By Jessica Addington
I knew how I was spending my Chinese New Year before my school even told me the dates for the holiday. Shameful right? But as an expat teaching in China, I live for Chinese New Year. This is the time of year that teachers get an unreal amount of time off to travel, relax, and take a break from teaching hundreds of energetic students. The amount of time off varies school district to school district but it is usually around a month. If you are not a teacher, the actual Chinese New Year celebration is around two weeks long. And normally, this is paid time off, which is amazing.
Chinese New Year was one of selling points Teachers for Asia mentioned when they were chatting with me about China as a possible location for teaching abroad. For someone from the States, this amount of time off is very attractive. Even for teachers in America, other than the summer holiday, time off during the year is slim. Therefore, in addition to other bonuses of living in China, the Chinese New Year holiday is a definite plus.
As Chinese culture insists, you will find out about your school dates at the last possible second. After complaining yet again about this, the reason for this was described to me by Chinese friends saying, “Why do you need to know so far ahead? You will know when you need to know!” This seems to be the norm for most things in China. Do you want to know your class schedule before you start school? You’ll find out the day of. Do you want to know when you will be paid over the holiday because it is written in your contract? You’ll know when you are on holiday already. Do you want to know when you are free from school so you can buy plane tickets when they are cheap? You will know them a few weeks ahead of your actual holiday when they tickets are most expensive.
For most expats, we are used to knowing working dates and holidays a year ahead of time in our home countries. That is not how it works here. You will spend your whole first semester trying to communicate with your supervisor about when you will go on holiday. And let me tell you, the long holiday is well earned. Because we get such a long time off for Chinese New Year, there are barely any other holidays until then. That is a long stretch of time with no time off but when it arrives, it is so worth it.
If you were to track all of the expats around China for Chinese New Year, I would bet, from experience, that a huge majority of them leave the country during this time. There are a few reasons for this, the big one being that all the rest of the millions of people in China also have this time off and are traveling in and around China as a tourist or to see their families. This makes it very difficult to find hotels and navigate trains. The second reason for this would be that it is just so cheap to travel to neighboring countries, I mean why wouldn’t you if you have the time?
If staying in and around China is more of your cup of tea (no judgment), then you might be lucky enough to get an invite from a Chinese friend to a family gathering for the two-week holiday. If not, maybe enjoying some unusual quiet time in the major cities while everyone heads home is just what you need.
Personally, I am headed to Vietnam and Malaysia, saying so long to China for five weeks. The thing about China is it is so immersive. The culture is full on, all of the time, which gives you the best possible abroad experience. But it also means that a break is needed every once in a while! And the great part about China is that it is so close and accessible to many countries. Chinese New Year makes for ample travel time. I will be able to visit two countries thoroughly during the holiday, which in many other countries would not be possible, especially for such a cheap price. So book your tickets and head somewhere in Southeast Asia for some much needed quiet and relaxing time by the beach. By the time the long holiday is over, you will be refreshed and ready to settle back into China and its immersive culture.
Chinese New Year falls on 5th February this year and 2019 is the Year of the Pig. If a week or two off work at this time of year to travel around Asia sounds like it’s for you (as well as the teaching of course!), check out our TEFL courses at http://tfa-academy.com/ or visit our Jobs page at http://www.teachersforasia.com/jobs/ for a sample of the jobs on offer in locations across China. This time next year It Could Be You!
By Jessica Addington