Spending the holidays with someone else’s family can be a daunting experience, no matter the culture.
Different families have unique traditions and ways of doing things, so it can be especially intimidating to spend Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, with a Chinese family. Whether you’re joining a friend or family member, or you’re traveling solo, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t accidentally offend your hosts. Bring Gifts Bringing gifts to your host family is a great way to show your appreciation and demonstrate your respect.
You don’t need to overspend; a nice bottle of baijiu or a gift basket of seasonal fruit will be a welcome and appreciated gesture. If there are elderly people in the family, consider bringing a gift basket of vitamins or traditional Chinese medicine, which will further illustrate your respect for the older generation. Prepare Hong Baos for the Kids Hong baos, little red envelopes filled with money, are a staple of Chinese New Year, and children especially look forward to receiving them.
If you’re out of college and/or married, find out if there are any children in the family and set aside some money to give each of them a hong bao. It’s not expected of a foreign guest, but it will be a nice touch and a great way to show your appreciation. Between 100 and 200 RMB is a suitable amount, but don’t use coins and make sure the notes are crisp.
Be an Easy Eater Try to sample a little bit of everything at the Chinese New Year banquet, as this will show you’re open to experiencing Chinese food culture. Be sure to say everything is delicious, but be warned that if you show a particular liking for a dish, your hosts may keep loading up your bowl until you have to physically stop them. When you’ve eaten all you can, leave a little something in your bowl, otherwise they may think you’re still hungry.
If you have any food allergies or cannot handle spice, be sure to let your host family know ahead of time, as they may cook a special dish just for you. Be Prepared to Watch TV After the big meal, many Chinese families will sit around the TV and watch the Chinese New Year’s TV Gala. A bilingual version may be available, but even if it is, the show can get pretty dull pretty quickly if you’re not a native Chinese speaker.
Politely watch for a while, and if you get bored, suggest you take the children outdoors to set off fireworks. Chances are the kids are just as bored as you and looking for an excuse to escape the TV. Prepare a New Outfit for New Year’s Day It’s traditional to wear new clothes on New Year’s Day.
Most parents will buy their children a new outfit for the occasion, so consider buying something for yourself as well. It’s not a necessity, but it will show your hosts that you respect their tradition. Spending Spring Festival with a Chinese family can be a wonderful experience.
With the right preparation, you can make sure you’re able to fully enjoy the holiday and the hospitality of your hosts. If you’re looking to experience Chinese culture while teaching abroad in China, Teaching Jobs China can help you find the perfect teaching job. With our help, you’ll be able to experience Spring Festival with a Chinese family in no time.
A forest of Eufates poplars on the Ejine banner of Inner Mongolia was covered by snow on Monday. [Photo of Xing Hao / Provided to Chinadaily.com.cn]
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