The Shanghai rat trap

(City Weekend)
Updated: 2008-01-31 09:24

Year of the what? With the Year of the Rat upon us, here are some useful ways to win the race and beat the trap in the new Chinese New Year.

That large business deal is looming in the near future and the Shanghai stock and real estate markets have caught your attention. Your greedy eyes bulge at the prospect of easy money, but is the Year of the Rat the right time to take the plunge? According to fortune teller Sabina Huang, "[This year is the] beginning of another 12 year cycle. It's a promising year for stable global economic development and for earning money. The most reliable areas are the basic industries, such as construction, banks or investment."

From what we can ascertain, while it may be a good year for earning and investing, it may not be a good year for taking big risks. The Year of the Rat brings together the elements of Earth and Water, a destructive combination. In other words, luck is not in the cards for most. However, according to Huang, it is a good year for achieving tempered results and an auspicious time for the artistic and intellectual pursuits, particularly in the fields of design and technology (think Internet). Being the first of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rat also signifies new beginnings, romantically and otherwise.

In China, the rat is actually viewed as a courageous, enterprising and intuitive creature whose hoarding tendencies make it a symbol of wealth and good fortune. But you don't have to be born in the Year of the Rat to exhibit rodent-like characteristics. Each of us has a "month" animal (similar to the Western zodiac) and an "hour" animal relating to the time of our birth. On that bent, the Sagittariuses among us also qualify, as do those born between the hours of 11pm to 1am ... and those with whiskers.

Foreigners often take the Chinese zodiac with a grain of salt (or MSG?); few of us chart our days according to astrology.com. However, even if it's all a bunch of cockamamie hoopla, we all sneak a peek at our horoscopes for fun. If you do throw caution to the wind and see what your future has in store for you, what you'll see is that the path of 2008 is laced with traps to catch pesky pickle-tailed Rats. Even so, there are ways to make your way through the maze, avoiding the traps and snagging the cheese along the way.

Though it's their namesake year, Rats can't expect to fare any better than the rest of us. For you, it's time for new romances. Hit the clubs, find a good-looking Dragon, Monkey or Ox and start practicing how to make fire-breathing rodents with wings. This year you may be a bit restive and experience some instability in personal relationships. Head anywhere from The Shelter (all great relationships are forged in dark basements, right?) to Racks since most people you meet there will also consider a month-long relationship an achievement.

Rats are clever problem solvers who like to do things their own way. How can you get the cheese? Take some courses at the Expat Learning Center or [the studio] and put that IQ and artistic talent to good use. Or, for a bit of fun, head to the Disc Kart Indoor Karting track where no rules apply. The maze-like course should make you feel right at home. Bear in mind that, also as a constantly active four-legged critter, inactivity could lead to—gasp weight gain. Beat this new obstacle by engaging in other sporting activities as well.

As natural leaders, Rats are charming and charismatic, but self-indulgent. Indulge in a spa package at APSARA or Evian Spa or hit H&M with money to burn. Got kids? Spoil 'em by enrolling them in fun activities at Kids' Gallery. Whatever you do though, watch your kuai. The banknotes may prove elusive this year with long-term gains trumping the short term and, being strongly motivated by money and power, your hoarding sensibilities may lead you to be a bit of a tightwad with all but your closest companions. If you want to avoid the "SNAP," balance the equation by regularly hitting up the plethora of dining and drink deals available around town.

Of course, the hardest trap to escape is the one you set for yourself. Don't get caught by pessimism or bogged down by your quest for perfectionism. You're adventurous folk. Unleash your intrepid explorer, get in on some exciting travel packages from Travel the Real China or Forbidden Frontiers and escape the rat race.

In the end, who cares if you've got a tail greasier than a Shanghai fried noodle. It's not all bad luck ahead and remember, slow and steady wins the race. If that seems little comfort, who the heck believes in this mumbo jumbo anyway?



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