Thursday, October 18, 2012

Holiday Time in China: Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day

Red Lanterns are out for Mid-Autumn Festival

Hello and welcome back to another installment of my blog! I've been very busy over the last couple of weeks with my new job, living matters, and finally, social matters (experiencing all that Shanghai has to offer and believe me, this could take awhile). At the end of September/ early October, China had two important national holidays: The Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day which I was able to experience like a native (meaning days off and consuming traditional food just like a local). Read on to find out more about these holidays.

 Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节):

Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calender (Mid September to Mid October on the Gregorian calender, this year it fell on September 30th), the Mid-Autumn Festival is a very old, yet revered holiday in China.   Families across China gather together on this day and exchange stories, consume a traditional meal; drink tea; and indulge themselves on moon cakes under the light of the full moon.

A very, very large moon cake
Moon cakes are pretty much the star of the Mid Autumn Festival holiday.  Moon cakes are medium sized pastries traditionally filled with lotus seed or red bean paste. Moon cakes come in a variety of fillings and flavors, mostly nuts and fruits, but in recent years, there have been some interesting flavors such as ice cream.

Lotus Seed Flavor-these were $50USD per box

Even Dairy Queen got into the Moon Cake Spirit!

Starting as early as August, stores and bakeries begin advertising the availability of moon cakes and the Chinese go wild! They can be found individually wrapped and sold or, in a box set of six or more.  Prices range from a mere 30 cents all the way up to several hundred dollars for fancy box sets or incredibly large ones. During my first few weeks here, I couldn't help but notice many people walking around with bags and boxes of moon cakes. I was fascinated and eager to try one, but I patiently waited until the  holiday time to make my move (my workplace graciously bestowed me with one before the vacation).

Moon Cake display at one of the shopping centers
In terms of taste, I found some varieties to be a bit more edible than others. I was enjoying a five nut flavor until I noticed a walnut and I immediately had to dispose of it (I'm allergic to walnuts), and unfortunately, I missed out on the ice cream ones.  Overall, it was an interesting experience and  when in China, do as the Chinese do and (try to) eat what the Chinese eat!

A moon cake parting gift from an expat dinner I attended

National Day(国庆节):
Celebrated on October 1st, National Day celebrates the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) by Mao Zedong.  Since the PRC was founded on October 1, 1949, this year marked the 63rd anniversary.  Around Shanghai, I saw displays commemorating the anniversary which ranged from posters, garden displays and musical performances on t.v. On National Day, the streets were full of people carrying flags, wearing red, and fireworks.

63rd Anniversary Commemoration Display

How did I spend these holidays?
 To be honest I didn't do much. On Mid Autumn Festival night, I had dinner with friends (which turned into a sleepover) and consumed a couple of mini moon cakes I had purchased earlier that day (which were not that great tasting). For National Day, I slept in, heard fireworks (I could not locate them) and spent the night singing loads of songs at  KTV (Karaoke) which was incredibly fun.

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading and leave some comment love :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Shanghai Expat Show 2012

Expatriate (n.): someone who lives outside of their native country. 

Photo Credit:

Hello and welcome back to another installment of my time in Shanghai! I know I've neglected this blog a bit, but I'm pleased to announce that I've settled into a residence as well as, a somewhat solid work routine; thus; life in Shanghai is getting better.  Now that I've given you the quick update, I will now share with you my experience at the annual Expat Show Shanghai!

During the mad dash weeks of looking for an apartment, I went with a couple of friends to look at a potential residence (which they ended up committing to), followed by dinner afterwards.  Once we entered the lobby and headed to the elevators, my eyes noticed flyers with English writing on it. I picked one up and I saw it was for the annual Expat Show Shanghai and to my delight, it was going to be held that weekend. The flyer advertised hundreds of booths that would range from living and housing, education, social, and trip planning matters.  Lastly, there would be many different booths serving cuisines from around the world (I love food)!!  I tucked the flyer away into a safe place in my purse and told several others about. I managed to find a few people who were given the weekend off and we agreed to meet that Saturday. 

I quickly got myself dressed and ready that Saturday and found the venue for the expat show which was the beautiful Shanghai Exhibition Hall.  

I was asked to fill out a card and then a name tag and upon entering the hall, I was greeted by a local who welcomed me in perfect unaccented English with a goodie bag of freebies!

Upon entering the hall, I was greeted by a French expat who awarded me a box and enclosed inside was a discount card and booklet which contained information regarding expat life in Shanghai. I said my "merci"and did a tour of several booths. I collected information on things that ranged from English language publications geared to expat life, to graduate schools offering English language instruction, right on down to dental information.

The Perfect Smiles Dental Booth: Care for the Expat Community

I visited several Mandarin Language school booths that lured me by their goodies and other wares.  These ended up being the most annoying booths since they harassed me to sign up for lessons and they would not take a polite no (or five) for an answer. I found myself avoiding these booths at all cost for the remainder of the day.

One of the Offenders

After visiting and speaking with several companies/individuals and upon feeling the weight of my goody bag, I decided I had worked up enough of an appetite and it was time to visit the food hall. I was excited to try some samples and a good western meal followed by a chocolate dessert since I read on the internet that there would be a chocolate maker on the premises. By the time I made it to the food hall, I was severely disappointed (hence why there's no pictures).  Pickings were slim and pretty much every other booth sold croissants and other french pastries (there are loads of French expats in Shanghai and French was the second most spoken language I heard, hence the gratuitous amount of booths selling French pastries) which were incredibly over priced.  I almost got an Indian dish but decided to cancel my order at the last minute since the food looked like it had been sitting there since that morning (which it very well could have been).  I ended up getting a French pastry (go figure), followed by some cheap ($1.30), yet delicious chocolate chip gelatto.  After a disappointing lunch, I walked around some of the travel booths and I was delighted by the "Go Philippines" booth.

The Winner for 'Best Booth' of the Expat Show

The booth had a live band as well as, patient and attentive representatives who explained the ease of traveling to the Philippines from China.  The representatives talked about different tour packages one could take and they bestowed me with more free goodies. After speaking with the representatives for several minutes (they really piqued my interest), and after picking up some duct tape from a shipping company, I decided to call it a day.

All in all, the Expat Show Shanghai was interesting, fun and something I would return to next year. I can only hope they improve the food hall with more diverse choices and the chocolate maker for next year!