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The 10 species of relatives you meet during Chinese New Year

Written by
Joyce Koh
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1. The Calculator
It’s hard to believe this, but we guess the economy is getting to us all. The Calculator accessorizes her outfit with a Casio math device (and blood red nails). The more professional ones mentally keep track of who has or hasn’t given her kids blessings for the new year, so they know which poor kid to leave out of the equation. If your family has more kids, there is a model of the Calculator who operates on a higher level. This souped-up machine pounces on her kids to find out the amount of blessings they received, and then proceed to give somewhat less to make sure the ‘blessings’ tally. God bless you too.

2. The Minister of Recreation
What is Chinese New Year without a spot of extra income, we ask? The Minister of Recreation prefers to gain profits (or spread his earnings among the poorer cousins) through the usual slew of risk-taking behaviour with poker cards or fat white plastic tiles. He or she is always the first to suggest ‘activities’ during gatherings. If you always have had terrible luck each year, stay on the sidelines and watch the Minister of Recreation in his/her element. Pong ah!

3. The Kiasu
Eh, how’s your son? My son now lawyer! Your daughter finished kindergarten already? The other day ah, my daughter saved the world! Your mango trees okay? My cactus just got a philosophy doctorate! Oh Singapore is great, thanks ah for asking!

4. The Fengshui Master
The Fengshui Master upholds Chinese traditions and more. From every meticulous placement of the potted plants, to the amount of koi in your pond, to the number of strokes your maid must sweep the floor with, the Fengshui Master knows them all. It’s easy to identify the Master. Every conversation starter would be a hushed whisper of ‘I heard [insert zodiac of choice] will be having a [insert curse or blessing] this year!’ Keep your trendy black-wearing significant other away from them.

5. The Aunty
The Aunty is the sworn nemesis of every single person above 18 years old. Here’s the unswerving script (we bet you can recite this from memory). If you’re single: Where’s your boyfriend/girlfriend? If you finally found someone: When are you getting married? If you’re married: When are you having kids? If you are barely managing your first kid: When’s the second child coming along? So on and so forth. Sorry, we only have one flimsy strategy of dealing with them: avoid like mouldy mandarin oranges. If it’s unavoidable, then change tack and ask about their life instead.

6. The Look-How-Well-I’ve-Done
This relative has a secret agenda up his or her expensively tailored sleeve. We’re glad your zodiac forecast has proven true and you have had a financial windfall last year, but we would appreciate it if you can showcase your wealth in a less blinding manner. Pulling up in a shiny new car? No problem. Forcibly making us visit your luxurious new home? Cool. No red packets for us? Let us have a word with the Fengshui Master.

7. The Girlfriend You’ll Only See This Year
This unknown person makes you doubt yourself for a moment. Who is this? No one mentioned a long-lost relative! She speaks in soft tones, smiles shyly at everyone (but doesn’t talk), cuddles in a corner with your cousin, and you will never know her name. That doesn’t matter anyway; you know next year your cousin will bring someone new to join the festivities. Seriously, what happened to the lovely girl last year? I liked that one better.

8. The Kids
The Kids are a mainstay of every reunion dinner scene. Kids. Everywhere. Singing along to ‘Let It Go’ on their iPads, running underfoot with mandarin orange juice smeared all over their faces, looking over your shoulder and then announcing loudly the cards you have in hands. Look, we appreciate that you guys are the next generation and upholding the family line and all that, but don’t call us aunty and uncle when we’re still in our twenties, alright?

9. The Television Hog
When you see your relatives once a year, conversation gets tough at times. The television comes to the rescue (if you use a smart phone, comments of ‘look at the generation nowadays!’ are sure to follow) by providing conversation relief in the form of classic Hong Kong films to countdowns. However, there is always the hog who falls asleep in front of the TV, remote in hand, with the station stuck to some annoying New Year music videos (or worse – highly inappropriate music clips when the family matriarch is present).

10. The Freeloader
The virtual stranger who shows up, and within seconds of saying hi (or maybe skipping the pleasantries), begins searching for the packet drinks. After sampling everything on offer, the freeloader also accepts red packets gratefully. Even after the whole exercise, no one actually knows who this person is or where he or she came from. Identify them by the Drinho and Yeo’s.

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