Holiday Schedules in China

Growing up, my schools always made yearly schedules of which days we’d be off of school for teacher meetings and special events, when Christmas, Easter and summer break started and ended. The most difficult thing about planning our vacations was waiting for my dad to get his chance, in January, to pick his four weeks for the year. Once that was done, my mom wrote  could consult it to make travel plans without hesitation.
This kind of situation would almost never happen in China, save for a family that works for international companies and has the kids enrolled in international schools. Even then, it would highly depend on who’s running said company and school.
When I was teaching there were almost always last-minute changes. One year I went back to America during the Chinese New Year. I planned to come back just two days before school started, and I did. I called the school to find out my work schedule and they said that there was still another week of the holiday; something had come up which caused them to change this.
Another example, at the beginning of this semester we were told that exams would be February 2. I have in written in my planner. This past weekend I talked to my son’s music teacher and she told me exams would be February 6 and school would be out around February 13. And once he is actually done for the semester, we have no idea when school starts until the teacher calls us.
Be flexible and go with the flow. You’ll just get frustrated and angry if you don’t.
I do think you’ll find schools in large cities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai) to be a bit different since they’re dealing with more people and from larger areas.
There is an official Chinese holiday schedule that’s put out by the government. You can view it as a neat infographic here. Most companies and schools follow it. The key word being ‘most.’
But back to the public sector. My husband is lucky enough to work in a small hospital where holidays are pretty strictly adhered to. He and his colleagues take turns working on holidays (yes, they just have a bare-bones staff there on holidays), as do employees of other government owned enterprises. A lot of stores and restaurant will be open, taking opportunity of all the people who have extra time and cash.
The Chinese New Year is the exception. During that week, our town is like a ghost-town. Shops used to be closed almost the entire seven days. My first year here, my friend and I went out traveling and returned on New Year’s Eve to find that everything, except KFC, was closed. We’d been gone a week so we’d emptied our fridge and had little to eat at home. A lot of chicken was consumed that week! Now shops and markets are usually closed for at least 2 days and have limited hours on the other days. Restaurants and shops that employ migrant workers close up for as long as a month so they can return home.
Before the New Year, it’s essential to stock up on anything that you’ll need for at least a week. Also be sure to pay your bills since you may or may not be able to pay for electricity when you find it turned off during the holiday. I have run out of electricity before, fortunately not at the holidays.

Feminine Products In China

I never figured I’d blog about this topic, but seeing as this site is meant to help expat women living in China, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss it. That special time once a month, when a special visitor comes.
One thing you’ll notice is that things are smaller in China: I wear an American large top, a recent shirt I bought says it’s a 4XL! Bags of chips come only in single serving bags. There are no gallon pails of ice cream; the largest containers I’ve seen are smaller than the Ben&Jerry’s that I can consume in a single day. So it should come as no surprise that pads come in packages of five or six. Yes, enough for a day…maybe. You have to fill your cart with five to six packages each month. I used to hit up a couple of different stores, all within walking distance of my house, just because it felt strange to buy so many.
Tampons are virtually non-existent in Chinese shops. In large cities you’ll be able to find them in foreign stores, but if you’re brand-loyal, bring a stash with you.
I like the Whisper brand which is like the American brand Always. They’re more expensive (6-7 yuan for a package of 5) but are lightweight and do their job.

A few years ago I won a Diva Cup from a blog. I thought it would be interesting and it’s worked really well and I can get buy with just a package of liners (which, oddly enough, come in packs of 18-20). I love that the cup is reusable and easy to take care of.

Just last week I learned about these sea sponge tampons that can be used for the same purpose. I’m intrigued and might pick some up the next time in the States.
On a related note, I’ve never seen medicine for cramp, pain relief or PMS. I never dealt with any of this until after my son was born and even then it was minor. I’ve since discovered that Evening Primrose Oil softgels are very helpful in combatting PMS. I’d taken it prior to the birth of my daughter, and then kept taking it since I had so much left. When I found that it’s good for PMS, I bought more and continued taking it. I didn’t notice a difference until I stopped taking it–for no reason other than that I was too lazy to take one each day–and then my mood fluctuated as much as the tones in a Chinese sentence!
An interesting cultural note, apparently Chinese women are told to do little housework during this time of the month and girls are exempt from PE class when their monthly visitor arrives. I know in the summer months I see a lot of the middle school girls sitting in the bleachers while the rest of the kids are our for PE. At Speaking of China, blogger Jocelyn writes about how her Chiense husband takes over the cooking and cleaning so that she can rest for a few days each month. How nice is that?