Learn the Language of Love!

Pimsleur Approach • GlobalComments (0)

If you’re going to be an international man or woman of love, it helps to know what’s expected of you wherever you are. Check out our Cupid’s Cheat Sheet, and prep yourself on Valentine’s customs from around the world!


What’s the drill? The Chinese don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as such; their Qixi Festival (the Night of Sevens) falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month (this year that’s August 13). If you’re head-over-heels in love with someone, go to temple and pray that your feelings are reciprocated. If you’re a married woman, pray you become pregnant soon. There’s also an ancient tradition involving girls tossing a sewing needle into a bowl of water and seeing if it floats; this ascertains whether or not they’re accomplished embroideresses. A sort of witchcraft trial for sewing, if you will. “I love you” is Wǒ ài nǐ (Mandarin); ngóh oi néih(Cantonese)

Diada de Sant Jordi
Diada de Sant Jordi (Image via Wikipedia)


What’s the drill? In much of Spain, lovers celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 and in the American way, with candlelit dinners, over-size cuddly things, etc. Catalonians, however, hold their passion until La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day), when the man’s gift of a rose to his lady is reciprocated by her with a book. Barcelona’s thoroughfare La Rambla is inundated with improvised stalls selling books and blooms every Diada de Sant Jordi, with apparently 4,000,000 roses and 800,000 books sold. By our calculation, that means there are 3.2 million unhappy men traipsing the city streets by the end of the day. Surely not? “I love you” is T’estimo. Simple and effective, especially if you’re handing over the entire works of Cervantes as you say it.

Valentine's Day Chocolate
Valentine’s Day Chocolate

Japan and Korea

What’s the drill? Girls, brace yourselves. It is YOU who is expected to give the chocolate to the man in your life, and not the other way around. In fact, your male coworkers may even expect you to dish out candy en masse (save the cheap chocolates for the ones you’re not keen on). A month later, on White Day, you’ll be paid dividends; a man is expected to give a gift to his lover worth two or three times more than the chocolate. If the gift is of equivalent value it’s assumed he’s just not that into you. If you’re on your lonesome, Korea’s Black Day (which falls on April 14) is for you. Go to a restaurant, order black noodles, and mourn your singleness. Japanese “I love you” is Aishite imasu, aishiteru, or aishiteru yo, although apparently it’s rare to say “I love you” in Japan anyway. In Korea, say dangsin-eul salang.


What’s the drill? Back in Le Olde France, the custom de rigueur was une loterie d’amour (drawing for love). This singularly unusual and rather crude game involved singletons shouting through the windows of facing houses to claim their lovers, until everyone has been paired off. If a man were displeased with his girl, he would simply desert her. Spurned womenfolk lit a huge bonfire and burned photos, drawings and even effigies of the men who’d rejected them, while screaming none-too-complimentary things about them at the top of their voices. Une loterie d’amour is now illegal, and chocolates, wine and love songs are considered much more tasteful. “I love you” is Je t’aime. And we recommend you coo that to your intended with your best Serge Gainsbourg impression.


http://www.standardmandarin.com/chinesephrases/I%20Love%20You http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/77.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qixi_Festival http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/cantonese.php http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa021101a.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jordi http://www.lost-in-france.com/diary-dates/405-valentines-day-in-france

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