Tag Archives: sexism

The Chinese New Year’s Office Party – Decadence, Sexism and Serious Drinking

Annual office party? Sure, that’s where you get unreasonably pissed, embarrass yourself in front of your colleagues and bosses by a) stripping to your undies (mostly men) or b) singing Karaoke really badly (all genders, especially one Bridget Jones) and generally have a fun day/night on the town sponsored by accounting. Especially in the UK, it can get pretty wild, with ample booze involved.

But nothing I ever experienced in Europe had me prepared for the crazy bonanza that is the Chinese New Year Office Party. The ones I have witnessed do, interestingly, seem to have a lot in common with a Chinese wedding. Here are a few things I learned from attending Mr Li’s company bash a few years ago and the one or other viral post that gives a rare glimpse into a world of decadence and serious sexism.

*Note that these parties are nowadays much more common in private companies; after the crackdown on corruption most state-owned companies have had to tone it down considerably and I believe many of them don’t hold any celebration anymore.

didi chuxing annual party
The annual party of taxi app Didi saw performances of major Chinese superstars; employees allegedly received up to 1000 RMB in virtual red envelopes on WeChat

The Venue

Because of the whole concept of face, you can be pretty certain that any company worth their salt is going to pull out the big guns when hosting a CNY party. It will be a five-star hotel with at least 100 tables and there will be a massive stage, if the company can afford it. The more I think about it, the more it really is very similar to a Chinese wedding extravaganza. Except with fewer flowers and random decorative elements.

At the event in question, there was even a large screen showing videos and speeches and even offering the opportunity for people to send a Wechat message that would then flash across the screen. It quickly descended into a slightly childish game of people calling each other silly names, which let’s face it, is the whole point of such a function.

CNY party screen wechat
Little Zhang loves Cherry – what else do you use a massive WeChat screen for?

The Show

Tencent got some rather embarrassing and unwanted attention after photos of their recent CNY bash were leaked showing female employees being forced to mimic blow-jobs on stage on a bottle tucked between male colleague’s nether-regions. This sounds pretty bad, and sadly, it’s not one extreme example but rather the norm. Since the CNY gala is the opportunity for Crystal in Marketing to get the big bosses’ attention, every employee will work seriously hard to put on a good show. My husband’s work group rehearsed their dance for two or three weeks, I kid you not.

However, grabbing the bosses attention as a woman in China, and the big boss almost inevitably will be male, still mostly equates to one classic mantra: sex sells. In addition, the concept of “professionalism” as it exists in the west, doesn’t really exist in China. And so Crystal will inevitably strap on her way-too-mini skirt and twerk as if her career depended on it (which it ultimately does) up on a stage in front of hundreds of employees and, yes, that big boss who might just be enchanted by her butt.

But then Cherry in Admin emerges as a dark horse and brings it home – those hours of professional dance class just for the purpose of this one moment are finally paying off.

Twerk as if your career depended on it…

The only redeeming quality that this circus of sexism had was that one of the work groups didn’t take it all quite that serious (or rather they did), and had a group of male employees run around dressed up in sexy women’s attire and twerk their way across the stage. It seemed like an ironic commentary, and so I enjoyed it. I do hope that at some point the girls will do a dance in a suit though. Gimme some of that woman power!

The Drinking

This was the most fascinating part of the evening. As with weddings, the big bosses of course had to go from table to table and cheers every single employee. For Mr Li it was an opportunity to show off his foreign wife; as the only Western person at the event, I did stick out like a sore thumb and as usual got some awkward attention. Though it did seem to help him gain some brownie points, which I guess is a good thing for him.

The junior table I was sitting at had maybe bitten off a bit more than they could chew. Or rather chugged a bit more than they could stomach. And not been eating enough of the grand banquet that was being served up. Aside from Baijiu and red wine, they had smuggled in some stronger liquor, Korean Soju if memory serves, and were egging each other on to drink as much as possible. It didn’t help, I reckon, that they were curious to see how much I could drink, and Soju and wine are my fortes. Whereas the young stallions were knocked out pretty quickly by the mixture and so, all of the sudden there were two or three young men spewing up on the carpet of this five-star hotel. That was probably the most surreal moment I have ever experienced in China, especially since no one really seemed that bothered about it.

