Ruined by Popularity

I remember when a big new Carrefour supermarket opened down the street from my Shanghai apartment I was quite happy about it at first. The convenience! Everything I needed, including a few imports, and for reasonable prices, right down the street.


Photo by Ek Chin Tan

As it turns out, that Carrefour was too popular. It was absolutely packed, all the time. I never wanted to go into that madhouse. Eventually I learned that there were certain times when it wasn’t too bad, but that pretty much ruins the convenience factor, right?

The same is true for China’s 7-day holidays. Never mind that the whole “7 days off” thing is a sham for a second — what can you do in 7 days in China? Well, a whole lot, actually. The only problem is that so can much of the rest of the country.

After a few years of experimentation, many of us, both foreign and Chinese, try to get out of China for these 7-day holidays (if affordable tickets can be found), or to lay low and take it easy. An uneventful vacation is better than a crowded, stressful one.

It does make me wonder, though, how well this whole “excessive popularity ruins things when your population is so big” idea is sinking in, and where the problem is going to strike next. (Cars and parking seems like a safe bet.)

Happy National Day Holiday (October 1-7)! I’ll be here in Shanghai.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Language Maven Says: September 28, 2010 at 8:49 am

    That should read:
    “many of us… try to get out of China … or to LIE low and take it easy.”
    More on the rule here:


    • Sorry, “lie low” sounds weird to me. I write informally.

      Speaking of popularity ruining everything, “lie low” has 222,000 hits on Google, while “lay low” has 649,000.

      I’m all for standards, but sometimes “correct” has an expiration date. Language moves on.

  2. I’ll be here too! Let’s get a beer!

  3. I’d buy you a beer if you were here in Beijing!

    Actually, now that I’ve learned never, NEVER to travel in or around these holidays, I love them. Once you get through the pre-holiday crush, Beijing empties out faster than a wide-gauge sieve. I drive around the city like it’s the American West — open roads, spacious skies, a trip or two to the foothills for hiking…

  4. So true. It turns out that all the ‘convenience’ of having a huge store just minutes away, its actually a zoo. I’m not sure if I can give you advice on the Carrefour thing (try to minimize your trips, see if you can go just once a month, and get the rest of your food from smaller shops like TESCO on dingxi lu or Chinese supermarket chains, etc)

    I acutally spent a week in a Hotel room last year.. umm.. to avoid the madness.. I spent the week reading a ton of books and watching movies, etc… that’s kind of insane, but man was it productive,.. the only problem is getting access to food (since this was during CNY when everything’s shut down). Then again, I guess you spent the week with the wife’s family so… you’re taken care of.

    Use the official holidays for productivity not tourism, see if you can have lots of little trips on weekends instead?

  5. If you know you’re going to buy more than 100RMB worth of stuff, you can actually then just order from the Carrefour website and have it all delivered to you for free. Then you can avoid the mob! =)

  6. I bought tickets out of the country months ago. I’m a little worried about getting to the airport on October 1st, but once there I imagine it’ll be ok.

    Maybe I’ll just go the night before.

  7. I was just at a Carrefour here in Wuhan thinking how i wouldn’t mind being a shareholder! One trick to keep in mind is the express line for those buying spirits…

  8. Whaaaaat? John, grumpy?!

    I’m not doing squat over the vacation, myself. I already had an enforced two-day vacation in Hong Kong a week or so ago, and will have another one next month. Unlikely to be relaxing, and definitely more expensive than I can afford, but even the budget visa shuffle is better than travelling during one of the Golden Weeks.

  9. do people actually buy or are a lot of them just looking at the stuff?

  10. Do you remember the place I told you about? It hasn’t been ruined yet! Keep the secret…

  11. you should organised a sinosplice picnic !

  12. when can we get a sinosplice burger review ?

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