Forget the has-been kaypoh (busybody) aunties during Chinese New Year. You can write them off as yesterday’s news. There is a motley of other colourful characters during this festive season that you may come across. The fact that they are the talk of town means that they never let you forget them. Truly, at CNY, you can see the good, the bad and the ugly side of relatives who come a-visiting …
This uncle-type loves free-flowing alcohol during the festive season. He will call before making his entrance. On his mind is free alcohol! He asks: “Oo chiu, bo? (Got liquor or not, in Hokkien)”. The next thing you know, he is at your doorstep – faster than a Bugatti.
After his boisterious Gong Xi Fa Cai greetings, his eyes will lock in on the alcohol. This thick-skinned uncle with a swagger helps himself to can after can of beer.
He is happiest if you say, “Ai boh? Gia tui kee lim. (Want or not? Take home to drink)”. Half-dazed, he gladly accepts the offer and then says, “Gia long lai (Give me a plastic bag)!”
This aunty-type is a compulsive gambler. She comes prepared with her own deck of playing cards. She has no problem rounding up kakis to pua keow (gamble, in Hokkien). Or if it’s a male gambler, he will call out, Chor di (name of a card game).
There are also keow kui (gambling devils) who loves indulging in mahjong, saying that it’s only a yearly affair. All they need is a foursome to start the game. If she takes all your money, she even has the audacity to declare: Boh su, boh yar (No lose, no win)!
“Play small, play small. Don’t worry,” comes the invite.
Some of you might come across relatives who migrated overseas and lead a good life. They make their appearance during CNY with a new ego and accent. Their change of attitude makes others roll their eyes.
The little innocent ones would invite their overseas Chinese cousin to play, speaking in a dialect.
The overseas auntie will chide them, saying,”He does not understand Chinese.”
But the local street-smart child holds no grudge and will invite their new friend again, in English, “Come, let’s play!”
That would be a slap in the aunt’s face for her condescending attitude that the foreign child is superior to the kampung kid!
Closely related to the above are relatives who have “tasted salt water” (a term to mean gone abroad) and returned home sans their dialect. They even speak to your illiterate mother in English! For heaven’s sake, Ma only understands Chinese. So this is a case of “chicken and duck talk”, as the Chinese say. But these high-nosed relatives just go on and on in their acquired English accent, ignoring the fact that some of their elders don’t speak English.
These relatives have flashy cars and expensive handphones. When it comes to Waze-ing to your house, they can never seem to find it, even with the GPS. You are puzzled: “How can that be so?”
Year in and year out, they will get lost in housing estate roads even with modern technology – even though they have been to your house several times.
They will call and ask you to please wait near the road. When they spot you, they wave excitedly.
Well, you did not change your house address but they have changed their cars! So each year, it is not so much the humans you greet but their upgraded cars – from Benz to Bentley.
CNY is a time for gift exchange. Some relatives are very generous, giving goodie bags with baby abalone, dried scallops and chicken essence or even wine. But in return, some long-time family friends, though wealthy, would unashamedly give a packet of rice crackers and two mandarin oranges.
The Chinese have a popular saying, Yow lei yow hui (Cantonese for give and take). But stingy relatives or friends would accept gifts but not reciprocate at all.
Then there are also people who come empty-handed when visiting. You may have heard your elders commenting that these guests come bearing “a piece of ginger and two bunches of bananas”. Being empty-handed supposedly resembles bunches of bananas, get it?
The Selfie/Wefie Addict
The person who loves to record memories will whip out his or her handphone to take lots of photographs. This person can be delightful to be around. You can even laugh at their antics – especially when they are brandishing the selfie stick. She will scan the room and then summon everyone for a group photo.
Sometimes when you sincerely want to treat your overseas relatives during their homecoming, they might retort: “Oh, we’re so busy. Everybody wants to belanja (treat) us!”
That is, of course, not cool. Folks back home miss them and want to extend a warm welcome.
Being courteous and grateful would be the best policy.
Well, during this festive season, celebrate and be happy. And be remembered for your generosity and warmth rather than being, oh, so kiasu.