Thursday was the last day of the 8 day National Day holiday here in China, so everyone went back to work yesterday (Friday). Now the weekend is here, and people are still working. You see, in order to get 8 days in a row, we have to have two make-up days this weekend. Last night I was out for dinner with friends and we actually found ourselves in an absurd conversation trying to figure out what Saturday and Sunday are. Are they last Monday and Tuesday? Or next Thursday and Friday?
I wrote about this quirky phenomenon in a post called "It's Next Thursday" a few years back. Time to republish it here.
It's Next Thursday
Here in China we're gearing up for the big May Holiday (May 1 is International Workers Day), which officially begins on Monday. In 1999, the government decreed that henceforth this holiday would include 7 days off, not the 3 that it had been for ages. All government offices, schools, factories, and most businesses (not retail) will close their doors for 7 days. The main reason for this extended holiday (or "golden week" as its called) is not to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the workers. Rather, the government instituted the week-long holiday in an attempt to get people to spend money. "Hey, I know, let's give them 7 days to shop and travel and spend money---get all those billions of yuan out from under the mattresses and into the economy." The great international communist holiday has morphed into one grand frenzy of unabashed consumerism. LONG LIVE THE WORKERS. WHAT'S ON SALE AT IKEA?
But this being China, nothing is as it seems, and everything is more complex than it appears at first glance. Ok, so beginning Monday, we have 7 days off. BUT....today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday) are work days. Come again? That's right. Everybody here put in a full work week Monday to Friday, and have now had to work this weekend as well. The way it plays out is that this Saturday and Sunday are really next Thursday and Friday. Are you in school? Whatever classes are scheduled for next Thursday and Friday are being held today and tomorrow. Today is next Thursday and tomorrow is next Friday!
It's true that beginning on Monday, everyone will have 7 days away from work. But, they've just come off of 7 days straight at work. In other words, in a 14 day period, everyone will have worked for a total of 7 days. In a normal 14 day period, everyone would have worked for 10 days. Which means that they're only really getting three days off.
Hey wait. Wasn't that what it was to start with? Me thinks that a billion people are being hoodwinked here!