Chinese New Year. A wonderful time for kith and kin to eat excessively, win each other’s money, and rekindle old relationships. But that’s not all- It is also when elders act upon their heavenly mandate to ask you the most awkward questions.
But fret not! Our comprehensive field guide is here to help. Here are 8 popular CNY inquisitions, and the best ways to answer them.
#1 – “Ah boy/ girl, still single ah?”
Yes, you’re still single. Or worse, you recently became single, and now have to divulge your reasons for not having a significant other to the entire living room, till you see those heads nod in slight pity and understanding.
Solution: Tell them you’re a nun and that you’re married to The Lord. Works best with a habit and a rosary on your person. Carry oranges in your hands just to show you’re still in touch with your Chinese roots.
Or you could also try: “Auntie, why, do you have someone in mind?” Warning: only try this if you’re willing to take the risk of being set up by your relatives.
#2 – “When are you getting married?”
We absolutely hate this one, and we know you do too. Yes, you’ve been dating for what seems like a lifetime, but you guys are still taking your time! Besides, you need money to get married, and you know your auntie is not going to be the one to sponsor your wedding.
Solution: Simply assume the authority of Boromir in Lord of The Rings, and declare:
Without having to scare anyone: Just be honest with where you are in the relationship, and be firm about it. All it takes is a hint of uncertainty for your relatives to jump in with never-ending warnings and suggestions.
#3 – “Why so skinny?”
Ectomorphs, we feel your pain. Often, this question gets cushioned with the well-meaning, “Have you been too stressed?”, which pretty much has the same effect as, “You look sick today, do you have makeup on?”. While your elders mean well, it’s not anyone’s place to scrutinise your body, in any given manner.
Solution: Print out pictures of yourself from over the years. Neatly arrange said pictures on a table, year by year, for dramatic effect. As your relative starts to notice the serious look on your face, and realise that you have have, in fact, been skinny throughout your life, you can then begin to keep your images. You won’t be needing them again.
But really: “Auntie I’m waiting for you to feed me!” seems to us like the more hassle-free option.
#4 – “Did you gain weight?”
We feel your CNY guilt, well-padded members of society. We know the incessant snacking already makes you feel horrible enough, but your relatives still seem to have the need to vehemently remind you that your love handles are starting to show. Chin(s) up! There’s no need to shamefully put away that delicious tub of pineapple tarts.
Solution: Ask them the very same question. Try it!
Relative: “Did you gain weight?”
You: “Did you gain weight?”
Relative: “Oh no, I asked, did you gain weight?”
You: “But did you gain weight?”
Seriously, though: “Uncle, it’s your pineapple tarts la!” would work just as well.
#5 – “When are you having kids?”
Is not having children a crime? We totally understand that at those CNY gatherings, relatives can easily make you feel that way with their unstoppable nagging and advice-giving.
Solution: Together with your partner, laugh for at least a good, deafening minute. Best if practiced beforehand. If your relative has the cheek to ask again, simply repeat till their resolution dissolves.
It may be easier to: Just tell them where you’re honestly at, and end it off with a decisive one-liner on the upsides of having a marriage with no kids yet. “We enjoy having more time to spend with our parents” is often a crowd-pleaser.
#6 – “What are you doing now?”
Any persons in an atypical or freelancing role will understand just how painful this is. We strongly advocate escapism in this circumstance.
Solution: Stop, drop and roll works for fires. In this case, mumble, smile, and run.
Really, though: Run. Away.
#7 – “How much do you earn?”
Although this is usually a sensitive question expertly avoided in every social setting, your relative may just decide to pull all the stops with this intensely problematic query. In such cases, you can either gesture to your Ang Baocheekily and say, “Not much. Want to help?”, or take a leaf from Lily’s book. Yes, that’s Lily, the Asian girl from Pitch Perfect:
Solution: Mumble unintelligibly under your breath. If you keep it up for long enough, your relative will get so sick of trying to understand you that they’ll move on to a more comfortable topic, or their next victim.
This may also work: “Uncle, too little. You know the job market nowadays…” (… trails off and lets the job market take centre stage)
#8 – “Got learn piano/ Got learn swimming/ Got good results?”
You thought you’d escaped the questions when you brought your partner over. Didn’t happen. Then, when you got hitched, you thought, ‘Maybe, this time will be different’. It wasn’t. So, when you finally popped some kids out the oven… Nothing changed. Let’s be honest- Children make life very difficult, and we don’t think there’s any harm in using them once in awhile. That’s right-
Solution: Get your children to answer on your behalf. It’s easy. As a parent who desperately needs a drink that’s only available all the way across the room, you have every right to excuse yourself, plonk your chosen kid(s) down, and command them to stay and talk to gu-gu (Auntie).
Real solution: We’re not kidding, get your kids to take one for the team 😉
We hope you enjoyed reading this little field guide on surviving our top 8 awkward CNY questions. Simply remember that your relatives mean well, and handle every inquiry as you would the crisp on your pineapple tarts- lightly and lovingly, and you’ll be in fabulous shape. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Want to know more about Chinese New Year? Why not start from the basics: the Ang Baos? Here’s a video about the ten things you probably didn’t know about Ang Baos: Know them so that you can impress your relatives this CNY!
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