Open house among friends in a foreign land


Malaysians not returning home for Chinese New Year will get together with friends for a celebration.  

WHILE many Malaysians working in Shanghai and neighbouring provinces are back celebrating Chinese New Year with their loved ones, Michael Oh and his family will spend the festive season at their Suzhou home in Jiangsu province, about 80km from the city. 

On Feb 20, they will hold a Chinese New Year open house for their Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese friends. 

“This is the first time we are celebrating the Lunar New Year here. I checked with some Malaysian and Singaporean friends who are also staying back and decided to hold this get-together,” said Oh, who is the Malaysian Association of Jiangsu president. 

Involved in trading and consulting services, Oh has been living in Suzhou with his wife and two children aged eight and 12 for the past five years.  

The family had organised other gatherings for Christmas and special occasions. 

“In Malaysia, we would normally meet up with old friends on the first day of Chinese New Year. Here in Shanghai, we will just stay at home because we see most of our friends on working days,” he said. 

Most Malaysian diplomats and restaurant operators and staff in Shanghai will also be staying put because of the cold weather. 

Mahat Taib, a World Airways ground operations representative, said he would work on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday but would return to Malaysia for a week. 

“Last year, I managed to swap shifts with a co-worker and go back for Hari Raya. This time, I will work until Feb 24 before flying home. I will be back in Shanghai on March 1,” he said. 

Malaysian Chong Seok Ling, a manager at Kuali restaurant, said it would be nice for her to visit places and “really enjoy Shanghai” during her week-long holiday. 

“I work at the restaurant day and night. Hopefully, I can get the most out of this break,” she said. 

For those Malaysians who had booked their flights early, it will be a time to celebrate with family members. 

Boyden senior consultant Michelle Loong is excited at the prospect of catching up with family members who live in different countries. 

“My parents are in KL and my brother and sister are working in London and Birmingham. We all make an effort to head home at least once a year,” she said. 

Like other major cities in China, the two weeks before Chinese New Year have seen an exodus of workers from the metropolis, which has a population of 16 million, to celebrate the Spring Festival at their hometowns in Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong, Zhejiang, Hunan and Hebei provinces. 

The transportation hubs of the Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai South Railway Station, Hongqiao Airport and Pudong International Airport were crowded over the past week. 

According to railway statistics, the Shanghai Railway Station and Shanghai South Railway Station recorded a passenger flow of 200,000 people on Feb 15 – the highest number of passengers per day. 

Many restaurants and shops are expected to reopen on the fifth or sixth day of the lunar calendar. 

Despite the exodus, the city will still be very much alive with locals setting off firecrackers and visiting tourist attractions like The Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Garden cultural mall and recreational parks. 

While most government offices are closed for a week, many agencies like hospitals, the fire and rescue departments and police will have staff and officers on round-the-clock duty to ensure Shanghai folk celebrate a safe and peaceful festival.  

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