Shanghai is a center of commerce and business which means that many people work here but do not call it “home.”
This also means that when given the opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year or Spring Festival a very large percentage of those who work and live in Shanghai go home. I don’t have statistics for Shanghai but heard that for Beijing nearly 1 out of 2 city residents left prior to the holiday. Imagine the population of New York in a one week period dropping by 50%. It’s a huge migration.
Spring Festival is the time of year that Shanghai is emptiest. The proportion of Shanghainese (local Shanghai dialect) that I hear in the shops and on the streets goes up exponentially and things calm down. Buses have seats, restaurants don’t need reservations (if they are open) and on the sidewalk it is possible sometimes to be the only person crossing the street.
This year that was compounded by the fact that it snowed just before the holiday, meaning that even local folks stayed home if not absolutely necessary. The weather this time of year is normally pretty terrible – even if it doesn’t snow there is bitter cold. The last day our office was open I was one of only 6 people who came to work – the rest had all put on their out of office replies and started the celebrations.
A rest from the normal busyness that is Shanghai is much needed. Small shops close their doors and paste signs saying back after the holiday. For me that means in theory I have a few days to catch up on my blog and movie watching and the ability to burrow (if I only didn’t have guests). I know that I won’t get email from China clients, I know that it really is a chance to rest and relax.
Traditionally this holiday was a full two weeks, but now the rules of commerce have shorted it to around one week officially. That said – don’t try to get anything done for one week before, one week during and one week after the official holiday. We’ll work over Christmas, but don’t try messing up Chinese New Year!
I like silent Shanghai. Have you ever lived in a place that completely changes for a few weeks? What stories do you have?