The Holiday Ponzi Scheme


I take pretty great umbrage at people who are wrong about things. I don’t think this makes me unique. There are many ways in which Chinese people like to brag about what a great place China is. The one I remembered the most is how they love to talk about how many national holidays there are. This is nothing official, but just a kind of hearsay I got from a number of students and colleagues at my job. It is important for them to constantly prove to themselves that China isn’t some kind of third world country, and so one of the things they do is constantly go on about how fabulous things are here. Often this is without any conception of what it is like in the rest of the world. This was a prime example. Those ignorant students were convinced that they had more paid holidays than anyone else in the world. Just, y’know, don’t ask them for any proof.

I don’t think its the case. I’m not foolish enough to make a positive claim (this would require proof), but I have my doubts that it is true.

But that would be doing something nice for others, and what I can firmly doubt is that China would ever be so randomly magnanimous. My suspicion turned out to be correct, and I got the first taste of this during Spring Festival, where I was told that the school would be closed for a whole week, and that I would have to make up four of the days I would be missing. I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t not take those days off, I just had to loose them. I can’t imagine anything as dreadful as traveling during Spring Festival, where literally the whole country travels as well, so it was pretty much a holiday I had to take and then stayed home for.

But then I noticed something truly odd happening. On some weekends I noticed that I had a weekday schedule. I asked a colleague why and they told me that ‘that Saturday is a weekday.’

They didn’t seem to understand that this wasn’t an answer. I asked why again.

“Because this coming Tuesday is a Holiday, and they are going to get a long weekend, so they have to make up the day. Everyone will be at work this Saturday”

I almost god damn lost it laughing. These penny-pinchers were so obsessively gleaming the books that they refused to give their employees a single day extra. They had to look to make sure that, if they were going to have a holiday the only time they got off was the holiday, not anything extra that might fall between.

Then I noticed that they did the same thing with Holidays that ended on Monday. So pretty much, every holiday you got you had to pay back. Which is a whole lot like not having any god damned holidays to begin with.  So far from the most, I would argue that China might even have the least. And to make matters worse, they are in denial about it.

(Full credit for this blog post goes to my boss, who came up with this very witty title when I heard her refuse to give us a weekday schedule on a Saturday. “I’m not going to participate in this stupid Chinese Holiday Ponzi Scheme,” she said. “Either give us the day off or don’t”)

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