Considered by many to be one of the most daunting events for myriad reasons, here are some tips on surviving the Asian family gathering and reunion dinner this Chinese New Year. Take this as a guide for your survival, and for getting those sweet sweet red packets.
Asian parents have earned a reputation for their high expectations and less-than-desirable conversations, especially at the dining table. Questions upon questions surrounding the topics you wish to not discuss at this very moment are paired with a uniquely tense ambience that makes you question why you’re not celebrating this occasion at a restaurant instead.
As you go back to your humble abode and meet those relatives you’ve been dying not to meet, here are some tips on surviving the usual family gathering and reunion dinner (as well as all the questions that come with them) this Chinese New Year.
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Tips on surviving your family gathering and reunion dinner this Chinese New Year
Expect questions about your work, love life, and weight gain
You know there’ll be questions, and there are some answers you can prep beforehand to make sure you get out unscathed. Feel free to answer in a way that dodges the question entirely, or counter with another set of questions. Here is an example:
“When will you have a girlfriend? I want a baby to hold already lah”
“I’m just focusing on work and I’m looking to move up in the company soon. If I do that, I can have some time to look for a partner lah”
You don’t even have to be looking to move upwards, but imply anything to let them stop asking further. Here is another example:
“You are so much fatter than the last time I saw you. Have you tried a diet?”
“But your food is always good, ahma. You should already open a restaurant. Can you teach me how to cook some time?”
They’ll then make a joke about you burning down the whole place if you step into the kitchen. The table will laugh, and they’ll move on to another topic.
Questions about relationships, marriages, diet, body, career, and more are expected. Do your homework. It’s like the SATs your dad used to grill you for, and this time, you’ll win.
Prep some stimulating stories for the table
They can’t put you on a cooker and roast your self-esteem to bits if they’re thinking of something else. Read a bit of news beforehand — something spicy that they have no chance but to insert their opinions into.
“A friend of mine just dropped out of university to work in his family business. Shame, he had like a year left.”
“Kids these days have no patience anymore. Back in my days we always—”.
Okay, we didn’t tell you that the opinions will be good, but at least they aren’t thinking of shaming your life choices for the time being. Indeed, the power of distraction is among the key strategies for surviving any Chinese New Year family gathering and reunion dinner.
Ask yourself twice before making major announcements
Some people wait until a family gathering to make an announcement about themselves. While it’s true that all the relatives will be in one place anyway, so it’s much easier than having to connect to each one individually, you should ask yourself again if you really want that announcement to be the topic of conversation for the rest of the evening.
You’re engaged? That’s nice. You’re coming out? Very cool. You just had a baby with that girl your mum has been dreading for years? Uh-huh. Ask yourself if you want to pop that in front of everyone, or have a calm and collected conversation with your parents first.
Remember, Asian families have good intentions
If all comes to worse and you can’t escape the conversations, remember that Asian parents aren’t well-known for expressing their love in normal ways.
A question of “are you too thin?” can be interpreted into them caring if you aren’t eating well enough. After all, your grandmas always looking to get you something to eat every time you visit.
A concern towards your career path can be them trying to consider your life choices more. They aren’t going to be around forever, and they want to make sure you aren’t just holding on, but living comfortably with dreams that they haven’t crushed to bits yet.
Going against your relatives is okay, sometimes
A few of the things you and your relatives can disagree on is your career/education path. They care about what you’re planning for the future, and you need to show just that—that you’ve already planned it out to an extent.
“Being an artist is so hard. How are you going to make money?”
“Well, art is coming back since the pandemic, and a lot of spaces are looking for new art all the time. With my art degree, university professors are paid well, and I will surely look into that more. Also, I am planning to look for work abroad. They’re hiring a lot of people these days, so I’ll keep you guys updated.”
Dreams and passion can be hard to follow. Let them know that you have your heart set on it, and that you have done the homework.
Don’t be stingy when it comes to red packets
You’ve been in that position before — the kid waiting for red packets from your favourite relatives.
Smoothen those relationships by being your family youngsters’ favourite relative and put those bills in. Think of it as an investment into the future, and people will thank you for it. Well, mainly the ones who got the packets, but the point still stands.
Let them use the money and socialise, buy their favourite games, pick out the clothes they’re saving up for. You know how it feels when you were still relying on these packets to buy things you want, and now you get to be the one blessing them.
Don’t avoid the gathering
Because of the tense atmosphere, many just choose not to go to Chinese New Year family gatherings entirely. You know that your relatives won’t be sitting at the table forever, and sometimes it’s better to endure one dinner than to regret it later.
In most cases, you’re loved, and sometimes expressing love is harder than the act of loving someone. Focus on the good, or focus on the food. It’s an Asian family gathering — the food has to be amazing. But don’t eat too much because “you’ll get fat,” and don’t eat too little because “it’s wasting food.”
With all these strategies in place, you’re all set for surviving the Chinese New Year traditions. Have fun!
(Main and featured images: Everything Everywhere All at Once/IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok