Tomorrow is Yesterday

I was out with some Chinese friends the other night and somehow we got to talking about time zones and time differences between countries.  They had a very hard time comprehending that different parts of the country in the US had different times. They all declared that it was too confusing and that there was no way something like that could ever work in China.

I thought that statement was a bit odd since China is the land that moves days around in order for people to have seven straight days of vacation. Two of the seven days are always made up, either prior to the holiday week or right after it.

Case in point: today is the last day of one of these seven-day holidays — “Golden Weeks” they call them — which means that everyone will go back to work tomorrow, never mind the fact that it is Saturday. And they will work through until next Friday.

This means that tomorrow (Saturday) is yesterday (Thursday) and the next day (Sunday) will be today (Friday).

Why? Because the government says so, that’s why!

I wrote a more detailed explanation of this interesting phenonemon in a post several years ago called “It’s Next Thursday.” Here it is again:

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 –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!