The Chunyun Trend: Carpooling Home For Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year travel season, also known as chunyun, is in full swing. This year, one of the most popular ways in which people try to make it home for the Spring Festival is by looking for shared rides through social media. Carpooling has now become the second most common way of making home for the holidays.

The Chinese New Year travel season, also known as ‘chunyun’ (春运), is the biggest annual mass migration of the world. Many of China’s urban areas become deserted as people return to their native provinces and hometowns to celebrate the new year with their family and friends.

The travel season begins around two weeks before the start of Chinese New Year, which starts on January 28 2017. It usually lasts about 40 days: from January 13 to February 21 this year.

Last year, People’s Daily and other Chinese media reported that approximately 2,9 billion trips were made for the 2016 Spring Festival.

According to last year’s reports, the majority of people traveled by car or bus. The train was the second most-used form of transportation during chunyun. Airplane and boat ranked as the third and fourth most common form of transportation during the Spring Festival.

 

“I am seriously looking for a carpool friend to drive home for Spring Festival.”

 

During the chunyun season, people often have trouble obtaining train tickets. Stations are overcrowded, and many people have financial difficulties to pay for their tickets to go home.

Many people therefore try to arrange a shared ride home through one of China’s social media platforms, as it is relatively cheap and convenient. They are either passengers looking for a driver and car, or drivers who are looking for fellow passengers to share the costs of gas and toll fees.

Some are using car-hailing apps such as Didi to find a shared ride home, others are using Sina Weibo or WeChat to find a ride or carpoolers.

“I am seriously looking for a carpool friend to drive home for Spring Festival,” one man from Suzhou posts on Weibo: “I am an experienced driver of 10 years, and have a B2 driver’s license. I am going to drive from Suzhou to the north of Henan province. I will drive all! the! way! You don’t need to drive!”, the man writes.

He adds that the drive is usually around 10 hours, but might be 12-14 hours due to the busy roads. “The costs will be 300 RMB (±44$) per person,” he writes, saying that they can travel with three people in total and that he cannot accept people who are bringing too much luggage.

Many others are also looking to carpool, posting things such as: “Going from Yantai to Zaozhuang this week, who wants to drive together?” These posts are often placed with the #carpool hashtag (#拼车#).

 

“Always travel together with a good friend to avoid falling victim to someone with bad intentions.”

 

Some netizens who have not been able to obtain a train ticket need to drive across the entire country to go home, such this netizen (image below) who needs a ride of over 16 hours and 1300 kilometers.

While carpooling home for Chinese New Year is a popular form of transportation, Chinese media and public security bureaus also warn netizens to be well-prepared before getting into the car with a stranger.

They advise people – both drivers and carpoolers – to always travel together with a good friend to avoid falling victim to someone with bad intentions. Drivers should make clear agreements with passengers about safety and payment methods.

People should check each other’s contact details and make sure the vehicle is in good condition. “Don’t be careless in carpooling,” several media warn travelers.

 

“Data collected by QQ shows two major changing trends during this year’s chunyun.”

 

There are entire websites and message boards dedicated to finding rides home for Spring Festival. On sites like 58.com and Edeng, most rides vary from 100 to 300 RMB (14$-44$) depending on the distance.

According to Sina News, data collected by QQ shows two major changing trends during this year’s chunyun:

1. Traveling by train seems to have become the most popular way of traveling home for Chinese New Year. 2. The popularity of carpooling has gone up significantly during this year – it is now the second most used form of transportation to go home.

Although carpooling now seem to have become a new Chinese New Year tradition, not everyone feels comfortable with it yet. “This will be the first time that I am sharing a ride with someone I don’t know,” one woman writes on Weibo.

She then jokingly continues: “My sister-in-law and father-in-law seem to be more nervous about it than I am. I let the driver send me their ID and license plate number. My husband says I am too careless and will be sold off by a human trafficker. I told him there are no human traffickers who are looking to sell off a middle-aged lady. And if I am sold off to some village and become the village leader’s wife, I also don’t mind too much.”

– By Manya Koetse
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Featured image via TMTpost.

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About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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