What to give & what to say?

This lesson, we will explore Valentines days in Hong Kong, things you would give to your partner, and how to confess your love. Enjoy!

Valentine’s Day (情人節) is coming! Do you have a valentine? 你有無情人呢? What do Hong Kongers do for Valentine’s day? 香港人情人節會做D 咩呢?

情人 Valentine, and 節 means festival. Together for Valentine’s day, it is 情人節.

A little bit of background: Hong Kong adopts many different kinds of cultures, so we have several Valentine’s day (情人節) Feb 14 Valentine’s Day (2 月14 號既情人節) is originally a foreign concept. Not only do some Hong Kongers celebrate Feb 14 Valentine’s Day (2 月14 號既情人節), some also celebrate 14th March, the white valentine’s day (白色情人節, 白色means the colour white, and 情人節 is Valentine’s day, so 14 March is also called white Valentine’s Day), said to have originated in Japan. Also, the lantern festival (元宵節) (also known as the Chinese Valentines day), as well as the 7th of the 7th month of the Lunar calendar (七夕情人節), is also celebrated as Valentine’s Day.

Every year on Feb 14, Valentine’s day 情人節, usually restaurants would be fully booked by this time. This year is different, since HK has entered a parallel universe for well over 6 months now, with the fact that coronavirus is in full effect, most couples would rather stay home and cook instead, Netflix and chill. Question is, do you still dare to go out?

You might think, hey Dummy, why you got to be so depressing? Because this is real, this is a not normal, ordinary life event, especially when Hong Kongers had been through the traumatizing SARS, it’s quite normal that we have PTSD. But, Let’s try to be more uplifting, we can look back at the previous years, what did people usually do? Usually some Hong Kongers have a negative connotation towards Feb 14 Valentine’s day 情人節, that’s because in HK culture, a very capitalistic, commercialized and materialistic culture, usually the girl won’t have to pay, or go dutch on this date. While some girls would show off their nice presents, flowers, or their nice dinner. Some people find this type of mentality problematic, some don’t mind it.

So what are the things that you usually give your partner or receive from your partner on valentine’s day?

Of course, usually for most girls, they would want flowers. For me, not too much, because the flowers die so quickly if someone were to give me flowers, I would prefer it to be a plant. But of course, I am not your valentine, so you would know better what your valentine would enjoy.

1. Flowers - 花 Pay attention to the fact that in Cantonese, when you are describing the noun in a plural form, the noun remains unchanged. To express whether something is singular or plural, the quantifier before the noun will be the determiner to tell you. For example: for 1 single flower, you will say, 一枝花 (literally one branch of flower). For 2, you will say 兩支花, a bunch of flowers you will say, 一紮花 or 一束花 (literally one bunch of flowers). *Notice the units, in Cantonese, the units and the numbers are your quantifier and determiner of whether something is singular or plural, you can kind of think of it as, that in Cantonese, nouns are like some English uncountable nouns, that you would need a quantifier, such as a piece of paper 一張紙) Normally for Valentine’s day in Hong Kong, for a bunch of flowers, 花, it would cost more than a thousand HKD, meaning, roughly $130 USD or $160 CAD. You can judge for yourself if this is appropriate for your Valentine 情人.

2. Chocolates- 朱古力 People of course also like to give Chocolates - 朱古力. Interestingly, in Mainland China or some parts of mandarin speaking places, chocolates are called 巧克力, instead of 朱古力. Why? Because chocolate this word is a foreign borrowed concept. We never had such a thing called chocolates until 1705, when it was officially imported into China. Therefore, chocolates in both Cantonese and Mandarin are onomatopoeia, meaning directly using the sounds of the word. So Chocolate, 朱古力, you can imagine yourself saying chocolate with a Cantonese accent, or saying 朱古力 with an English accent. Whereas, 巧克力, in Mandarin, 巧克力, with an English accent and vice versa. For a box of chocolates, just like I mentioned earlier with the quantifiers, here the direct translation would be 一盒朱古力, literally a box of chocolate. 盒 means boxes or containers.