Torn between disbelief and empathy, I felt for the young lads, since had I entered a Baijiu competition I wouldn’t have made it very far either. Though when I ended up tipping my insides out during my last office party in the UK, at least I managed to do so outside on the pavement, rather than on the expensive carpet of an exclusive hotel.

Have you ever been to a CNY Office Party in China? What has your experience been? Wishing you a happy New Year!


PhD after 25 equals no husband or family? Marriage pressure on Chinese women

Laura. I’m a graduated student. 25years old. I wanna go to Canada get a PhD. But my parents worries about my age. They think I’m too old when I’m finished my PhD degree. Coz I don’t have a boyfriend n 30 is a little bit old for a female to have child. So what should I do?

Intercultural relationships

This was a question I received on my WeChat account the other day and it made me incredibly sad because it points the things about Chinese culture I struggle with the most – the terrible sexism and pressure on young Chinese women in relation to marriage and family.

This message could have been written by any number of my Chinese friends I know from uni, many of whom are still single but all of them face the incomprehension and mighty pressure from their parents’ generation. The belief that if you are not married at 25 as a woman in China you will not find a husband is still incredibly common, so much so that the media has popularized the disgusting term “leftover women”. The men also face pressure but less so.

Many women who struggle to find partners are highly educated and successful because Chinese men tend to marry down, looking for women who earn less and have lower degrees than them. So, to this young woman, deciding to do a PhD at 25 might well be saying good-bye to her prospects of finding a “good” husband. Staying single though means failing at life in China.

The pressure is so much that many women do not want to go home during Chinese New Year because they will face endless badgering about when they will finally get married. This has even led to the emergence of a new market, the “fake boyfriend market”, where young students will rent themselves out to pretend to be a boyfriend in front of the parents to appease them.

In the past, the dating window in which to find your partner was worryingly small. Of course you were not allowed to date in high-school. University was, and for a dwindling number, still is the time for Chinese youngsters to experience their first romance. Leaving women with about five years to find a partner.

However, many couples break up after graduating university; being from different hometowns they often return to their families and their relationship cannot survive. The phenomenon is so common it even has its own term “毕业分手“, the “graduation break-up”. This leaves most women with about a two to three year-window to find the right guy. And you thought you had it tough, ey?

Despite all the negativity, I chose to see the big strides China’s women are making. Here is my response to the young woman.

Hello dear Li!

Thank you for sending me your question. I felt very emotional reading your words, since after almost two years in China, I finally understand the pressure young Chinese girls are under and it breaks my heart.

I personally think if you want to do a PhD you should DEFINITELY do it. Do not have any regrets in your life when you are old. I am certain you will find your right partner, who knows you might meet him in Canada. If you go abroad you will certainly have more time to look for someone because there is no concept of 剩女. Age matters much less, and there is no idea that you are ever really too old to get married.

In most Western societies it is very common for people to get married after they are thirty years old and many have children in their thirties. My mother had me, her only child, when she was 36. Now that medicine has progressed, that is a very common age abroad to have a child. There is a lot less pressure to get married compared to China, if you do not get married or have children that does not mean your life has failed. You can do amazing things with your life, such as have a great and successful career. Your PhD is another step on the road to a bright and independent future.

Even if you stay in China you cannot be sure you will meet a good guy to marry, so it is smarter to invest as much as you can in your own future, and a PhD will help you achieve your own success.

In terms of your parents, I think you can help them worry less by telling them this: even in China the age to get married is slowly increasing. Especially in bigger cities. I have many friends who are your age and older and are not married. One of my friends works in Shanghai and many of her colleagues are over 30 years and still single. I think your situation is very common in today’s China. Your generation has dreams they want to pursue and it is becoming quite common to focus on career but the older generation is not able to understand that times have changed.

Aside from telling your parents that they don’t need to worry because abroad you have more time and because even here in China it is now common to wait, maybe try to explain what could happen if you do not wait. You might just marry some boy you know very little just to please them, and then you might divorce because you find out you are not a good match. I am sure your parents are concerned about your happiness, so hopefully they will take this to heart.

Finally, you can promise that you will attend some events abroad that can help you find a partner, there are many societies at university where you can meet people and with a bit of luck you will meet the right one.

I hope this helps and I sincerely wish that you can fulfil your dream of a PhD in Canada. I wish you all the luck in the world!


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