As a Chinese Canadian born and raised in Hong Kong and now living in Metro Vancouver, I’ve learned that there are some misunderstandings about the traditions behind Chinese New Year. I hope this post helps clarify some of the cultural nuances and protocols of the annual festival. Chinese New Year Chinese New Year (or CNY, a.k.a Spring Festival), refers to the first day of the year in the Chinese Calendar. In 2014, the date will be Jan. 31. Celebrations of Chinese New Year traditionally run from the CNY’s Eve (this year, Jan. 30) to the 15th day of the first month (this year, Feb. 14), which also marks the Lantern Festival. The Dos and Don't of Chinese New Year
1. Don’t buy shoes, clocks or books as gifts.The pronunciation of shoes (鞋) in Mandarin is the same as something unlucky and inauspicious, whereas its Cantonese pronunciation is similar to the sound of sighing, therefore they are a big no-no in terms of what to buy as gifts for your Chinese friends or business associates. Giving a clock is also very bad, as this action (送鐘) would imply burying a parent (送終), because of its pronunciation in several Chinese dialects. As for the word book (書), it has the same pronunciation as the word “lose” (輸) in both Mandarin and Cantonese. Books are especially not welcomed by people who like to play Mahjong or gamble during CNY. You may want to avoid umbrellas (傘) as well, as it is similar to the sound of “separation” (散) (with your loved ones).
2. Clothing mattersThe significance of colour in clothing (for example, the old mantra ‘never wear white after labour day’) may not matter as much as it used to, but if you have Chinese clients or friends who you consider more traditional, or you are meeting for the first time, you may want to avoid causing any potential discomfort by what you are wearing. Try to avoid combinations of only black and white, as those are traditionally the colours of mourning. Though wearing red is not a must, it is surely welcomed during CNY. Anything from a red sweater to a red jacket would be enough to show that you also share the festive spirit.
3. Avoid treating or visiting Chinese people during the third day of CNYThe third day of the CNY is traditionally known as Chikou (赤口), which can be directly translated as “red mouth.” This is considered a day that one could easily get into arguments, and therefore it is best to decline social calls on February 2 this year. On Chinese New Year Greetings The most common CNY greeting I have heard from non-Chinese is “Kung Hei Fat Choy(恭喜發財),” yet there are far too many people who say it without knowing the actual meaning. It is NOT equivalent to Happy New Year. “Kung Hei” in fact means “congratulations” where “Fat Choy” simply means “get rich” or “be prosperous.” So the whole greeting translates to “congratulations and I wish you prosperity.” Another item worth noting is, “Kung Hei Fat Choy” is Cantonese and it is only used in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province of China, where Cantonese is the dialect. If you want to greet a Mandarin speaking friend from China or Taiwan, then you say “Gong Xi Fa Cai” instead. Some suggested Chinese New Year greetings in Mandarin:
1. Ma Dao Cheng Gong (馬到成功)Literally, “Ma Dao Cheng Gong” means to “succeed right upon arrival, with a horse.” It is a greeting commonly used to wish people immediate success in what they are trying to achieve. This will be especially popular this year, the Year of the Horse.
2. Xin Nian Hao (新年好) or Xin Nian Kuai Le (新年快樂)This is one of the first greetings you would say to your friends during Chinese New Year, which means Happy New Year. Tip: If you don’t know how to pronounce Mandarin, simply copy the whole Chinese phrase, paste it on Google Translate and click on the “listen” button. On Family Expenditures during CNY To prepare for Chinese New Year, households spend more than usual to buy decorations and food for visiting family and friends. Home visits are common during CNY, with people bringing along their good wishes. Households need to buy gift boxes in advance, as it is embarrassing to visit someone empty handed, and you just don’t do that. If you go to any of the T & T Supermarkets in town, you will see columns of gift boxes of snacks, cookies and chocolates. These are typical gifts that you would both receive and give to others. One week into CNY, families could end up with a dozen of gift boxes at home, and they may have to give out some of those again (yes Chinese “regift” also!) as they simply cannot finish them all. Thus the gift box you originally bought could change hands several times before CNY is over. Another major expenditure during CNY are red envelopes. In the culture in which I grew up, there is an unwritten rule that once you are married, you have to give red envelopes to a junior who greets you. And since you are a married couple, you usually give out two red envelopes at one time. Normally in Canada, the amount of money in a red envelope could vary from five to 100 dollars, so this tradition can be costly. Though people would happily accept your red envelopes and greetings, no matter how much it is inside, you are advised not to put coins into a red envelope, as everybody would know that a loonie is all you are giving! Red envelopes could be a financial burden to some families during CNY, though some parents might try to “recover” their “losses” by taking all or a portion of the money their children collected from their red envelopes. I can still remember that exciting moment, when I poured out all the red envelopes I had collected onto my bed, and started counting how much I had “earned” at the end of New Year (most kids aren’t allowed to open them before CNY ends). Do not underestimate the spending power of Chinese kids after CNY, as they could be allowed to spend some of the money on themselves. If you want to participate in Vancouver’s extensive CNY celebrations, here’s a quick look at major public events:
- Another big local event is The Year of Horse Spring Festival Parade in Chinatown Vancouver held on Feb. 2 and organized by the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver. The annual parade itself is multicultural, with participat....Read More
