Why is Chinese New Year special?

Why is Chinese New Year special?

It’s widely known that Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is special and doesn’t have a specific day like the Gregorian calendar: Every year is different!





While living in China, I was able to perceive that, alike western countries, Chinese people celebrate the Chinese New Year’s Eve which is extremely important for the entire population regardless their social statuses, political affiliations, financial situations or educational levels. Everyone gets ready for this remarkable occasion by being involved in particular activities of complete jubilation. 

The importance of the Chinese Spring Festival reaches the highest level that migrating workers (people working in other distant areas, mostly rural) travel to their hometowns by train for around 15 or more hours. So, congestion at train stations is inevitable and there are people who take advantage of this high demand for tickets to resell them and earn some extra money.  In addition, most of companies both public and private have one-week recess to give their employees the opportunity to rejoice this memorable event.

Another peculiar aspect is the Chinese Zodiac. It is a 12-year cycle and each year is identified with a different animal. Those 12 animals are: Dog, dragon, horse, monkey, ox, pig, rabbit, rat, rooster, sheep, snake and tiger. It’s interesting because based on your birth month, an animal will be assigned to you. Many Chinese people firmly believe in the designations of each animal and behave accordingly. Personally, I only believe in positive things and ignore the rest.

A few days before New Year, houses are decorated with banners in red color of important historical figures, icons as a symbol of good luck and the animal representing that year. People’s moods are noticeably striking which allow them to carry out their duties in a more relaxed and joyful way.

In the evening of the New Year’s Eve, relatives get together to have a special dinner which includes, among others, rice, cabbage, eggplant, tofu, pork, beef, fish, chicken and the unavoidable traditional dumplings.






In several Spring Festivals, I had the chance “to help” in the preparation process of dumplings which are made of flour and filled with pork or beef and some vegetables. Actually, I’m not sure how helpful was my participation because my culinary skills are rated as “non-existing” and this rating is constantly descending.

Anyway, the most gratifying aspect while preparing dumplings was the integration among friends and relatives, with joy, laughter and drinks. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol beverages, but many Chinese people don’t have hesitation to keep themselves “hydrated” with these “mood-transforming drinks.”

Similar to western countries, in China, fireworks on special events like Spring Festival are very popular for their colorful intensity and duration.

After dinner, which may last several hours, traditional people tend to watch special TV programs especially prepared for the occasion. Drinking, smoking and chatting are the key ingredients during this period.




The next day, the New Year’s first day, the common tradition is to visit other relatives, such as grandparents, parents and siblings. During that encounter, some memories and promises of plans for the New Year are shared among them and the most important intention is to reinforce their family bonds as some of them only see each other once a year.

As part of the normal evolution, this tradition is changing in China and now, it’s normal to find western customs such as Christmas trees, jingle bells, and other non-Chinese traditional adornments.

When I asked some of my Chinese friends for the reasons of adopting, for example, a Christmas tree, they were unable to provide a logical reason. One of the answers was: “Just because it’s common all over the world.”

It’s clear this has been influenced by advertisement and foreign culture being introduced after China started taking part in the globalization process; however, in my opinion, Chinese parents or schools should teach their kids to be authentic without following the masses or trends blindly. It’s a hard task but worth trying it to preserve the Chinese cultural heritage. 


Bottom line

If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


  • Have you ever participated in a Spring Festival’ activity in China?
  • What aspects have caught your attention?
  • Do you believe in the Zodiac predictions?
  • What do you think of visiting some of your relatives only in the New Year?


Why do Asian people change their names?

Why do Asian people change their names?


Recently, the “cool trend” of many Asian people to change their names is increasingly becoming more popular. I can only speak about some citizens of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore.

But, what’s wrong with this?




Great question! And the answer is clear: There is nothing wrong that people change their names.

What is controversial and inappropriate, in my opinion, is the fact the names are changed but not officially in their identity documents. Just an informal change.

I was able to see this phenomenon more often when living in China. Especially Chinese students feel a sort of necessity to change their names simply because foreigners, according to students, have a very hard time to pronounce their names, so they want to make foreigners’ lives easier.

This is acceptable for a temporary period of time or as part of pedagogical activities, but that’s it.

For me, this kind of name change shows lack of self-esteem and strong personality. And that’s exactly what some students demonstrated when they told me with bold honesty, “I don’t like my name as it’s ugly and hard to pronounce.”

