One of the most significant customs of Chinese New Year is reunion. Families gather on Chinese New Year’s eve for dinner, relatives and friends gather as well to catch up on each other’s life. This is when you meet the irritating naughty boy who sat next to you and who used to pull your ponytail when you were 7 years old and who has now become a typical tall dark and handsome dude but you just can’t start a small talk with him by reminding him all the nonsense he did, or that uncle who claims to always buy you Barbie dolls when you were small but you can’t seem to remember a thing, or that auntie who keeps asking you tough questions like ‘when are you getting married?’ every year before she gives you the ang pow when you don’t even have a boyfriend.
I am far from a shy person but I always get this weird nervousness running wildly in my stomach whenever I need to attend reunion dinners during Chinese New Year, and I tend to behave very differently when I am at such occasion and I will be so timid and self-cautious that I am concerned about trivial stuff like where I put my hands and whether the folds of my dress are tidy. I can’t help but feel tethered to my seat until the reunion is over.
Am I the only one on earth who feels like this?
Certainly over the years I develop some techniques to counter the uneasiness. I find dressing up myself a great way to overcome it, because in the end I will be busy thanking people for all the compliments (usually from girls) about how good I look that I forget I am supposed to be UNCOMFORTABLE. This is also good to engage people in casual conversation without feeling awkward, and this is usually how I engage another person, let’s say a girl who was in the same class as mine during secondary school whose name is Gina:
Gina: Hey girl, you look lovely!
Zuberry: Thanks (smile, must always smile first) you look gorgeous yourself! So where did you get that dress?
Gina: Geee, thank you. I got it from… (Gina will be talking about the shop, and I will be thinking of relevant questions to ask her, like where she likes so shop, what kind of clothes she buys that kind of casual topics, nothing too serious nor too personal because I am not close to Gina)
Compliments are good ice breakers, use them often.
Second I always go with friends who are closer to me for such occasion. I try my best not to go alone. Imagine you step into the room and all the people stare at you as if you have a third eye (actually most of the time they are trying to recognise you), and you need to walk so carefully that you almost tiptoe.
Nobody wants to be in that kind of situation. So I will always make sure I make my entrance with companions.
Third, I will always find my way to engage in conversation, be it active or passive participation. Whatever I do, I will never keep browsing my handphone during gathering like this. Imagine if I do that while this girl sitting in front of me is talking, I am sending a strong message that says ‘facebook is more attractive than your face and what is so great about your life.’ I am sure you won’t like to be treated that way. So put the phone aside, the ‘likes’ and comments won’t disappear, and enjoy the rest of the event.
I hope you won’t feel so nervous like me whenever you attend an event like this. Yours truly have the guts to speak in front of hundreds of people for hours, but still have challenges talking to old friends whom I have not met for ages. Anyhow I enjoy every opportunity I had over the pass few days meeting up with people.