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18 Feb 2018 8:26
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  •   Home > News > International

    Lunar New Year: Young people feel the pressure as families ask awkward questions

    Every year as hundreds of millions of people across China return to their home towns and cities for the Lunar New Year, a familiar series of awkward questions play out in many households and young people are feeling the pressure.

    Every year as hundreds of millions of people across China return to their home towns and cities for the Lunar New Year, a familiar series of questions play out in many households.

    "It's very normal for northern Chinese families to ask: 'Have you got a girlfriend? How much do you earn? Have you saved any money?'," 24-year-old Zhao Yongheng said, as he prepared to board a train in Beijing bound for the north-eastern city of Harbin.

    The annual movement of people across China is reaching full steam ahead of Lunar New Year's Eve on Thursday night.

    Official figures say around 390 million rail and 65 million plane tickets have been sold over the holiday period, and many more people are hitting the roads to head home.

    For young adults, the annual reunion with extended family can pose some interesting and fairly blunt questions.

    "I get asked about my salary, about getting married, about my career — they really care about me," 27-year-old Xu Weifan, who was preparing to board a 10-hour train to the port city of Rizhao in Shandong province, said.

    "I feel the pressure, and my mates all feel it too. Most young people do."

    The annual grilling by parents and extended family has long been a talking point on China's social media platforms.

    Last year, a video of a choral performance titled "Spring Festival survival guide" went viral.

    Young members of the Rainbow Choir sang about wanting to live their lives free from the pestering of parental and family expectations.

    This year, a mobile game called "Spring Festival Great Battle" has been circulating on the social media platform WeChat, in which the player has to avoid relatives as they bark questions at them about their job and marriage situation.

    At one point, a relative suggests moving back home for a stable job with health insurance.

    A voice on the game says, "It'll be good for you".

    "I think this is a happy type of trouble," Mr Zhao, the Harbin-bound traveller said.

    "The way parents care about you is really intense. It's not like in the west where once you leave home, you're by yourself — independent," he said.

    While the pressure on young people during the Lunar New Year can be daunting, many say it tends to ease once they've found a partner and worked for several years.

    "When I was single, it was a little scary to go home. The parents always asked 'have you got a girlfriend?'," 28-year old Pan, another Beijing worker heading home to Harbin, said.

    "Now it's OK, I'm married."

    But marriage and stability doesn't mean the end of the questions.

    "They now ask 'when are you having children?'," his wife Liu Song said.

    "And then they ask again 'when are you having children?' And then more 'When are you having children?'"

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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