Chinese New Year is probably the most hated holiday in Singapore, for those who are stuck visiting relatives they barely know, that is. And the people who are responsible are most definitely nosy aunties and uncles who make unsolicited comments and ask intrusive questions.
What makes their behaviour so maddening is that many of the things that come out of their mouths are aimed at boasting about their own kids, and bringing down the other young people in the room. And, in true Singaporean style, their focus is usually on money, studies, career and success.
Here are five awkward money questions you might receive from relatives this Chinese New Year.
How much do you earn?
In the Singaporean auntie’s mind, whoever earns the most in the room is the person most worthy of respect… and envy. And of course, she desperately wants that person to be her kid.
While your parents might have easily compared your grades with your cousins’ when you were at school, now that you’ve entered the working world there’s a lot more secrecy and suspicion on the part of nosy relatives. Chances are your own parents don’t even know exactly how much you earn.
Well, you can bet your relatives will try their darnedest to find out. So don’t be too shocked if they ask you outright how much you’re earning.
How to deal: Of course, these people have no business asking you how much you make, and you’re not obliged to answer. The best response is to simply say firmly that that’s private information you don’t want to disclose.
Why aren’t you doing as well as Cousin X?
Chinese New Year is a battle of egos for aunties and uncles.
When you were a student, your relatives might have asked you why you didn’t get into Raffles / Harvard like cousin Maximilian did. Now that you’re all grown up, don’t expect that to change.
You will be compared with other relatives your age in terms of your careers and incomes. Inevitably, some auntie will come up to you and ask why you’re not driving yet, since her son who’s your age is now an Audi owner.
How to deal: Whatever you do, don’t engage and try to enter into a competition with whomever you’ve been compared with. You can never win and you’ll only make an enemy out of the other embarrassed young person. Instead, try to deflect attention by making a joke or changing the subject—if you’re asked why you’re not a high flying civil servant like Cousin X, say you get high enough after a few beers.
Your job can earn money meh?
You don’t need me to tell you how annoying it is when somebody questions your career choices. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to hear relatives sneer at the career path you’ve taken which they deem isn’t as prestigious as Cousin Y’s, yes that cousin who’s a doctor/lawyer/investment banker.
They then suggest that what you do is of no value simply because you’re not earning millions.
How to deal: You’ve chosen your career for a reason, so go ahead and tell them why. Perhaps you design pretty things that beautify the world, perhaps you educate kids like their own so they can hopefully grow up to be less bratty, perhaps you’ve chosen to do what you do so you have more time to devote to your own hobbies.
Why have you still not bought a house/car?
While millennials have mostly ceased to attach any importance to the five Cs, for older folks these are often important markers to prove that you have indeed grown up and “made it”. So don’t be surprised if your relatives take your lack of property or a car to mean that you’re an unsuccessful loser.
How to deal: Tell them you have no desire to buy either at the moment, because you prefer not to tie yourself down to a financial commitment you’re not sure you even want.
Can I borrow money from you?
You can never win. When you’re poor, you get looked down upon by relatives who think they and their offspring are superior to you. When you’re rich, you get deadbeat uncles trying to wrangle some cash from you to fuel their casino gambling sessions.
How to deal: If this is a relative you see so seldom he needs to wait till Chinese New Year to ask you to lend him money, he has no business doing so.
What are the worst things you’ve overheard people say during Chinese New Year gatherings? Tell us in the comments!