” is defined in the Kangxi Dictionary as “liquid regret flavored with ethanol.” It is perfectly appropriate, preferable really, to say, “No, thanks.” Your host will not think you are being rude if you decide to stick to Sprite. On the other hand, they will think you are being rude if you drunkenly vomit half-digested dumplings as you suggestively grope their cat.
Your host family will make you watch something called the Spring Festival Gala. No, it’s not your imagination or the baijiu fumes … it really is that bad. Yes, it does seem surprisingly similar to Donald Trump's inaugural gala.
It is customary to present a gift to your host family. They may reciprocate. If your host father hands you an envelope of cash he is not, despite what last year’s students told you, being “pervy.” You should thank him and wish him a Happy New Year. If however he hands it to you while wearing only bedroom slippers and suggestively groping his cat, that is pervy and you should call a grown up.
Finally, never get into a car with somebody who has been drinking. The Beijing government is getting tougher about drinking and driving, but attitudes toward driving under the influence here are lax by US standards. Caution is also necessary when traveling around the city or walking in the area around campus. It is an unfortunate reality that many drivers today and tomorrow will be lit up like a forest fire. Especially avoid any Black Audis, just trust me on this.
Enjoy the holiday! See you on the other side.
More stories by this author here.
Jeremiah Jenne is a writer, educator, and historian based in Beijing. You can follow him on Twitter @granitestudio.