Chinese New Year 2019 begins on Tuesday 5 February, ushering in ‘The Year of the Pig’ and a two-week long Spring Festival celebrating family, prosperity and good fortune.
It’s also a particularly busy travel period in the regions that recognise the Lunar New Year, including China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
Chinese New Year always poses some challenges to business travellers, but at the same time it provides opportunities to strengthen your ties with customers and contacts. Here is our guide to doing business during Chinese New Year 2019.
Travelling during the Spring Festival
Flights between Asia and Australia will be particularly full in both directions, especially a week before and after the actual date of Chinese New Year as families reconnect across the world.
This means allowing extra time to get to airports, as traffic can get very congested in larger Asian cities, and accepting that your upgrade request or a search for last-minute points-based reward seats has little chance of coming through.
If you plan on travelling to or through Asia during the Spring Festival it pays to book as early as possible – and that ship has well and truly sailed for Chinese New Year 2019.
However, it’s never too early to start planning for the next one. 2020's Chinese New Year falls even earlier – on January 25 2020 – so those flights will start coming online across February 2019 depending on the airline. Our advice is to get your dates sorted now and be the first to swoop in when bookings (including award seats) open up.
Business and interactions during the Spring Festival
Chinese culture is very centred around superstition and respect, so it pays to be familiar with the ins and outs when doing business in China.
First up, there won’t be much business to do during the two-week festivities, as many staff will be away with their families.
If you're meeting up with a contact, be sure to wish them a happy Chinese New Year and show that you respect their customs and traditions.
There are two simple phrases you can learn to wish Mandarin-speaking people a happy new year.
Gong Xi Fa Chai (pronounced gong-shee-far-chai) translates to “wishing you to enlarge your wealth”, and is a phrase meaning prosperity and success.
Xin Nian Kuai Le (pronounced shin-nian-kwy-ler) simply means “happy new year”.
Gift-giving is a major part of the celebrations, but there’s also a minefield of superstitions to overcome when selecting the right present.
With the colours of flowers and wrapping, red is by far the safest option. White, black and sometimes yellow can be associated with death, mourning or other negative connotations.
The number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word for ‘death’, while the number eight is extremely lucky because it sounds like ‘wealth’.
Whenever in doubt, try to give something that involves eights, especially with simple gifts like premium chocolates.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, also avoid giving watches (time is running out), pears, handkerchiefs, umbrellas or sharp objects even if ceremonial in nature (all representative of separation).
A safe option is usually some quality Australian produce such as chocolates, cookies, teas or wines. The redder the packaging, the better!