Business Culture

How to procrastinate in Chinese (拖延症 – tuō yán zhèng)1 min read

2 March 2021 < 1 min read


How to procrastinate in Chinese (拖延症 – tuō yán zhèng)1 min read

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Procrastinators should not be able to survive in China. Procrastinators, and their procrastinations, are not welcome. To survive and be successful in China, you need to have strong implementation skills, or 执行力 (zhí xíng lì) “implementation strength”.

Procrastination in English sounds rather nice. It is from the Latin, ‘pro’ (which means forward) and ‘crastinus’ (for ‘belonging to tomorrow’).

The language of procrastination is much more offensive in Chinese. As a procrastinator in China you have a disease, 拖延症 (tuō yán zhèng), or “delaying disease”. The word tuō also means ‘to drag’ – the opposite motion to the “pushing” of procrastination in English. You can drag others down with procrastinations – 拖后腿 (tuō hòu tuǐ) “dragging the back leg.”

You may be told, 你太拖了! (nǐ tài tuō le) “you are the delay”.

So, procrastination is bad in China. You drag yourself and others down, and in a Darwinian way, open yourself up to elimination – 淘汰 (táo tài).

But, procrastinating in Chinese has its benefits.

Things in China change so fast that it is good to take time to procrastinate as they will probably change again quite soon.

I may be asked to do something, contact somebody, or make something happen, which is urgent (紧急), important (重要), and critical (关键), all at the same time.

But the procrastinator inside has an instinct that something is up. Developing an acute ability to spot an unpredictable request from China. I find a reason to leave it “until tomorrow”.

The request often gets cancelled, changed, or delayed the day after. I now consciously procrastinate on such requests and kick them into the long grass for a couple of days at least.

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