010 Why Moving During Chinese New Year is a Bad Idea

Apologies for the long hiatus, but you see, I made a terrible mistake: I moved to China exactly one week before Chinese New Year.

The Logistics of Chinese New Year in Shenzhen

Chinese New Year is like Christmas on crack. In most Western countries the last two weeks of the year are basically a wash. By December 20th, nobody’s really expecting anybody to actually get anything important done. That’s what next year is for, after all. So it is with Chinese New Year.

I arrived in Shenzhen on January 29th. The first day of Chinese New Year this year was February 8th. Chinese New Year, bear in mind, is a 15 day holiday. In China, you get one week off. The official, government-approved Chinese New Year holiday where all non-essential personnel could have time off was supposed to be from February 7th until February 13th. People started going on vacation for Chinese New Year on February 2nd, and there are still people on Chinese New Year vacation, who will not be back for another week.

In 1980, the year that Shenzhen was first designated to be a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), there were 332,900 people living in the city. In 2013, there were 10.6 million people living in the city.

Now, during Chinese New Year, Chinese people traditionally travel back to their hometowns (aka where their father’s family was from) to celebrate with family. These hometowns are generally back in smaller villages out in the provinces. If we assume that the 332,900 people originally in Shenzhen considered Shenzhen their hometown, then we can quite safely assume that at least 10.3 million people were planning on leaving Shenzhen to go back home, wherever home may be.

Problem #1: The Landlords Aren’t There

This meant that when I was looking for an apartment, most of the landlords had left for home, and weren’t even in town to give the real estate agent the keys. The real estate agent told me he had eight apartments lined up for me to look at on the first day. We looked at three, because he couldn’t get keys for the other five.

It also meant that I absolutely had to get an apartment by February 4th, or spend another eight to nine days in a hotel, because the real estate office was closing all its systems down on Friday, February 5th. Imagine looking for an apartment in a city that is on the verge of shutting down. The pressure was real.

Luckily enough, I found a nice apartment in a nice, safe neighbourhood overlooking a bustling street lined with little shops, banks and grocery stores. How convenient, I thought, and not as noisy as I expected.

Little did I know.

Problem #2: Most of the People Aren’t There

10 Deserted
A street in my neighbourhood at 10:30pm on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Practically deserted.

The lack of noise was the exception, rather than the rule. I’d forgotten to factor in the fact that most of the traffic was gone. After all, by February 4th, the day I signed the rental agreement, half the city had already left for parts unknown, and another 25% were in the process of leaving. Of course, it was quiet.

As I sit here, typing out this blog post, it is 9pm at night. I can hear the people 11 floors down hawking their wares. Cars and bikes honk as they drive past. Or worse, somebody blocks the nearby intersection of what I now know is one of the major thoroughfares in the neighbourhood, and a veritable car-horn storm ensues, with honks of all stripes jumping in to add their voice to the cacophony.

More importantly, with everybody gone, there’s nobody actually available to work, which means…

Problem #3: Everything Shuts Down For A Week

Everything, and I mean, literally everything shuts down for a week. I had to stock up for the apocalypse in the brand new (completely dirty and dusty) apartment I had just moved into. I moved in on February 5th. Most stores closed early on February 6th, if they even opened at all. I spent most of the afternoon on the 5th, and the entirety of the 6th out buying bedding, pots and pans, and more importantly, cleaning supplies and food.

I’ve been in Shenzhen for 3 weeks, and I only just opened a bank account this last week, because… obviously, the banks were closed.

However, now, one week after Chinese New Year, people are returning, and the banks and shops and restaurants are starting to open again. However, this is just the beginning of another problem.

Problem #4: What Has Left, Must Return

10 Shenzhen Metro
The hordes returning to Shenzhen after Chinese New Year. This was the situation Friday night. The holiday ended the previous Sunday. It was bad. Really bad.

10.3 million people left the city for Chinese New Year. This also means that 10.3 million people must return to the city where they work and/or study. The majority of Chinese people take the train when they’re travelling long distances.

I also live two blocks away from the new train station. The metro station around the block that I use to travel to and from work, is the major metro station for people wanting to travel to and from the train station.

Let’s just say that getting to and from work this past week was a pain.

Thus: Lack of Posting

And all of this combined is why I haven’t been posting as regularly as I planned to. Between searching for a place to live, moving into said place to live, combating a vicious cold, exploring my new city, and settling in at work, I’ve been pretty busy all around!

The whole internet being blocked thing has also impeded my posting progress, but never fear, I shall once again, take up the reins and commence weekly posting once more.

What have you guys been up to? Has Chinese New Year affected you as badly as it has me, this year?




9 thoughts on “010 Why Moving During Chinese New Year is a Bad Idea

    1. I can’t sleep with ear plugs or an eye mask on. I’m a super paranoid (and very light) sleeper. If I have something covering up my eyes, or ear plugs stuffed into my ears, somebody could sneak up on me!!! I could get raped, murdered, and dumped in a ditch!!!

      I tried the ear plug thing. By the time I actually fell asleep, they weren’t in my ears any more. Luckily, I have an interior designer friend who is giving me soundproofing ideas. I expect a trip to Ikea in my near future.


      1. Oh, I hear you. I hate earplugs, but it was either earplugs or kill Andy because his snoring turned me into a sleep-deprived psycho. I trust in the dog to start barking his head off if an intruder (or possum) so much as comes on the porch. And earplugs are no match for that bark.


  1. Ugh, once in Beijing I lived in the 12th floor and could still hear the electric bike alarms going off because of the wind or a cat… electric bike alarms should be illegal! Not that anyone goes to check what happens every time they start blasting…

    Btw, how are you liking Shenzhen?


    1. Yeah, the electric bike alarms were going off during parts of Chinese New Year, because there were children setting off fireworks nearby. And of course, nobody cared.

      So far so good. It’s only been a month, so I’ve not really much to say, and I haven’t seen much either! Hopefully I’ll see something more than a shopping center this weekend! I’m a little envious that you live in Suzhou. I loved it there when I visited.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have heard about the madness of the new year on the mainland! Even here in Taiwan it was pretty crazy (crushing crowds in some places, completely deserted in others!) I was lucky enough to stay with a Taiwanese family and we locked ourselves away and ate for most of it but I did experience the crush at a new year’s eve market and at a temple on new year’s day!


    1. I think most Chinese holidays revolve around food, even when it doesn’t seem like it does, somebody is going to feed you something that is essential to your enjoyment of it!

      It’s so great that you were able to experience something so uniquely Chinese while you were in Taiwan though! I hope you enjoyed yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Damn Girl! Talk about a rough first few weeks! House hunting in China can be crazy, but I think during Chinese New Year’s it’s even worse…!!! You poor thing!

    How is the job going? Do you like Shenzhen as a whole?

    So excited to hear about your adventures! Looks like you picked up a vpn too 🙂


    1. I love my job. It’s definitely a step (or three) up over my last one. Shenzhen… I’m stil on the fence about. I’ve gone out at least once every weekend for the past three weekends to see “the sights”, and every place I’ve gone to has essentially just been a big mall. =|

      I’ve been asking around what people do on the weekends, and most of the time, the answer I get back is: “I go to Hong Kong…” =__=


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