Here’s a rough idea of how the year goes by in Shanghai for expat families and what to expect and look forward to.
Chinese New Year falls at this time.
Chinese New Year 2018 is Friday February the 16th (which makes the eve’ on the 15th).
Chinese New Year 2019 is on Tuesday February the 5th, so the eve’ is on the 4th.
People usually get a full week off work, though locals usually need to make up the hours by working a day on a weekend here and there, which is completely ridiculous but there you go.
Most work and personal projects start in March, as the weather un-freezes. There is an employment merry-go-round, as everyone waited until after Chinese New Year and their bonus, to quit their job and get a new one.
For several years recently, the Shanghai Formula 1 is at this time. Read more about tickets and the best seats and views for the Shanghai F1 there.
The rainy season also begins in April. The first weekend near April the 1st and 2nd is Qingming Festival, AKA Tomb-sweeping Festival. Most Chinese people go top the cemetery of their ancestors and do some praying and so on.
Plum rain season arrives at this time, which despite being a little inconvenient perhaps, it always clears away the pollution, which is nice.
At May 1 and in June you have the Labour day and Dragonboat Festival respectively, so there are usually a few days off school for each of these.
Local schools actually get two months off, so most (let’s say 80%+) of expats go away for at least a few weeks or a month plus at this time. The city roasts, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees C, and all kids will need daily mosquito protection from June all through Summer. All shops sell various sprays, so it’s worth filling your house with Raid plug-ins and to spray your kids’ clothes when they leave the house each time.
Despite the heat, May to September are wonderful months to be in Shanghai. The weather makes al fresco evenings a delight and everyone is in a better mood due to the weather and much lower pollution during this time.
School starts, of course, and the middle of September usually sees a couple of days off for the Mid-Autumn festival. Mid-Autumn festival is also called Mooncake Festival, as people give each other mooncakes as a sign of togetherness and seeing family, as you can see the moon from wherever you are.
The first week of October is National Week, so people get a week off work. Never (NEVER) travel to local places during national holiday times like this. It is packed. It is safe to travel at the end – for example if the National Week is October 1 to 8, then you can start visiting places in China from the 5th onwards.
The Rolex Masters Tennis and the HSBC Golf usually visit Shanghai in OCtober, with the Global NBA Games also a recent arrival at this time.
The Winter-y Hell of November to January
Always leave Shanghai at Christmas. It is ridiculously depressing during this time. The pollution is worse as the winds are lower, Christmas consists of ‘trees’ in malls and a few hotel dinners.
90%+ expats leave during this time, so make sure you plan early, to take a much needed break from China at this time.
This is just honesty. Living in Shanghai is hectic and living anywhere away from home is difficult.
So if you plan to get out from the middle of December for a few weeks, then you can spend November enjoying the things that you like in Shanghai, before you have the nice punctuation of escaping it for a while.