Received your first Chinese New Year invitation as an expat? Get ready with this guide

Expat life
23 Jan 2024
8 mins read
Written by Riona lye

As an expat living in a foreign land, sometimes a simple invitation can mean so much. And when it comes to Chinese New Year, there’s a little extra special meaning behind every invite. It’s not just a formality, it’s a heartfelt gesture of goodwill from your host. Gathering with family and friends to share blessings and welcome the new year is at the heart of this celebratory holiday.


And when you’re invited to be part of it all, it’s like being welcomed into an extended family. So, whether you’re new to the festivities or an old pro, be sure to show your appreciation in a timely and respectful manner.


In our blog, we’ll guide you through your first Chinese New Year invitation, so you can make the most of it!

Wear red or any bright colour

As you gear up to celebrate the Chinese New Year, one aspect you don’t want to overlook is your attire. Finding the perfect outfit can be tricky, as you want to respect the cultural expectations while also maintaining your personal style. One helpful tip is to incorporate festive colors into your ensemble, particularly red, which symbolizes good fortune and happiness.


But don’t feel restricted to just one color – consider other vibrant hues that align with your zodiac’s lucky colour. Ultimately, the key is to strike a balance that allows you to feel authentic and comfortable in what you wear. So go ahead and let your personal style shine while embracing the spirit of the occasion!

Say auspicious greetings

Chinese New Year is also an opportunity to express heartfelt well-wishes and blessings to the people in our lives. One of the most beautiful expressions of this sentiment is through the exchange of auspicious words and phrases.


  • 恭喜发财 (Gōngxǐ fācái): This phrase translates to “Congratulations and be prosperous.” It’s a standard greeting during Chinese New Year, expressing the wish for financial success and good fortune.
  • 年年有余 (Nián nián yǒu yú): This phrase means “Surplus every year” and conveys the hope for a surplus of wealth and prosperity year after year.
  • 吉祥如意 (Jíxiáng rúyì): “Good luck and prosperity as you wish” is the sentiment behind this phrase. It expresses the wish for all one’s hopes and dreams to come true.
  • 大吉大利 (Dà jí dà lì): “Great luck and great profit” is the meaning of this phrase, signifying the hope for immense success and good fortune.
  • 身体健康 (Shēntǐ jiànkāng): While not focused on wealth, this phrase wishes good health to the recipient, an important blessing for the year ahead.

Now, you might be stressing out about mispronouncing these phrases, but don’t worry! No one is going to fault you for being a foreigner. Just stick to the ever-reliable “Happy Lunar New Year” if you’re really having trouble. The sentiment behind the phrase is what’s important, after all. So spread the good luck and positive energy around and have a Happy Lunar New Year!

Gift giving

The festive season is all about getting together, having some laughs, and making memories to last a lifetime. However, there’s one thing that can quickly put a damper on the whole experience – being an awkward ostrich. You know the feeling; show up empty handed, and you feel like you’ve committed a cardinal sin. But what’s worse? Bringing a gift that misses the mark entirely? It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious.


If you’re in need of some ideas for the perfect gift, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. From getting the right oranges to special greetings for Lunar New Year, we’ve got all the inspiration you need to make this an unforgettable festive season.


So let’s take a deep breath, relax, and get ready to enter the festive spirit without a worry in the world.

5 gifts to bring for your first Chinese New Year

Don’t worry, you don’t have to pull your hair out in frustration. There are plenty of gift ideas out there that can make your life easier.

Mandarin oranges

Did you know that the shape of mandarin oranges alone symbolises good luck? It’s no wonder why they’re a must-have when visiting for Chinese New Year! And don’t just grab any old oranges from the supermarket. There is a difference between a mandarin orange and a Sunkist orange. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask your local Asian market staff or supermarket employees.


When giving the mandarin oranges, always present it as a pair and offer it with both hands. This is a sign of respect and is believed to bring good fortune to the recipient. And don’t forget to say some auspicious phrases to wish them well. When you receive your two mandarin oranges in return, know that this exchange symbolizes blessings and good fortune for both of you.

Bak kwa

When it comes to Chinese New Year, sliced pork bakkwa is a classic choice for gifting. It’s made from premium pork hind leg and marinated with a secret recipe before being barbecued to perfection. Delicious! But be warned, it comes with a price tag and often a long queue leading up to the holiday. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, or simply don’t have the time to wait in line, don’t worry. There are plenty of other gifting options available.


However, if you can afford it, nothing says Happy New Year quite like a tasty slice of bakkwa.

Canned abalones

If you’re looking for a thoughtful Chinese New Year gift to bring to your host, consider grabbing a couple of cans of abalone. Not only is it a delicious and luxurious treat, but in Chinese culture, it’s believed to bring good luck and abundance for the year ahead. Plus, there’s no need to go broke trying to find the fanciest can of abalone out there. As long as you grab a couple from the supermarket, you’re good to go. Who knows, maybe your gift of abalone will be the key to your own good fortune in the coming year.

Chinese New Year goodies

Who doesn’t love indulging in some delicious Chinese New Year festive goodies? Pineapple tarts and cookies are a particularly popular pick – and with good reason! They’re sweet, tasty and perfect for sharing with family and friends. Plus, let’s face it – when it comes to snacks, more is always better! You won’t hear any complaints about having too many goodies around, especially when they’re as scrumptious as these.

Red packets

The amount you give depends on a few factors, such as how close you are to the child or person receiving the packet, and your own financial means. If you happen to be good friends with the host, you might want to consider giving $8 or even $10.


However, if it’s just a casual acquaintance, $6 would be perfectly acceptable.


And, if you are single, don’t be surprised if you end up receiving a red packet instead of giving one!

Dining etiquette

When it comes to dining etiquette in traditional Chinese culture, the seating arrangement is of utmost importance. There’s always a seat of honor reserved for the most respected member of the family or the head of the household. As a guest, you may find yourself in a position of honor too, such as facing the entrance or with your back to the wall. But don’t stress it if you’re unsure, just wait for the host to guide you or simply ask where you should sit.


As for enjoying a delicious feast during Chinese New Year, there are a few cultural nuances to keep in mind. Firstly, be mindful of how you use your chopsticks. Avoid sticking them upright in your bowl of rice as this is usually reserved for funerals. Instead, rest them on a chopstick rest or the edge of your plate.


And don’t worry if chopsticks aren’t your forte, you can always ask for a spoon and fork. It’s also important to practice good etiquette when sharing dishes.


Use serving utensils to avoid passing germs. And remember to wait for the host or the eldest person at the table to serve or start eating before you dig in. Lastly, if someone toasts to you, it’s customary to return the toast with a cheer of “干杯” (gānbēi).

Before you go…

Being an expat during the festive season can be tough, especially if you’re miles away from your loved ones. With Chinese New Year coming up, you might be feeling the homesickness kick in a little more than usual. But don’t worry, there are ways to show your family back home that you’re thinking of them.


send money instarem

*rates are for display purposes only.


Aside from sending over some festive goodies, you can also send them some money using Instarem. With its transparent fees and great rates, you can easily send money overseas to 60+ countries with no hidden costs.


So, go ahead and put a smile on your family’s faces this Chinese New Year!


Download the app or sign up here.


*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.