77 percent of young people 'scared of going home' for Spring Festival

By Tamia Tang, February 5, 2014

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There is a growing group of young people in China expressing a "fear of home". For various reasons, they feel anxious about returning home during Spring Festival, and some even choose not to go back at all.

According to a survey of 1,840 respondents by China Youth Daily last week, 77.2 percent admitted to being worried about going home, and 41.1 percent regarded themselves as members of the "fear of home" group.

Among the list of reasons mentioned in the survey, high travelling cost ranked first, followed by pressure from parents to marry, and the expense of giving presents and "red-envelopes" to relatives.

Train tickets are hard to get during the travel rush. Many travellers line up overnight in front of ticket agencies just to buy a single ticket. Others have to purchase from scalpers at a rate much higher than the face value. Thus, for some migrant workers, a round-trip ticket can cost several months' salary.

A 38 year old Nanjing office worker made headlines recently when she decided not to go home this year in order to avoid the inevitable awkwardness and disputes with her parents about her still being single. She told her parents over the phone that she had a business trip. “I guess they knew I was lying. I feel guilty but I don't really have another choice,” she said.

The woman's story attracted a deal of sympathy. Many post-80s netizens complained of being pressured to get married. During Spring Festival, the pressure only intensified with the influx of extra relatives to ask questions about their love lives.

According to a recent Alipay survey on the costs of Spring Festival, 58.1 percent of respondents chose "under 4,400 yuan ($726)", 12.5 percent "above 8,600 yuan ($1,419)" and 3.8 percent above "21,000 yuan ($3,465)". Most respondents said their largest expense is on red envelopes and presents to relatives, because giving cheap presents would "lose face".

Lu Shizhen, a professor at China Youth University for Political Sciences, argued that the fear of returning home is "very unnecessary".

"Although time has changed, the family reunion tradition at Spring Festival will not change," Lu said. He argued that most parents don't care much about what their children have achieved outside, their biggest wish is to see their children safely back home. Lu suggested that parents were willing to share their children’s burdens and that problems may only get worse by keeping them to oneself.

Besides, "It is also unnecessary to buy expensive presents," Lu said, because "it's always the thought that counts".

Similarly, psychologist Zhong Gulan said: "Many people find sending gifts an ordeal. In fact, the criteria are set by ourselves. Keep in mind that the most important thing is what kind of Spring Festival do YOU want!"

[Image via Xinhua]

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