Urbanites suffer anxiety going home

Updated: 2012-01-20 08:10

By Guo Nei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Although ideally Spring Festival should be about relaxing and reuniting with family, more and more Chinese are finding the holiday stressful, burdensome and taxing both on one's energy and pocketbook.

Given the tooth-and-nail struggle required to even get a ticket this time of year, many consider the trip to be a chore and a source of anxiety, according to a survey by Horizon Research Consultancy Group that polled 720 people working in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Xi'an.

Apart from worries over transportation and the cost of gifts, some of those who have left to work elsewhere are unaccustomed to life in their hometowns, especially the ones who have abandoned their small towns and villages for big cities.

Huang Xiaoyu, 30, of Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, has a hard time convincing her husband, who hails from the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, to return to her hometown each year.

"But I understand his unease when he is forced into a lifestyle he isn't used to. In fact, after living in Guangzhou for 10 years, I also need sometime to adapt to the rural life," Huang said.

She has to stock up on her husband's favorite foods before the trip each year because the stores in her town do not sell them.

Respondents to Horizon's survey scored their feelings. The higher the score, the more anxiety they have over the trip. The average score of the 720 respondents was 68.97. People going back to cities scored 67.95 on average, with those from small towns scoring on average 68.88 and those from villages, 70.21.

"The transportation to small towns and villages is not as convenient as it is to cities," explained Huang Yong, research manager of public affairs from Horizon.

"And people may need to spend more energy to go from place to place to attend dinners hosted by their relatives, while in cities people tend to get together to have big dinners only once or twice."

Wang Yong, one of the initiators of an online campaign to offer strangers free rides during Spring Festival this year, suggested that people invite their parents to cities during the holiday to free people from the exhausting trip back to small towns and villages.

Going against the common practice has its advantages, he said.

"The supply of train or coach tickets from small towns and villages to big cities at this time every year is abundant, so people can enjoy discounts and a much less crowded trip," Wang said.

He left his hometown in a village in Hunan province for Beijing 16 years ago. He suffered through the Spring Festival travel rush back to his hometown for the first two years before deciding to invite his parents to Beijing to celebrate the festival.

"Many young people don't want to invite their parents to the city in which they work until they are leading a decent life. But I don't think parents care about this. They will be happy to explore the city and be reassured after seeing what their children are doing," said Wang.

However, Wang admitted that the solution is not suitable for everyone. It has restrictions. For example, parents must be in good health. "And parents value the tradition of socializing with neighbors and relatives in the hometown during Spring Festival," Wang said. "So it's better to carry out the plan every several years."

Despite the fact that Huang Xiaoyu and her husband are not used to the lifestyle in her hometown, Huang said she enjoys the annual reunion with her parents and the local ways of celebrating Spring Festival. It is also interesting to see every household hang up homemade sausage and salted duck in front of their houses, Huang said.

"All these customs create a stronger festive air than I can feel in a big city," she said.

Xu Jingxi contributed to this story.

China Daily