How Do Yangnüxu (Foreign Sons-in-law) Celebrate Chinese Spring Festival?
Recently, more and more foreigners have come to Changsha. Some settle in and love to spend Spring Festival here. Here some yangnüxus (foreign sons-in-law) share their impressions of the festival.
Mario, a German Restaurant Owner in Changsha for 10 Years
“Spring Festival? Always work,” said Mario, 40, a German chef. He was invited to work in Changsha 10 years ago, came, and has stayed. His first reaction to Spring Festival was not to relax, but to keep busy.
After coming to Changsha, Mario met his wife-to-be, Liu Pei, in a bar. They fell in love, married and opened a German restaurant in Changsha. Not long ago, they moved it from Shengshi Road, Kaifu District, to the Yanghu Wetland Park. It doubled in size, and their lives remained very busy.
“Spring Festival for us is very short,” said Liu Pei. Only on Chinese New Year’s Eve will they close in order to join their family reunion dinner. Early the next morning, they will hurry back to the restaurant.
When asked why he doesn’t take a break, Mario explained that he had been in Changsha for 10 years and many of his friends would come to the restaurant for dinner during the holiday. He felt that if guests need to eat, then the cook needs to cook. In this sense, his job is like being a policeman or fireman—always needed.
But he also hopes to have a holiday. Then, after a long sleep, he will take his children to the cinema and join the Chinese New Year celebrations.
British Simon Embarrassed by Spring Festival Couplets and Character Fu Pasting
Changsha-born Liu Jia shared an interesting story about her British-born husband Simon when they spent a Spring Festival in Changsha. Before the festival, they had bought Spring Festival couplets and the Chinese character “Fu” (“blessing” in English). Liu Jia asked Simon to paste them on the doors and windows. Simon, not then able to read Chinese, pasted them upside down. Liu quickly corrected him. When he was posting “Fu” on the window, he showed the properly-pasted “Fu” to his wife. Liu corrected him again. Simon thought Liu was fooling him and asked, a bit peeved, “What do you want from me?” Liu couldn’t stop laughing and did not know how to explain “daofu’ in English to her husband. “Fu” is usually pasted upside down, as in Chinese an "upside-down” Fu is homophonic with "fu comes". Both are pronounced "fudaole."
Liu Jia said that she met with her husband via the Internet when she was studying in the UK. They married and now have a daughter and a son. In 2009, the couple returned to China and settled in Changsha. Later, their daughter, Daisy Liu, starred in "Balala the Fairies", and their son, Jozef Waite, is best known as "Xi Meng Zi" from the TV show "Grade One" which premiered in 2014 on the Hunan Broadcasting System.
Simon doesn't speak fluent Chinese. He has several vague concepts about the Spring Festival. Simon's taste in foods used to be very picky, and he rarely eats Chinese food. When the family gathers to have a reunion dinner on the Spring Festival Eve, Simon serves himself a KFC. Gradually, Simon found that his mother-in-law’s Chinese and Western cuisine fusion was wonderful, a mix of pasta and chopped chilies.
Canadian Martin speaks fluent Chinese
Waiting to see an acrobatic show and the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, and have more communication with parents during Spring Festival
Martin’s two greatest expectations for the Spring Festival, are the holiday itself and watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala.
Canada-born Martin, 34, is a true foreign son-in-law living in Changsha. He can speak fluent Chinese and play Tai Chi. He is skillful at traditional Chinese medicine. In 2007, he left Canada to study at the Hunan University of Chinese Medicine.
Martin and his wife have spent the Spring Festival holiday in Changsha since 2009. Before the holiday, they will take the children to a nearby Metro Supermarket to choose everything needed for Spring Festival, especially the couplets and the “Fu” characters. He is particularly concerned about the Spring Festival couplets selection since he believes that “They will be hanging for a year, must be chosen carefully.”
His Mandarin proficiency enables him to watch the Spring Festival Gala with family members together. As a fan of Tai Chi, he is particularly interested in the gala’s acrobatic performances. When it comes to the large-scale singing and dancing programs, he gives great praise, “The Chinese are so gorgeous that they can put so many people together to perform.”
Some Spring Festival points he still doesn’t quite “get”. For example, when buying things for the new year, his wife will chose Want Want Gift Packages. He thinks they are junk food, but she insists, “They add to the new year festivity.”
Martin understands that the Spring Festival is a “traditional family reunion occasion”. He believes it is an opportunity to communicate with family members. However, during the Spring Festival, he has noticed that many young people when they come home, do not chat with their relatives, but play on their mobile phones and watch TV. He says, “I think it shouldn’t be like this.”
He remarked that during Western festivals, children will drink and chat with their parents after dinner. “We’ll talk to our parents about our dreams. If you think this dream is great, we’ll discuss on how to realize it.”
Jan Sebastian Goldenstede from Germany
Gao Min describes her 34 year-old husband, Gao Jin (German name, Jan Sebastian Goldenstede) as a “budget husband”. Here’s an example:
Five years ago, during Spring Festival, they went to bainian, making a New Year visit, with their newly-born child. Gao Jin was extremely excited to receive many hongbao (red packets). This made Spring Festival his favorite. Over time, he found that he needed to give Hongbao to other newly-born kids during the festival. His opinion gradually changed a bit.
Gao Min said they met in Jiangsu Province in 2011. After their child was born, they decided to return to her home town, Changsha, and settled there. He works for a foreign-funded company: he sometimes works at home and sometimes has business trips to Shanghai, South Korea, and Australia. Most of the time, he works at home and is a bit lonely. The lively festive atmosphere makes him happy.
During the 2014 Spring Festival, they bought home many fireworks and they have become the most important part of the holiday. They spent another 4 Spring Festivals in Changsha. They enjoyed the family reunions a lot. There were about 15 people at the dinner. Gao Jin’s favorite food is Pork with Pickled Vegetables.
After dinner, Gao Min, will play Mahjong, and her husband would make cocktails and chat with the family. “He loves a bit of drink and to talk with the family. He has adjusted to life in Changsha. He learned to play Mahjong as early as 2011. But he doesn’t play now,” said Gao Min smiling. In 2015 when he played Mahjong with her cousin, a finance major, he had an unhappy experience and doesn’t wish to risk repeating it.
Celebrating the Spring Festival in Changsha is no longer a novel thing for Gao Jin. His wife is happy to find that he has adapted to Changsha. “At the beginning he was not accustomed to the life here. As Changsha is getting better and better, with more and more foreigners here, he has come to love living here--he can race go-karts-- his favorite entertainment,” said Gao Min.
Gao Min remarked that her husband made more and more friends, whom, they race go-karts with. “I can feel his happiness. I hope he can always stay here.”