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The Chinese Workweek: China's Changing Holiday Schedule

By Edited Mar 28, 2014 0 0
Nanjing West Road, Shanghai
Credit: flickr: L1mey

Business as usual in Nanjing Xi Lu, Shanghai.

   It’s the beginning of November and flight prices are starting to go up on those vacation plans you had for the end of the year. You successfully applied for leave days with work to coincide perfectly with the days off from Christmas and New Year’s and you’re all set to spend a couple weeks away. But the first week of December rolls around and you wake up to the news that your government just removed a couple of those days off in January and you’ve suddenly got workdays blowing holes in the middle of your time with the in-laws. Even better though, it seems they’ve modified the entire public holiday schedule for the following year.

   Sounds like a weak April fool’s joke, right? Incredibly, this just happened last week in China. The General Office of the State Council, the national body responsible for managing public holidays in the People’s Republic of China released their new holiday schedule for the 2014 year receiving a mixed bag of reactions from the public.

   Things work a little differently in China, to say the least. For starters, they do not celebrate Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter; they have their own key celebrations like the Spring Festival (more commonly known as ‘Chinese New Year’), Labor Day, and National Day. Funnily enough, both the Labor and National ‘days’ are actually week-long holidays.

   What you may not know though, is that in China, public holidays are traditionally moved. The days they actually fall on are manipulated by the State so that they maximize the amount of consecutive days that an employee takes off. Sounds lovely, right? It would be, if they moved the actual holidays but instead they move the weekends. For example, New Years Eve is a day off in China and it falls on a Wednesday in the 2014 year starting next month. So instead of having two work days on either side of a day off and then the weekend, like… every other country in the world, they will move Saturday and Sunday’s days off to the Thursday and Friday. Cheers, China, thanks for the three days off! Not so fast though, you now have to work on Saturday and Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday, and the rest of the following week. Graciously giving you three days off is followed by sinisterly giving you a seven day work week.

   This bitter scheduling may seem like a hard pill to swallow but for expats living and working all over China it is something we all get used to rather quickly. You offset your discomfort of working weekends by making full use of those consecutive days for a trip off to a nearby beach in the Philippines or Thailand. But the tables have turned, once again I find myself at the mercy of the decisions of the State. The true pity party though, belongs to the populace of this country, over three times the amount of people as the US, who got told yesterday that the way they lived for the last several decades just changed overnight!

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