With Chinese New Year just around the corner, those who are celebrating will get excited over the prospect of receiving ang paos only to be met with the realisation that this requires the interaction with our relatives.
Family time is always great in moderation, but sometimes visiting or having so many relatives over at once can be quite overwhelming. Aunties have a knack for asking some of the most awkward questions known to mankind, while Uncles may offer some strange advice from time to time.
Here’s how to survive through awkward Chinese New Year situations like a boss.
1) When someone asks “Where’s your girlfriend/boyfriend?”
Now, this would be a perfectly reasonable question if you do have a partner and if Auntie Kay Poh was well aware about it. Most of the time however, it’s just a backhanded question intended to find out whether or not you’re still single.
If you are attached and your significant other isn’t present, be honest and explain that they have a family too – snark is optional. If you are single, try practising the art of taichi by masterfully deflecting the attention to your sibling or cousin. The conversation may play out something like this…
Auntie Kay Poh: Ah boy ah, where’s your girlfriend?
You: I don’t have one, Auntie, like how Ah Seng hasn’t gotten a job yet!
Ah Seng: Oi!
2) When someone asks “Eh, when you getting married ah?”
If you’re attached and someone asks when you’re getting married, you can either take one of two options. If you would like to end the conversation there and then, go for something controversial like, “No one really gets married these days. Just have kids lor.” Do at your own risk.
For a safer option, use external factors as excuses – no matter how irrelevant – like the economy, housing prices, or the government. It’ll encourage them to rant about something, taking the attention away from your private life.
Auntie Kay Poh: Ah boy ah, when you getting married?
You: Oh, not so soon, Auntie. You know lah, the economy…
Auntie Kay Poh: Very bad hor! No wonder Ah Seng cannot find a job!
Ah Seng: Oi!
3) When Aunties and Uncles compare you to their kids
It’s perfectly fine to be proud of your kids, but there are those Aunties and Uncles who love to put their children on a pedestal and compare them to you on any criteria they can get their hands on. They may start by asking what course you took in school and then say something along the lines of, “Oh, my girl is doing that now. What was your GPA?”
It’s a trap! Unless you scored exceptionally well, revealing your number will lead them to compare and put you down. Instead, quickly say you can’t recall and take control of the questioning. Start asking your cousin how he or she finds the course and end the conversation by offering to help with the subjects.
Auntie Kay Poh: Oh, you did Mass Comm also? What was your GPA?
You: It was so long ago, Auntie, cannot remember. But Julie, if you need help with the subjects, let me know!
Auntie Kay Poh: No need lah! I go ask Ah Seng, he not working also.
Ah Seng: Oi!
4) When you don’t know your relatives’ names
It happens. Sometimes the most distant of relatives show up and you realise that after 25 years of meeting them once a year, you haven’t the slightest clue of their names.
Now the easy way out is to retreat to your pocket and whip out the reliable smartphone. But if you’re one to resolve an issue before it persist for time eternity, it’s time to break the ice with the least amount of awkwardness as possible.
To do that, be prepared with an easy-to-learn board game or card game for all ages. If you’re lucky, you’ll overhear their names being called and that’s when how you learn their names once and for all.
You: Come, let me teach everyone a game!
Auntie Kay Poh: Ai yah, Ah Seng confirm lose one.
Ah Seng: Oi!
5) When you’re visiting your girlfriend/boyfriend’s house
Breathe. Sure, it’s probably going to be more nerve-wrecking if you’ve never met the “in-laws” before, but if you have, at least you’ll see some familiar faces. Just bear in mind that Chinese New Year means that there’ll be distant relatives and extended family over as well.
Be prepared to introduce everything about yourself from your family and where you work, to how much you make, which school you attended and whether or not you have a car. If you think that their judging every word you say, don’t worry, they are. But that’s less on you and more on your partner.
The key to this is to make the greatest first impression ever. Make it as easy as possible for his or her family to like you, which will make your life so much easier down the line. So how do you avoid awkward situations there while making an impression? Help out with everything – the cooking, the washing – anything you can get your hands on. If they insist not to, volunteer to entertain the younger kids – they tend to be less judgemental than adults!
Auntie Kay Poh: Eh, Ah Boy ah. Your girlfriend’s mother told me you very good leh, help wash dishes all.
You: Oh, no lah. My mother say must help out and be useful mah.
Auntie Kay Poh: Wah, then how come Ah Seng turn out like this ah?
Ah Seng: Oi!