If you have a Chinese (boy/girl) friend, you will most probably be invited to their home for the celebration. Do say yes; this will give you an invaluable insight into Chinese culture (and some pretty hilarious, post-Baijiu – photos!)
So yes, it is a big honor, but at the same time, it will also be a challenge; you will be under a constant scrutiny for a duration of several days (laowai here, laowai there – yes, that’s you!); you will be (force) fed a number of mysterious dishes (yummy at times, and, not-so yummy at other times); you’ll have to say goodbye to any form of privacy (any form of privacy).
Here are some tips that will help you get through it:
- prefect your chopsticks technique – even if you don’t speak any Chinese, this will be your time to shine
- buy some goodies from your own country: or at least something that looks foreign enough (chocolate, candy, wine, cigarettes)
- practice charades: even if you speak flawless Mandarin, you won’t understand a word of the local dialect – frustration, here I come
- prepare a skit, song or dance: Chinese people love performance, and you’ll most likely be ‘invited’ (aka (not-so)gently forced) to perform something for the whole family. You will get extra points if you sing a Chinese song (note to self: choose something that people can clap to).
- learn/practice/review some basic Chinese phrases; recognizing family titles will be very useful, for example: JiěJiě (姐姐)means older sister, MèiMèi (妹妹) means younger sister, but also:
- 阿姨 ĀYí is a general term for auntie, but usually means mother’s (younger) sister
- 姑姑 GūGu is an aunt on the father’s side, 大姑 DàGū is father’s eldest sister
- 大姐 DàJiě the eldest sister (aunt), or just a respectful title for an older woman
If everything else fails, spend some time speaking English to the kids; this is a sure way of making everyone happy (well, everyone but the poor embarrassed kid).