If you would like to use this opportunity to confess your love to your valentine, here are a few phrases that express “I like you” or “I love you”:

For I like you, you can say 我鐘意你 (Literally I like you). Do you remember that I introduced the degree of wellness in the lesson on conversational greeting?

If you haven’t learned, go back to that lesson.

Here, to express more than “I like you”, you can insert those degree words, such as “I quite like you”, you can say

我好鍾意你(literally I good like you),

the word 好not only means good, but also shows the intensity of the verb, like, 鍾意. Another way of saying it which I never mentioned before is the word幾, meaning somewhat. “我幾鍾意你” literally means “I somewhat like you or I quite like you”. For “I like you very much” but not yet “love”, you can say, 我非常鍾意你 or 我超級鍾意你, 超級 like I talked about in the previous episode, means very or exceedingly.

For I love you, you can say

我愛你, 愛is a very strong word or verb in Cantonese. You don’t usually say “I love you” 我愛你 unless it is such a strong overwhelming feeling. 愛is mostly used when you describe you love your family. But when it comes to romantic relationships, you will have to be careful when using this word 愛, in case there might be cultural miscommunications. Now I like something, 我鐘意 xxx and I love something, 我愛xxx you can apply the same rules. I-我 is a pronoun, 鐘意-like or 愛-love are verbs in this sentence. Then you can add what you actually like or love, it can be a noun or a verb. Such as using examples that I have talked about previously, I like chocolates 我鐘意朱古力, for I like to eat chocolates, you will have to add the verb eat 食, so you can say 我鐘意食朱古力, note that unlike English, two verbs can be right next to each other without worrying about its grammar. Do you think you can form a sentence with I like-我鐘意?

In text-messaging, to confess love, some people like to use code words. One common one would be 520. Why 520? 520 in Mandarin sounds like “I love you” 我愛你 in mandarin. Do you kind of get how love 愛 is such a strong expressive word now that it has to be coded so that you won’t scare your Valentine away? That’s it for this lesson. I hope you will enjoy this extra special valentine’s day with your lover, even if that means kissing with a mask on.

List of Vocab: Valentine’s Day - 情人節 (Official Pronunciation: 情[ching4]人[yan4]節[jit3]. Dummy Ping Yin: 情[ching]人[yan]節[jeet])

Valentine - 情人 (Official Pronunciation: 情[ching4]人[yan4]. Dummy Ping Yin: 情[ching]人[yan])

Flowers - 花 (Official Pronunciation: 花[fa1]. Dummy Ping Yin: 花[fa])

One single branch of flower - 一枝花 (Official Pronunciation: 一[yat1]枝[ji1]花[fa1]. Dummy Ping Yin: 一[yet]枝[gee]花[fa])

One bunch of flowers - 一紮花 (Official Pronunciation: 一[yat1]紮[jaat3]花[fa1]. Dummy Ping Yin: 一[yet]紮[jet]花[fa])

Chocolates - 朱古力 (Official Pronunciation: 朱[jyu1]古[gu2]力[lik6]. Dummy Ping Yin: 朱[chu]古[gu]力[lick])

A box of chocolate - 一盒朱古力 (Official Pronunciation: 一[yat1]盒[hap6/hap2]朱[jyu1]古[gu2]力[lik6]. Dummy Ping Yin: 一[yet]盒[hup]朱[chu]古[gu]力[lick])

I like you - 我鐘意你 (Official Pronunciation: 我[ngo5]鐘[jung1]意[yi3]你[nei5]. Dummy Ping Yin: 我[ngo]鐘[jung]意[yee]你[neigh])

I love you - 我愛你 (Official Pronunciation: 我[ngo5]愛[oi3]你[nei5]. Dummy Ping Yin: 我[ngo]愛[oi]你[neigh])

I like something - 我鐘意 xxx I love something - 我愛 xxx