Well, feeling that way is perfectly normal; however, doing nothing to remediate the situation is what I disagree with.



I’ve had the opportunity to work with many Chinese people and some of their “adopted” names are: Maria, Teresa, Cindy, Rebecca, Rose, Peter, John, Paul, Richard, Tom, to mention just a few. But when we need to find them in the company intranet, is not unusual to find something like ‘Ai’, ‘Feng’, ‘Huan’, ‘Jia’, ‘Bao’, ‘Chen’, ‘Dong’.

This is totally misleading!

When I asked a friend why he had the hidden name ‘Bao’, he just replied with his face turning reddish, “Never mind. Just call me Peter.” I understood the message he felt ashamed of his real name, so I kept silent to respect his decision.

Up to this point, this is just a matter of low self-esteem or temporary personality instability or the trivial desire of following the “trend” that others started. At the end of the day, this can be easily fixed.

Nevertheless, the embarrassing situation comes when picking their names.



It’s inherent to human beings to make mistakes, but for God’s sake, try not to make two mistakes in a row! If you freely decided to change your name because of the reasons explained above or whatever other reason you may have, that would be a mistake that will not jeopardize your entrance to ‘Heaven’; however, if you are careless in doing your due diligence with a preliminary research of your new name meaning in the most common languages, your entrance to “Hell’ is guaranteed. That is for simply choosing Spanish names like the following:

“Caca”, “freak”, “perra” or “veneno”.

These were real names some students chose for themselves. When I told them their meanings, they actually decided not to change their Chinese names. You can Google their meanings and I’m sure you will immediately realize why choosing your new name randomly, may generate a high level of discombobulation.

For the time being, I can tell you that “perra” means a female dog. But female dogs are cute, smart, lovely, etc., you may wonder. Wait a minute, because “perra” also means “prostitute”. It’s up to you if still want to move forward with that name.

Something clear is regardless the name you choose, it’s very likely that such a name means something shameful in any language. My humble suggestion is:

  • Keep your freaking awesome original name
  • Look for the meaning of your new name in some languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, to name just a few
  • Or to keep it simple, just pick whatever name you like and don’t care for its meaning and what other people say about it

Bottom line

If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


  • Do you like your name?
  • Have you ever (unofficially) changed your name?
  • Why do people change their names?
  • Is it wrong that people change their names to please others?




Do Chinese people eat frogs?

Do Chinese people eat frogs?


Before coming to China, I had the preconception that Chinese people used to eat whatever had any sign of life. That basically excluded only minerals.

Well, it’s a not a secret that people around the world eat exotic food and China is not the exception. Although I wasn’t able to corroborate myself this preconception, there are indeed many options for a “healthy” diet Chinese people enjoy, and one of the preferred delicacies is frogs.

They are kept in a fishbowl at the entrance of a restaurant, so customers can choose which ones to be prepared for them. They are of different colors (brownish, greenish and whitish) and sizes, but all of them look vibrant.

If you’re coming from a culture where the conventional habits, customs or behavior are the only correct ones, you may be astonished by just thinking on tasting an appealing dish of a brownish and crunchy frog.

And that was exactly me!

Only thinking in tearing with my teeth the tender flesh of a well-fed frog, made me feel nauseated.



However, after seeing many times people enjoying with such delight those batrachians, my thoughts started to change but not to the point of eating them but to understand why they are so “courageous.”

If we analyze this situation carefully, it’s not a big deal!

Frogs are just animals like others: Chicken, fish, pigs, cows, etc. The difference is I and many other people are not used to eat them and therefore it’s a normal reaction to reject something new that our bodies are not used to assimilate with ease.


I would say it’s a matter of negative autosuggestion caused for all what had been said about non-orthodox food.


After several years living in China, I opted to keep them absent from my daily diet!


However, I had to admit I was tempted to be part of the large number of people who eat these animals naturally, with no hesitation and overall with noticeable enjoyment. At first, I dared to stand in front of the fishbowl trying to select the best choice to give it to the restaurant cook, but few seconds later, something deep inside told me: “What the heck are you going to do?” and that was sufficient for me to desist and immediately run away.

This situation was repeated several times but with the same outcome. At that time, I realized the powerful influence our minds have on anything we want to do or not to do. Sometimes, the image of a frog on a dish, adorned with vegetables and sauce and still with the steam flowing towards my nose which captured the scrumptious smell was clear and consistent; nevertheless, it was just a momentary image that was gradually fading and finally disappeared.



