"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China

International Women’s Day
March 8, 2011, 5:27 am
Filed under: Chinese culture, holidays | Tags:

Happy International Women’s Day! I don’t plan on doing anything special to celebrate, but I did run outside this morning and I don’t have to come to work until three. Here in China, some people even get the day off…but a half day is pretty good too.

It is refreshing to live in a country where International Women’s Day is acknowledged, which is not the case in the U.S.  In fact, a few years ago I surveyed various women of all ages at my college and found that not many people had even heard of it. I suspect this is because of the holiday’s historical link to socialism.  In fact, it was a member of the Socialist Democratic Party–Clara Zetkin–who first proposed the idea at the second International Conference of Working Women in 1910.  For the next decade, International Women’s Day would function as a stage for various political causes, particularly labor rights.  Later, as World War I devastated Europe, International Women’s Day matured into a day to protest the war, especially in Russia.  Lenin declared March 8 a national holiday to honor women, and it was Russia’s influence that brought the holiday to China.

Today in China, however, most people know about International Women’s Day, though they don’t necessarily celebrate it.  I asked my co-workers if they usually give their mothers and sisters a flower, as is custom in many Eastern European countries, but they said no.  I would buy them flowers…if I knew where to get flowers around here!

In Chinese, today is also referred to as Sanba Jie, which literally means 3-8 (March 8th).  But don’t go around wishing everyone a happy “Sanba jie” as I did at work today. According to my Chinese friends, “sanba” has a very different meaning–and it’s not flattering for women.  I thought hitting up the streets of Dalian to investigate what people thought of this multifaceted Sanba Jie, but then I realized that my Chinese isn’t advanced enough.  Luckily, Su Fei of Sexy Beijing beat me to it:


(My Chinese friends say that one should not say “sanba jie”; so why do they use that term in this video? Haven’t figured that one out yet.)

I would hardly say that women are treated equally to men in China.  How many times have people–women–told me that men are better at things like math, science, driving and finding directions?  Why is it that one of my co-workers, an intelligent, assertive woman who happens to be an excellent teacher, is reduced to a giggling, whiny-voiced ding dong when she talks to her boyfriend on the phone?  And why are there advertisements for abortion clinics on the buses, yet so many women either don’t know about birth control or are discouraged from purchasing it?  Then again, the people Su Fei interviewed are right–the condition of women’s lives have dramatically improved, in China and throughout many regions of the world.

But there is still so much to be done.  Why not start on the local level?  If there happen to be convenient flower shops in your country, go out and buy your mother, daughter, sister or girlfriend/wife a rose!

For more on International Women’s Day, please check out the official website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp


3 Comments so far
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Thanks for your posting! I am moving to Dalian in September to study advanced language for one year. Since it will be through scholarship, I must decide immediately which University I wish to attend. From what I have read, it seems that Dongbei Univ of Finance and Econ, Dalian University of Foreign Language, and Dalian Maritime Univ are the best around. Have you heard or have any advice on which one i should choose?

Thanks so much!


Comment by Sean

Nice sharing. Keep it up


Comment by Keloy

Is it alright to place part of this in my webpage if I submit a reference point to this site?


Comment by here

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