Why would somebody want to spent Christmas in China?
Not so sure either, I just always end up here for some reason xD
This year I am celebrating Christmas in Shanghai, three years ago I was in Jinan and Qufu, Shandong Province.
Even though all three cities are in China, they couldn’t be more different.
One is a huge Metropolis with lots of western influence and while Jinan is the capital of Shandong Province, Qufu is pretty small and both are more or less on the country side.
So let’s make this post a bit of a comparison.
Qufu/Jinan vs. Shanghai
1. Pre-Christmas Time
Non existent in Qufu/Jinan, there might be a couple of Santas around, but you will be hard pressed to find more. Christmas simply isn’t part of the culture, which is totally understandable, because most of the country is Buddhist or nonreligious.
Shanghai on the other hand has lost of Christmas Activities. There are several markets (but careful you will have to pay entry and nope the drinks are not included), the shopping centers host events and put up decorations. It gets very colorful and very kitschy. Typical Chinese, you’ll love it 😉
2. Christmas Markets
There are none in Qufu/Jinan. In Shanghai the biggest is the Medieval Market, 70 RMB Entry. But don’t expect too much, it’s not bad, but nothing compared to a traditional German Christmas Market. But at least they dress up 😉
On one weekend in December the Paulaner ( German restaurant in the French Concession Area) hosts a small Christmas market too.
The entry this year was 20RMB and usually you will just hear positive things about them. But I couldn’t go, I was traveling in Hangzhou.
There are always some pop-up markets throughout the city. Just check Smartshanghai for information. Mostly you will just find expats there and they are rather tiny…but you will find some yummy treats like really good fine and food that reminds you of home 😉
Christmas is just another day. This year on the 25th we are actually going to write an exam in university xD Most places will be open as usual. Especially on the country side. In Shanghai just a couple of places will close early.
Otherwise most Clothing Stores (especially the foreign brands) have large sales during this time. You will be hard pressed to find an H&M in Qufu, so for shopping you have to go at least to the capital of the province or make your way down to Shanghai or Beijing.
(But all the other stuff besides the sales are cheaper on the country side 😉 )
4. Food Shopping for Christmas Dinner
If you want to cook like at home, there is no other way you will have to get to one of the big cities. On the countryside you will be hard pressed to find all the ingredients.
While some places have a big expat and foreign community with at least one international store, most places in the countryside just have local products.
I was happy to find Coffee in Qufu, but for Nutella there was at least a trip to Jinan necessary, if you were lucky…just to be on the safe side every time somebody went to Beijing, he got a wish list with stuff to buy for the rest at home 😉
Shanghai on the other hand, let’s just say , there is nothing you won’t get here.
Name what you want and the country, there will be for sure some store selling it.
But then even if it is the same brand which you use at home, tastes can vary from what you are used to, as they do adept their goods to Chinese likes… if you want to go 100% sure that it is the same, you will have to go to a store just selling imported goods. These are usually a tad more pricey.
5. Booking Hostels/Hotels
Well this is a funny one. While you can make some great bargains on the country side, prices go up a lot in Shanghai. Mostly probably because there are many people visiting family during the Christmas time.
On the countryside you can get rooms up to 50% cheaper, simply because it is winter season and many rooms are empty.
Three years ago we splurged and booked a 5-star hotel in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province. It even had a Bathtub. My friends from the Kung Fu school and I where in heaven. The large mirror was the highlight, we didn’t have any big ones in our school, so it was the first time after 3 month of training that we actually could see the results of training 24/7 😀
If you want to spent Christmas in a Hostel/Hotel in Shanghai or any other big, touristy city better book early enough and be prepared to pay a tad more than usual.
6. Post Services
If you want to sent stuff home to your family, you better sent it already end of November. Post Services are sometimes a bit of a luck thing. Not all will arrive, but so far I was really lucky with mine. Just one took fairly long (4 weeks), but I sent it with the ship, as that was a much cheaper option then by plane. This year I sent a big letter envelope to Germany for 30Rmb.
You have to write your Chinese address on the parcel/letter, so prepare that…it also helps if you know the Chinese name of the country you are sending to.
In Shanghai if you are lucky they will know at least a tad of english, but don’t rely on this.
Also don’t wrap your parcel, they usually want to have a peek inside and the will repack your stuff into one of their boxes for you, at least that is what they did two years ago. Plus they won’t let you sent everything, usually books they won’t allow and some really random stuff like once they didn’t want to sent my drawing pens…no clue why xD
In Shanghai most restaurants will offer special Christmas Dinners and Parties…Prices can be crazy, but compared to Germany, they are still a rather good deal, somewhere around 210 Rmb-700 Rmb (30-100 Euro).
Many clubs also offer special deals. Check Smartshanghai or Shanghai Times.
We will go to a Teppanyaki place this time. All you can eat and drink =)
If you don’t know what it is…it is kind of Japanese freestyle kitchen…you pick what you want and the cook preps it all in front of you. Super yummy =)
3 years ago in Jinan we went to a club on the 24th…this was my most bizarre Christmas ever xD At midnight confetti flew from the ceiling and Santa was dancing on the stage with an angel on each side (I don’t think I have to mention that the angel didn’t have much clothes on 😉 )
Next morning I had one of the worst hangovers of my life and my Christmas Brunch for the 25th were Burger King fries 😀
So my general conclusion…if you hate Christmas and you want to get away from it, come to China, travel, climb a mountain, do whatever you like 😉 Besides here and there some decorations, you won’t find much Christmas atmosphere…
If you are stuck in China for Christmas and you are really missing it, go to the bigger cities (always saying everything that has a at least one starbucks is a big city 😉 ) and look up the local expat pages for events and celebrations.
I will probably just Skype with my mom in the afternoon of the 24th and then meet my friends for dinner. Afterwards we maybe are going out, maybe home, because as I said, I am having a test on the 25th at 10 in the morning -.-
(At least my mom is freezing some Christmas cookies for me, so that I can have them when I go home. Also I am barely surviving this season, because she sent me an amazing care packet )
So Christmas in China, well it is what it is…I am here and I will simply make the best out of it 😉