Following up on last week's 5 Questions post that featured Tim Zhang of City365.ca, Dunn PR's communications and marketing consultant, Sunny Chiu, sat down with Tim for a chat in our first video blog post (and our first video interview in Mandarin!) Tim took time from his busy schedule as CEO and founder of City365.ca to tell us about how his popular news and information website got its start, the future of media in Vancouver, and tips for PR people hoping to get their stories on his website.Read MoreFrom heated hockey rivalries to jokes about the Toronto centric and the tie dye wearing west coasters, Canadians’ perspectives differ from coast to coast. From ethnic diversity to purchasing patterns to media landscape, there are regional differences that must be taken into account while planning your communications activity and public relations approach. One common complaint I’ve heard from Vancouver media is their frustration with receiving mass distribution press releases and pitches with little thought to how or why the local market may be interested. As the west coast affiliate for Toronto based PR firms, national clients benefit from having a team on the ground in Vancouver who know the appropriate writers, bloggers and publications to reach out to. And they rely on our local knowledge to regionalize the way in which they tell their story. Newsrooms are shrinking and for regional media to take the time to cover a story, there needs to be a compelling local angle. For example, our recent outreach for an international beverage company focused on local enthusiasts and tailoring a story that showcased how Vancouver fit the brand and culture. Our support for a national hotel chain mixed BC statistics and feel good local stories to reach Vancouver media instead of pitching a national story. Are you pitching a Toronto or Montreal based spokesperson to speak on a national issue instead of offering a local spokesperson to speak with Vancouver media about how the news affects Vancouverites? Think local! In Metro Vancouver, if you don’t tailor pitches to key Chinese media outlets and writers in your plan nor tailoring pitches and providing Chinese spokespeople, you will miss an influential component of the market. What is the hot city news story that you can add perspective to? Are you cultivating relationships with media and bloggers and keeping up with a writer’s coverage on a particular topic? On the digital side, make sure you are listening to what the local community is thinking and feeling on an issue through social media networks. This engagement will allow you to join the dialogue with relevant input and ideas that stick. Consider timing. Make sure that you don’t send your light business news to media when their provincial budget is being presented, or send a reporter a product to review that won’t be available in their market for months. Familiarizing yourself with your target market and the media and bloggers who cover the various news beats is key. Using local statistics, taking current news events into account and providing relevant visuals i....Read More
If you’re a regular social media user from Vancouver, you’ve probably heard of Vancity Buzz. Launched in July 2008, the popular website is one of Vancouver’s best read blogs today with impressive signs of engagement as readers share Vancity Buzz posts widely.
With more than 35,000 followers on Twitter and 11,000 likes on Facebook, Vancity Buzz is right on the pulse of the city with everything from major local events to health and fitness news featured.
We recently caught up with one of the website’s co-founders and editor, Karm Sumal, and talked about what makes him tick and advice he has for PR pros trying to get their stories on VCB.
As the co-founder and editor of VanCity Buzz, what do you love most about being the man behind one of the city`s top websites?
There are many things I love about working on VanCity Buzz but I love meeting new people the most. Starting this website and carrying it through its transition from a small time blog to a much larger city website has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of great people.
In the process of meeting new people, I've built some great business contacts, learnt from them and most importantly made some life-long friends.
Keeping Vancouverites in the loop on all kinds of local happenings, tell us how the site got started.
Vancity Buzz got started in an East Vancouver basement roughly 4 years ago. At the time myself and co-founder, Manny, knew nothing about the Vancouver blog scene. We jumped in head first and adapted to the challenges that were thrown our way. As time went on, I realized I have a great outlet to showcase the city I love so much and the website became a passion project, something that holds true to this day.
We have some exciting ideas in the pipeline — stay tuned.
Any kinds of posts, type of content that is especially popular with your readers?
Our readership is quite diverse and as such all aspects of our website garner a lot of readership. If something fails to garner readership, we usually tweak the formula or simply scrap the idea.
Posting updates on everything Vancouver, as it happens, how does your team keep up?
Our team is working 18 hours a day to stay on top of things. From time to time we'll miss things but if it's a big deal in the city, it will find its way onto the site. Smart phones and social media are our friends when it comes to staying in the loop.
Any tips for PR pros contacting you with the hope of landing their news on Vancity Buzz?
Be proactive and learn about the people you’re pitching to. Read the media kits and check out website ranking sites to see the validity of the numbers being thrown around by some of the sites out there.
Oh, and please no mass, generic emails. :)Karm is a busy guy, and we’d like to thank him for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to follow Vancity Buzz on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop with Vancouver news and happenings. You can also follow Read More