But wait a moment!

It’s not true that you will be cheated in a restaurant with a disguised frog instead of your favorite chicken. That’s not going to happen simply because frog meat is more expensive than other type of meat such as chicken, fish or beef to mention only some. So, it’s not profitable for the restaurant owner to give you his most precious asset for a lower price.

Does it give you a sort of relief?

If not, don’t worry!

It’s up to you! Take it or leave it!

Nobody will force you to eat anything. You are completely free to satisfy yourself by just observing how many Chinese people devour these amphibians of hideous appearance but with nutritive components.


If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


 Have you ever eaten frogs?

  • Do you consider frogs are healthy for human consumption?
  • What do you think of people who eat frogs?
  • Is this a matter of getting used to?


5 things to consider to work in China

5 things to consider to work in China


Regardless what your current situation is or what the naysayers express, it is possible to work in China or anywhere in the world. Consider the followings five aspects:



  1. Show your strongest skill


Believe me! Everyone is unique and therefore has a distinctive skill that can be shared to help others.

With that in consideration, the next step is to discover or refine that skill. For example:

If you like drawing or painting, Chinese culture is strong in art, and this skill can be applied for writing Chinese characters, both simplified and traditional, to depict nature, portraits, feelings, to represent the rich ancient and modern Chinese history and much more.

In regard to Chinese characters, it’s evident that technology has made this writing process much easier by using computer software to get the entire characters through pinyin as opposed to the conventional method that requires creating each single stroke by hand. I’m amazed for the effectiveness that predictive functions of Chinese writing software provide to us.

Another important and special skill is Cooking. Let’s start with the obvious irrefutable reality: Everyone must eat to remain alive! Well, despite there are people that take advantage of this basic need and become gluttonous! I even know some who faithfully support and apply this aphorism: “I live to eat and not eat to live”. 

In any case, cooking is also extremely important in China. Most gatherings, meetings, reunions or casual encounters include drinks and foods. Therefore, having culinary skills open myriad opportunities to work and, at the same time, to quench a person’s own dietary preferences.

But wait a minute! Cooking is definitely not for everyone!

As in many other professions, it requires passion, practice, patience, dedication, creativity, and a special touch to transform a list of ingredients into a master piece to pleasantly saturate people’s stomachs.

If you don’t know Chinese language, don’t worry! It’s not crucial for cooking as the main communication mean is taste and not verbal eloquence.

Teaching is the most widespread and, I would say, the easiest way to find a job in China. And teaching English is still highly demanded; However, other subjects can also be taught, such as: Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean (and other foreign languages), math, and other technical disciplines.

Language skills can also be used for translations or interpretations either on-site or remotely. There is also demand for phone interpretation tasks.

International or local big companies are always in search of highly-qualified personnel in areas like computer science (software development, cloud computing, mobile communication, electronics, and other technical fields), marketing and finance.

Recently, there has been a noticeable demand for coaches, mainly of soccer and basketball as these sports are growing in popularity among the new generations.

These are the most popular jobs required as of September 2018, so the list may vary based on the continuing changeable society’s needs.




  1. Know at least English

Around two decades ago, knowing a foreign language was an advantage to get a good job; nevertheless, despite it’s still important, it’s not sufficient due to the strong competitiveness.

One clear aspect is that everyone should manage several foreign languages (or at least English) to enter the labor market with some chances of succeeding due to the international influence that English has acquired through years in almost all subject matters.


  1. Learn Chinese

It’s a no-brainer the convenience to learn Chinese if you are living and working in China. However, nowadays, it’s not a mandatory requirement depending on the field you are working on and also considering that each time more and more Chinese people are learning English, so the communication is not a barrier to survive or to have pleasant experiences.

However, regarding important aspects, such as handling sensitive information, conducting business, dealing with medical-related topics, among others, knowing Chinese will definitely avoid headaches due to misinterpretations that are likely to happen.




  1. Be confident and persistent

Bear in mind that problems are normal parts of any activity we try to accomplish. The key point is to always be aware of that in order to get the necessary strength to find the best solution to every single obstacle.

Be prepared to hear many people saying some like “it’s impossible”, “there are no jobs”, “the process is too complicated”, “you have to learn Chinese in addition to other languages and Master’s Degrees in your discipline”. While some of those statements might be applicable in some cases, it’s also true that if you have a clear image of what you want, you will do whatever it takes to get it through persistence and organized actions.


