China’s noon nap culture

By Lorraine Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/5 17:33:39

Illustrations: Xia Qing/GT

Over the past few years, I constantly find myself in need of a noon nap. It could be because I often work overtime or because I'm reaching that age.

I still remember hiding from the dorm supervisors and secretly reading my novels under my quilt during the noon break in high school. I also remember being a difficult kid who just wouldn't take her nap in kindergarten.

I didn't understand why my teachers and my parents took a nap then. Now, in my late 20s, I do.

Going without a nap can ruin the whole day for you if you are not careful. Your body just becomes sluggish.

I spent some time working in Europe last year. Some of my colleagues were on the day shift and some the night shift, but nobody took a nap of any kind.

I napped anyway. Hell, I was a foreigner. That was the only way I would be able to stay awake and energetic for the rest of the day.

My colleagues were curious. "Does your boss think it's okay to nap during work?" they asked.

"Yes, because it's nothing unusual," I told them. "If you get tired, you just put a cushion or pillow on your desk, lay your head on it and rest for 15 minutes."

Some of my college classmates from Japan and South Korea told me that it's also common to take naps at noon in their home countries.

We discussed why some Asian countries seem to have a nap culture that most Western countries do not. We wondered whether it's because many Asians believe napping is good for one's health, which has something to do with traditional beliefs such as yin and yang, or whether it's a result of our different diets.

I think it's simply a cultural thing. People just feel it's socially acceptable to take a nap at work to ensure more energy for the afternoon. Also, nowadays men and women face great pressure daily and are sleep deprived.

In Beijing, it's quite common to see people napping on the subway, even during rush hour. Some sit with their heads constantly nodding, and you can tell that even in their sleep, they are trying really hard to control themselves and not fall on the people next to them. Others stand with their hands on the bar, shut their eyes and rest for a minute.

German photographer Bernd Hagemann has a project called the Sleeping Chinese, which showcases photos he took in China of people sleeping in the strangest positions and situations, on a park bench, on gym equipment or on a roadside rock to name a few.

It's a lot of fun to see where people choose to lay down and what they choose to use as a substitute for a mattress or a pillow.

For a long time, China has been seen as the "sleeping giant," and in the past few years, China's tremendous economic growth has shown the world its sleepless efforts.

It's interesting to see how one of the most diligent and hardworking nations in the world could have this relaxed, sluggish side.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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