As Australia’s largest trading partner in terms of both imports and exports, it’s important to consider the effect that China’s biggest holiday has on business in this country and abroad. Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most significant holiday on the calendars of those in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as in countries like Singapore and Vietnam and in total, approximately a sixth of the planet will observe Chinese New Year.
This year, the celebrations began on January 28th and lasts 15 days, continuing until February 12th, leaving many businesses who have Chinese clients, producers or partners finding that their contacts are a lot less responsive during this period. Although many businesses reopen on day eight (a lucky number), there are no hard and fast rules: businesses from banks to factories close during the holiday period, with some businesses closing early to allow enough time for their employees to travel across Mainland China to visit family – it is a festival celebrating reunion, after all.
Here are a few things you should consider during this period:
Varying holiday periods
While Australian holidays have very standard pre-set dates that generally always the same and reflected in most companies, it works a little differently during Chinese New Year. The dates are dependent on the lunar calendar and therefore change every year. Consider also that for Chinese businesses, the amount of time they shut up shop for will vary and there’s often little to no warning as to when holidays will begin early, or finish late.
Anticipate a certain amount of delay further to what you expect: for example, don’t expect that the day after the Lantern Festival (which marks the end of the celebrations) that your contact will be back in the office, even if they say they will – apply this same rule to business who claim to stay open during this period, as this is generally untrue.
The inevitable backlog
Like the period following our return from holidays, you can’t expect your newly rested clients to be back on board as soon as they open their inbox. Considering that all businesses across the area have also been closed, your contact will have their own backlog to fill before filling yours. Patience is a virtue, after all.
The banks are also closed during this period, so no payments are processed to and from Chinese New Year observing countries can be processed. General advice is to settle payments before celebrations begin to avoid any delays. It’s also tradition to settle debts before the New Year to start with a clean slate – any outstanding payments are said to bring misfortune.
The importance of traditions
Knowing your way around a few of the overriding symbolism of Chinese New Year will go a long way to understanding the way your partner does business. An abundance of red is encouraged (the colour associated with luck and prosperity) and eschewing odd numbers is a good idea when gift giving. Odd numbers are associated with funerals, therefore when red envelopes (ang pao) of money are exchanged during Chinese New Year festivals, the amount is always even – except for the number four, which is a homonym for ‘death’ in Mandarin and Cantonese. Tech has adapted to these traditions too – instant messaging service WeChat allows you to send envelopes via their service, resulting in a staggering 14.2 billion text ang pao sent on Chinese New Year’s Eve this year.