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Homecoming dilemma for China's "home-fear tribe"

(Xinhua)    20:22, February 09, 2015

BEIJING, Feb. 9-- A week away from the Chinese lunar new year, Xu Jun frets over the idea of homecoming.

Xu, a 32-year-old white-collar working in Beijing, said while he misses his loved ones in central China's Hubei Province, the "nightmare scenario" of having to deal with nagging relatives and attend classmates' "show-off reunion parties" freaks him out.

"I am unmarried and have no career worth boasting about, which is why I hesitate to buy a ticket home," Xu said, "and I hate the idea of giving expensive presents and money away as gifts to my relatives."

China kicked off its annual travel rush, known as "Chunyun", last week, with hundreds of millions heading home to celebrate the new year, but an increasingly large number of Chinese are pondering whether or not to make the homecoming. This group, dubbed the "home-fear tribe", are put off by family and societal pressure.

In a recent online poll titled "Why you choose not to go home this year" on a forum for Dongguan City, in south China's Guangdong Province, 37.5 percent of respondents said they "feel ashamed" when going back because they do not have a "decent" job. Dongguan is known as the "Factory of the World" and has a huge number of workers in its manufacturing sector.

Others cited "economic pressure" "forced blind dating" and "unattainable tickets" as the major factors that hold them back.

Experts attribute the phenomenon to a range of factors including generational differences in values, peer pressure and growing indifference towards traditional culture.


While workers struggling in big cities crave the place they call home to relax and to alleviate their sense of loneliness, family pressures are often keeping them in a life adrift.

Hu Xiaoqing, a Shanghai worker from east China's Jiangxi Province, recently took to online social media tool WeChat to take jabs at his "annoying relatives" for setting him up on blind dates.

"No more blind dates or we will no longer be relatives," Hu wrote.

More than 1,000 km away, Li Guohua in Dongguan felt similar sentiments. Li has chosen not to head home to Hubei Province this year because his two brothers have already bought "big houses" and "fancy cars", while Li, who graduated four years ago, has just changed his job and is earning a mere 2,500 yuan (400 U.S. dollars) a month while on his probation period.

"It would be so embarrassing if they knew my current situation," Li told the Yangcheng Evening News. "I would rather stay here to avoid all that."

Many workers interviewed by Xinhua told of their homecoming dilemma.


Families' moans about career development and unwedded status may have inflicted huge pressure on scores of young people, but many parents dismiss these issues as long as their children return for family gatherings.

Fan Meirong, whose son works in Beijing, said a family reunion would be incomplete without her child.

She said her son is usually busy throughout the year, so she wants to use the new year opportunity to just talk to him and help him relax, which "will bring us closer".

"It does not matter if my son is doing a great job or not," Fan said. "All that matters is that the three of us get together and spend the lunar year happily."

One of the factors that created the "home-fear tribe" is growing value differences between parents and children, according to Liu Qi, associate professor of sociology at East China Normal University.

"Chinese parents tend to be traditional in values and often demand their children follow their orders, but the younger generation are increasingly having ideas of their own," Liu said. "The value differences are causing some hesitation among children when it's time to go home."

The academic said that peer pressure is also keeping people from returning to their hometowns.

"Growing up in similar backgrounds but ending up in contrasting situations will definitely generate anxiety among these workers, because we all hate unfavorable comparisons," Liu told Xinhua.

Qiu Zeqi, a sociology professor with Peking University, said the "home-fear tribe" should learn to reconsider what defines success, and try to strike a balance between career and family relations.

"Individuals are naturally attached to families and such sentiment should not be broken," Qiu said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

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