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House-visiting 101: Your First Chinese New Year as a Couple

Tips to bear in mind when getting ready to ring in the Lunar New Year with your other half.

By Sam David

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore involves a ton of traditions, and one classic example of this is house-visiting. As jolly as it all sounds, the reality is that some of us find the practice rather stressful, particularly because relatives are often quick to ask sensitive questions, like how much you’re earning at the new job.

For new couples, this stress is heightened because the topic of relationships tends to come up at these annual gatherings. So, if this is you in 2019, here are some things you should know as you get ready to celebrate your first Chinese New Year with your significant other.

Decide how you’re going to introduce each other. Are you going to say “This is my boyfriend/girlfriend”, or are the two of you not quite official yet (but getting there)? It’s important to sort this out before visiting your relatives – this is to ensure you are both on the same page, and that disagreements (or awkward moments) don’t come up later on.

Be ready to answer questions from relatives. It’s only natural for people to wonder about newcomers, especially so when it comes to house-visiting during Chinese New Year, so expect a lot of questions from your family. They may make small talk and ask you how long you’ve been seeing each other, or they may drop big questions, like whether the two of you have plans to settle down. No matter what they ask, as long as the both of you anticipate and discuss the questions and answers together, you won’t be caught off guard.

Think about how you act around each other’s relatives. As a rule of thumb, you want to make sure you both aren’t too lovey-dovey in front of family members to avoid offending anyone. Of course, everyone has different views on public displays of affection. For example: Some may be OK with hand-holding, but others may not be. Talk about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Back to Basics

In case you need a reminder, here’s a quick look at some Chinese New Year do’s and don’ts:

  • DO remember to greet your elders. You can keep it simple and say “Happy Chinese New Year” or “Stay happy and healthy”, but if you want, you can go the extra mile and memorise some prosperity greetings in Chinese.

  • DO offer food to others first when eating at the dining table, or serve them a portion before you help yourself.

  • DON’T wear black or dark colours as it’s considered bad luck. Instead, go with outfits in white, red, and other bright hues.

  • DON’T arrive at a house empty-handed; it’s considered rude. Always make sure you show up with Mandarin oranges, and pack them in even numbers so you can present them as a pair to those you’re meeting.

Chinese New Year may be a big deal for most, and sure, it can get stressful, but don’t worry too much. Communicate with your partner and keep these tips in mind before house-visiting – you’ll be just fine!