Let's face it: with a continued ban on fireworks and loads of stuff being closed (find out what's open here
), spending Chinese New Year in Shanghai may not live up to every laowai
's expectations. It's a time for family more than anything, and if you're looking for insight into a true Spring Festival experience and the real spirit of it all, wish no more.
Citymaster, a company who connect expats and travellers with locals in China, are offering the opportunity to spend New Year with a Chinese family, with host families in locations all across the country. You can choose to stay here in Shanghai or venture further afield to cities such as Xiamen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, Dali and more.
'You stay with a family, eat home-cooked food, see how they celebrate New Year, what is important for Chinese people, what are traditions,' Olga Firstaeva from the company told us. 'You will try and see things, which you will not find in books or movies. Good memories! The more you stay with locals, the more you will realise how kind people are. Some people can really share everything with you.'
An obvious question: why would a family want to spend the most important holiday of the year with a stranger? 'For them, it's opportunity to know new people and their cultures,' Firstaeva says. 'Some people can't travel but they explore the world this way. Some families have kids and children that can speak English and get motivation to explore the world too.' A good level of Mandarin-speaking is obviously helpful but not necessary.
It sounds like a good idea to us, and except for a 99RMB refundable deposit it's all free – you just have to cover your own travel costs, and it's advised you contribute to the food expenses during your stay. You can still sign up for this year (most trips will start around Jan 25) by contacting Citymaster_ on WeChat or emailing Citymastershanghai@gmail.com. They also offer some other cool-looking experiences for those looking to get closer to local life – see their website for more info.