Yesterday was the official day of the Chinese New Year. Shanghai has been a different city this week or I should say the entire month as the preparations for this important festival (not just a day & night as we know the New Year celebration in the Western world) are quite comprehensive. All over Shanghai the locals are lining up to buy the most important things for this festival: food. And apparently very few very popular shops have exactly the type or quality of food thousands of Chinese people just got to have for this festival. Unfortunately I do not have a couple of hours to line up so I still don't know what the fuzz is about..
Since the beginning of February my office has been decorated with sheeps (oh from horse year to sheep year of course): paper cuts, teddy bears and couplets wishing for good luck, happiness & not least money (to emphasize the wish for the latter, many of my colleagues have eagerly put 5, 10, 50 and event 100 RMB notes on the back of the sheep teddy bears in our public spaces).
The New Year's celebration is also called the spring festival and as it is the longest public holiday in China it is truly the holiday of travel! There is a saying among expats that the worst thing one could do to themselves is to travel within China during this festival. It is absolutely crazy! The reason is that all Chinese people, no matter from which social layer, are most likely to travel somewhere to celebrate this important day with their family - sooo millions of people are traveling across the country leaving transportation and transportation hubs an absolute chaos. I know this for a fact as my mom visited me during Chinese New Year 2 years ago and we happily & very unaware traveled to Xian to see the Terracotta Warrioes and then to Beijing to see the historical sights. Phhhh I'm surprised we made it out alive (: DO NOT TRAVEL IN CHINA DURING CHINESE NEW YEAR!
So what to do if you're an expat in China during this holiday? If you're like most expats you use this excellent opportunity to travel out of China and experience some of the amazing Asian neighbor countries. Or if you're like my Boyfriend you choose to travel to nothing less but Jackson Hole in the US state Wyoming for a "little" snowboard mission....
If you're me this year you stay in Shanghai and work. Oh yes, now I'm a busy professional event planner and with several events coming up next week in Europe for our most important Chinese client, I am super busy planning, packing & organizing. So though a bit sad to be in Shanghai alone I am too busy to think about it aaand I get to go to beautiful Europe next week including a post-event visit to my family in Denmark<3 Absolutely no complaining from me!
And today the weather was the most beautiful weather I've seen in Shanghai for as long as I can remember so I took half the day off and spent it with my friend Ellie in the beautiful Okura Garden and around Shanghai's French Concession.
Shanghai is a different city during this period. Tons of Chinese have gone back to their hometowns to celebrate the festival with their families and 90% of local shops are closed between 2-5 days. This leaves Shanghai much more quiet, the streets much more empty and the pollution level seems to be affected by this "pause" in life as the air was so clean & fresh today.
Night time is a different story though.. While we enjoy a bit of firework for our New Year celebration at midnight on December 31st at home, many Chinese enjoy a looooot of firework every evening for 5 days in a row! Oh yes, living in the heart of the French Concession demands a good sleeping heart these nights (or a good amount of red wine at dinner).
On a day like today I think to myself that if Shanghai was more like this, I could easily stay here forever. Less people, less buzz & absolutely fantastic weather to explore this amazingly interesting city with all it's contrasts! Today I'm so in love with Shanghai.