Expats in China Need to Spend at Least One Chinese New Year in Beijing
Every year, locals and expats alike look forward to Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. For some people, it’s the most extended vacation they’ll get that year. For a lot of locals in major cities, like Beijing or Shanghai, it’s the one time a year they can go home to see their families.
If you’re one of the unlucky people that waited too long to buy a ticket, you’re stuck in Beijing. Most people think that’s the worst that could happen that time a year. I think it’s something every expat should experience at least once.
You avoid the Great Migration
Months before Chinese New Year, train ticket prices come out. If you’re not quick enough, all your travel plans could be destroyed within weeks. Train tickets disappear fast. Plane tickets can too if you’re not fast enough.
Unless you have a job that’s smart enough to give you time off before the holiday officially begins, going to the airport and the train station is a nightmare. You’ll be caught up in the Great Migration.
The picture above doesn’t do the real Great Migration justice. It’s the perfect time for thieves to pick-pocket your stuff. I knew a girl that had her computer stolen.
Instead of showing up to the airport three hours early, you’re showing up at least four or five hours sooner to get through security. Train stations are the same way. For larger families, it could be a Home Alone situation waiting to happen.
I love traveling, but I don’t like being stuck in a crowded, chaotic airport. Train stations are not the greatest when they’re crowded either.
For once, the subways are empty
There are certain times in the day the subway’s unpleasant. Rush hour. Between 7–11 A.M., and 5–7 P.M., the tubes are a madhouse. That’s the time everyone goes to and from work. If you’re not as aggressive as everyone else, you’ll be late for work every day.
On Chinese New Year, you could go on the subway, look both ways, and not see a soul on the train with you. You’re guaranteed a seat every time you get on.
There’s no such thing as Rush Hour at this time of year.
On top of that, different places around the city are quieter than usual, so you could go to various events and tourist spots you couldn’t go to before because of the people. It’s the quietest the city will ever be.
If you’re lucky, you can catch a good fireworks show
On the first day of every Spring Festival, locals will buy as many fireworks and firecrackers and light them off. It sounds like you’re in the middle of a battlefield, but the colors are beautiful.
The next day, the streets are covered in red paper from the firecrackers. There isn’t a single section of a clean road anywhere. The air quality is awful, and the city smells like sulfur.
In recent years, the government has been banning lighting up firecrackers, so it hasn’t been happening as much. This might be wholly banned altogether in the future.
It’s an excellent time to relax
With the city being near empty, regular stores are closed. A lot of restaurants don’t do delivery services, and there’s no guarantee you can get a Didi. The Internet at this time is spotty. Sometimes government officials white-list the Great Firewall so using VPNs can be extremely difficult.
As long as you supply yourself with enough food for a few weeks, you can get back to cooking like you want to. There’s finally time to read that book you’ve been trying to read.
For the first time in a while, you can finally relax and have time for yourself. Working in China can be crazy, but that makes vacations that much more special.