The ultimate guide to surviving Chinese New Year and overbearing relatives, and getting as many lai see packets as possible

The ultimate guide to surviving Chinese New Year and overbearing relatives, and getting as many lai see packets as possible

CNY is one of the most important family holidays on the calendar, but it can also be stressful. Here's how to make sure you come out the other side smiling

Braving your relatives

Much as you love them, some family members can really test your patience. Here's how to deal with the different "species" of relative:

The critical type:

An aunt or uncle whose mission in life is to put a negative spin on everything makes it really hard to enjoy CNY. If they manage to corner you or, worse, address you loudly in the middle of dinner, drawing everyone's attention, to ask why your grades aren't better, why you can't be nicer to your parents, why can't you lose weight (inappropriate!), here are three solutions:

  • Arrange with one of your parents or a trusted older relative to interrupt if you give them a signal with, "Oh, I'm sure they have it under control!"
  • Smile politely and ask what they'd suggest. Hopefully they'll run out of steam soon or be so shocked you asked for their advice that they'll back off.
  • Smartly sidestep it by saying, "It's Lunar New Year! Lets not talk about negative stuff!"

The worrier:

"Are you wearing enough clothes? It's cold! Put on a jacket! So much food, it's so yit hei! Drink more water! Staring at a screen all day is bad for your eyes. Put your smartphone down!"

Ahhh yes. The person who worries about anything and everything. First, realise that they probably do it out of concern, and don't resent them for it. To counter it, whatever they're saying to you, switch the focus back to that person.

"Oh, are you cold? Should I get your coat? Are you thirsty? I'll fetch you some tea." Perhaps being under the spotlight will be so unnerving for them they'll turn their attention to someone else!

Except the smartphone thing; they might have a point. It's rude to be absorbed in your digital world while you're around family. Put it away for a while.

The overbearing type:

You may only see this relative a few times a year, but, man! Being smothered can be really annoying and awkward, but you can't afford to offend an elder. Here's what you can do:

  • Indulge them for a few minutes and then politely excuse yourself with: "I'm sorry, but I really should say hi to Granny."
  • If your sibling or cousin recently offended you, say to your overbearing relative: "You know, cousin Jacqui has been looking forward to talking to you all week! Why don't we find her?" Unload said relative on cousin Jacqui, and then swiftly make your escape.
  • Pull the classic, "Oooh, hold that thought! Dying to pee!" Run to the loo and … don't come back.

The rude one:

It's a mystery why some people think it's perfectly okay to be obnoxious and inconsiderate, and unfortunately there's almost always one member of the family who is like that.

Make sure you have mastered projecting a neutral, non-abrasive attitude and do the following if someone says something extremely rude at a family gathering and you just can't stay silent:

Look slightly confused and ask, "I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Could you explain that?"

This way you're not being rude yourself, but there's no way they can explain themselves without seeming like a jerk in front of everyone.

Kung hei fat choi! Lai see dou loi!

There's no better way to secure more lai see, or get the ones with more money in it, than pleasing your elders. Here are some well wishes to memorise to bring a smile to their face and some extra money to your pocket:


Click here for bigger image!

Click here for bigger image!

Lunar New Year Dos and Don'ts


  • Be mindful of your eating. Over-indulging on food can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, so treat yourself but in moderation.
  • Start your day with some fruit to balance out all the pudding and rich dishes you'll be having during the rest of the day. Fruit will also give you more energy as you go from one relative's home to another.
  • Make sure you always have a glass of water or cup of tea with you. With so many relatives, there may be people you don't know well, and holding something makes you less fidgety around people you don't know. It also gives you an excuse to duck out for a refill if things gets too awkward!


  • Don’t feel guilty  if you need to have five minutes alone now and then. So many people, so much noise and so much time in a group can be overwhelming. Plus you might be in the middle of a food coma. Excuse yourself for some fresh air and come back cheerful and recharged.
  • Don’t be a grump and bring negativity to the start of the New Year. If something is bothering you, try to keep a smile on your face and maybe seek out a cousin or sibling to talk to if you really can’t hold it in. It’s better to talk it through with someone who cares about you.
  • Don’t spend all day on your smartphone or tablet. It’s just impolite. Check it when you need a breather, but keep it in your pocket when you’re talking to people or at the dinner table. 
This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
How not to go bananas


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