  1. Get the proper visa


Righteousness always pay off!

So, getting the proper documentation to comply with immigration requirements is always advisable. In the end, it’s not a difficult process if you are qualified and can demonstrate that your skills are outstanding, or your expertise is demanded in certain areas.

The hardest, but not impossible part, is if you have skills where there is tight competition and therefore under-supply which is easily covered by Chinese applicants. 


Bottom line:


Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have superior education or a predominant skill required in the current Chinese employment market. There is always an opportunity to start getting prepared. However, always consider that the more efforts you make the higher the rewards; in addition, get yourself fully convinced that somebody is looking for what you have as well as somebody has what you are looking for.

If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


  • Have you ever worked in China?
  • What other job areas do you think are demanded in China?
  • Which city or cities did you work in?
  • Was Mandarin Chinese or Cantonese mandatory?
  • Any other recommendations for future foreigners working in China?



Chinese people don’t greet because they are polite

Chinese people don’t greet because they are polite

Culture, habits, manners, preferences, are different and should be different from places to places; that way, we would have plenty of options to adopt the ones that resonate most on us.

I come from a culture where greetings became part of my quotidianess since a very young age. I clearly remember, maybe at 5 years old, when my first teacher insisted every morning that we should greet whenever we enter a classroom or any building, or when meeting a person.

The punishment for those who forgot to greet was simple: Standing for 5 minutes on a corner and repeating, “I must greet every day”.

Fortunately, I never had to go to a corner. For me, obeying rules was something that came spontaneously and progressively became second nature. I was afraid of being scolded or rebuked even in a slight way.

That trait, habit or rooted manner of my behavior was deeply affected when I first came to China.



I remember when I entered in a classroom and said, “good morning!”, few students opened their mouths to at least make a sort of noise. I thought they didn’t hear properly, so I repeated it. The improvement was notorious but still there were some who looked at me without saying a single word.

“That’s because it’s their first time to see a foreigner and they may be intimidated”, I thought.

The next day in an elevator, there was only a man and I said, “Ni hao”. The man remained looking at the ground and made feel as if I didn’t exist. That situation was starting to worry me, so I retried and said again “Ni hao”, and this man shamelessly looked at me and said “nothing”.

My reasoning was:

  • Perhaps he didn’t understand my two-word Chinese greeting
  • Maybe he had hearing impairment
  • There was a chance he had a bad day
  • He was scared of me
  • He didn’t want to talk
  • We wasn’t used to greeting

I forgot that incident and continued with my activities.

However, a few days later, I was looking for an address and greeted a middle-age lady to get some help. When she heard my favorite Chinese, word pronounced with the highest level of correctness, ‘Ni hao’, she cast a glance at me and quickly turned around and disappeared at light speed.

Well, “there must be something wrong with me”, was my conclusion.



 So, after talking to some Chinese friends, I found out the answer. Chinese people don’t greet as foreign people usually do. They ask other kind of questions when meeting a stranger or when getting together with friends. The most of common greeting among Chinese friends is “Ni Chi fan le ma?” or the shortest version “Ni Chie le ma?”

Wow! That’s was a very helpful piece of information since I was about to get an incurable severe trauma!

Through time, I was getting used to this habit. I mean, I started to accept with patience that people kept silent when I greeted them; however, I did not, and I will never stop expressing others a sort of joyful salutation.

When traveling to other countries, especially in North America, I realized this type of behavior of not greeting was not exclusive to many Chinese people.  This “reaction” is wide-spread all over the world. That forced me to research about the reasons a bit deeper.

Two common denominators I found for people to greet or not, were the personality and the level of education. All extroverted Chinese people with any kind of higher education were always “ready” to warmly respond to greetings.  

Some may think, but Chinese people are shy, humble and not much prone to show their emotions freely. That’s an accurate statement but not for new generations who are assimilating foreign cultural habits and progressively adopting many of them.

Another aspect that I noticed was that only the starting point was hard (as in many things in life), because after I was able to break the ice, I was inundated by kindness and stupendous treatment that Chinese people gave me, and consequently, that transformed my stay in China in a memorable and formidable experience. 

Bottom line


If you have some experiences or opinions on this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.


  • Do you usually greet strangers?
  • Why do some people greet, and some others don’t?
  • Have you experienced a ‘non-greeting trend’ in certain countries?
  • What can you lose if you greet or if you don’t greet?
  • Is greeting a good trait or something meaningless?

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