Chinese New Year was celebrated within the last two weeks from Feb 16 to 27.  We stayed in Shanghai.  A lot of Chinese people leave the city during this holiday to return to their home-towns to be with family.  This meant that the roads were very quiet so I took the opportunity to take my family to some places we had not yet seen.

You don‘t need to go far to become fully immersed in the culture here.  Although Shanghai is very much a multi-cultural city and a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures, you can still find pockets that are purely Chinese and this can give you a feeling of the colourful and vibrant culture and its history.  Finding locations that are un-developed in tourism, more traditional and genuinely Chinese has become a hobby of ours and when I talk to some of the people in these locations (with my simple Mandarin), their responses are often surprising and rewarding.  I have to say that this has been my favourite thing.  We also sampled some of the more local foods and found the flavours and items more interesting than a lot of the `fusion` or Western restaurants and of course, the price is better too.

For me, the Chinese New Year holiday season really started when I attended the company party.  The party was held in a grand theatre and mainly followed the format of a variety show.  It began with a business review which showed me that the Jiading workforce has got a lot to be proud of.

A few weeks before the party, I was asked to join a group of Chinese and foreign colleagues to recite a few lines from a poem on stage.  I was happy to do it so I practiced my sections of the poem, concentrating as usual, on the tones in order to get the meaning right.  After arriving at the theatre and watching the first part of the party (show), I began to get nervous.  The scale of the performances and professionalism of my colleagues on stage was amazing and I was becoming worried that I would not be so good.  Judging by the audience’s reaction however, I think we all did a good job.  This was great fun.

The rest of the party included singing contests with some great performances, both from group and individual performers.  My personal favourite was  天亮了 (It’s getting bright [approximately]) skilfully sung by Doris Yuan (袁桢琦).  There was also the traditional presentation of Hongbao (red envelope with money inside) and a lottery based on the random selection of employees ID numbers.  Those selected were given five seconds each to reach into boxes through a small hole and grab as much money and vouchers as they could.  The front of the boxes was transparent so the audience could see what they were or were not getting.  At least one colleague got his arm stuck in the hole.

It was good to see the year ending in such a positive way and the mood for the vacation was clearly set in everyone’s minds.  The atmosphere in the Jiading offices during the remaining days before the vacation was great and I am thankful to be included in welcoming the new Year of the Sheep.

In the three years that we have been here, I have seen the positive changes in MANN+HUMMEL China and also the growth of China itself – literally felt it beneath my feet.  The rate at which this country is changing is amazing and I am sure that China will continue to develop without losing its traditional value.

I have made a lot of good friends here, both MANN+HUMMEL colleagues and externally and I will miss a lot of good people if I leave.  I am thankful for their support, especially during my initial `Crazy Laowai` days when everything was new and difficult.