The Lunar New Year is usually a time for good food, festive cookies, red packets (very important, mustn’t forget!) and family gatherings.
However, amid the festivities, which is traditionally a time to celebrate renewal, prosperity and good fortune, meeting the extended family can get awkward, particularly with well-meaning relatives who you haven’t seen since, well, last year.
To help you get through this year unscathed, we’ve taken the liberty of crafting some frequently asked questions and potential (but fairly polite) responses.
1. When are you getting a boyfriend/girlfriend?
If we could take votes, this would probably rank high among the list of questions asked by almost every auntie and uncle whenever they dole out their hongbaos. While we’re not sure why they’re constantly interested in our love lives, not much can be done about it, unfortunately.
Our recommended response: Smile sweetly and change the subject, or simply say that there are other things you’d like to focus on. Your studies or career, for instance. If there’s food near you, try distracting said auntie or uncle by offering a cookie or slice of bak kwa.
2. When are you getting married?
Just like the question above, this one ranks high among the list of FAQs from your relatives year after year. In our humble opinion, they may be privately looking to save on giving out yet another hongbao. Whatever the reason, a simple “not soon” should suffice. If pressed further, there are several ways to go about it, from the more mature “I’m saving up for a house” to the more fabulous “In time. I haven’t found someone who can handle me yet!”
3. When are you having kids?
If you haven’t already noticed, there’s a steady progression to the list of questions, assuming that these are the same relatives. There’s usually one right answer to that, which is “when we’re ready”. For closer relatives, you can always ask for their help! “Will you help me sponsor them?”
4. Are you still in school/NS?
While you may be amused at this, especially if you’ve been working for years, just remember that your relatives haven’t seen you in a while and probably don’t keep up as often as they’d like to as well. In this case, a simple “no” will do, followed by what you’re actually doing now.
5. How are your studies/career?
If you’ve been doing well, that’s all good. But if you’re not and don’t want to be reminded of it during the festive season, just say you’re fine and move on.
6. Have you gained weight?
Fat-shaming is, unfortunately, a thing, especially among your older relatives. Again, try to remember that they come from a different generation and, well, things are done differently. It may be hard not to take it personally, but try not to get too upset over this. You can either brush it off and change the subject, or return the favour by saying “You look more prosperous this year, too!”
7. Have you lost weight?
In this instance, try to remember that this is coming from a place of concern. If this is uncomfortable for you, just say “no” (no matter the situation) and move on.
8. So old already, why are you still taking hongbao?
This is one of the worst questions any relative can ask and it just makes them look bad. We recommend saying this: “Why not? I’m single, and it’s tradition. So thanks for your blessing!”. Once that’s done, smile and walk away, hopefully to a nicer relative this time.
Not sure how much to give? Check out our hongbao guide for how much to give, who to give, and how to give!
How to deal with these questions
- Don’t take things the wrong way
Try to remember that they’re family after all and most of the questions come from a place of concern and/or curiosity.
- It’s just once a year
These gatherings don’t happen too often, so console yourself that you’ll only have to deal with these once a year.
- Don’t partake
Instead of attending these gatherings, make full use of the public holiday and take a vacation or indulge in a staycation, away from these prying questions.
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- Craft cheeky answers
These may never see the light of day (and they probably shouldn’t if you want to maintain your ties), but it’s always fun to imagine their expressions when you rebut with something unexpected and quite naughty. That said, do remember that they’re your elders. Always err on the side of caution.
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