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Ultimate Vocabulary You Need to Survive (or Avoid) Valentine's Day in China


Romance in China is big business. From elaborate wedding photos to high-end online matchmaking services, the cost of finding (and keeping) love can be enormous.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Valentine’s Day - 情人节 (qíng rén jié). 

Here in Shanghai, you can see crowds of couples lined up outside of European-themed restaurants. Expensive jewelry stores urge men to part with their hard-earned 人民币 (rén mín bì)  - Chinese dollars for that special gift that is sure to win her heart. 

Older people in China generally only celebrate the traditional Chinese version of Valentine’s Day, called 七夕 (qī xī)  - "Double Seventh festival".

But China’s younger generations see Valentine's Day as a chance to celebrate romance, Western-style. Complete with luxurious flower arrangements, beautifully-packaged boxes of chocolates, and cheesy declarations of love.

If you’re coupled up, chances are your other half is keen to hit the town, soak up the romantic atmosphere, and enjoy an overpriced meal in a dimly-lit restaurant.

However, if you’re anything like me, Valentine’s Day sends you rushing home to spend the day watching action movies in your pajamas, rather than going to a romantic candle-lit dinner.

In honor of these Anti-Valentine's Day feelings, I put together a list of key expressions that'll help you survive (or avoid) Valentine's Day this year. :)

A commercialized waste of money?

无聊 (wú liáo) - boring 

This is crucial vocabulary for daily life. I use it to describe everything from cleaning my apartment to a particularly dull movie.

Get out of going out this Valentine’s Day with this sentence:

去饭店吃饭太无聊了,我们在家里做饭吧 (qù fàn diàn chī fàn tài wú liáo le, wǒ men zài jiā lǐ zuò fàn ba)  - Going to a restaurant to eat is so boring, let’s stay at home and cook.

浪费钱 (làng fèi qián)  - waste money 

Another super helpful expression that I last used it to stop a friend from buying a ridiculously expensive piece of clothing. He wanted to impress a girl… 

This is what I said to him:

不要买这么贵的,浪费钱!(bú yào mǎi zhè me guì de, làng fèi qián!) – Don’t buy such an expensive one, it’s a waste of money!

商业化 (shāng yè huà)  - commercialized and 物质化 (wù zhì huà)  - materialistic

I live in Shanghai, China’s home of business, and this commercialization extends to Valentine's Day too.

Malls, sidewalks, and websites are full of advertisements urging consumers to spread the love by splashing cash on February 14th.

As my single friends repeatedly complain, dating now comes with the expectation that you’ll throw away all of your disposable income on meals, jewelry, and weird giant teddy bears.

Romantic success is more likely to be determined by the size of your wallet than your natural charm.

When I came across Tiffany China’s Valentine’s Day site, my first thought was:

情人节太商业化了!(qíng rén jié tài shāng yè huà le!)  – Valentine’s Day is too commercialized!

This is thanks to an unfortunate side effect of China’s otherwise impressive economic development:

社会越来越物质化了 (shè huì yuè lái yuè wù zhì huà le)  – Society is becoming more and more materialistic.

Check out the first ever interactive Video-based Pinyin Chart with 90+ video explanations and 400+ audio demos.

Does Valentine’s Day make you cringe? 

What’s upsetting about Valentine’s Day in China is that it's full of nauseating clichés. In addition to being over-commercialized and materialistic, the celebrations are all so cheesy that your stomach will churn. From cutesy flower arrangements to massive kissing contests, Valentine’s Day in China is too much to handle. 

Here are three expressions to use while complaining to your Chinese friends around February 14th:

肉麻 (ròu má)  – cheesy; nauseating (lit. flesh tingles)

This word describes the sickening feeling you get when you hear lovers publicly declare their love for each other. You're most likely to hear 肉麻 (ròu má)  phrases coming from couples wearing matching t-shirts who are carrying around huge teddy bears or sappy flower arrangements.

你说得太肉麻了!我要吐了!(nǐ shuō de tài ròu má le! wǒ yào tù le)  – You’re too cheesy and nauseating! I'm going to be sick!

Luckily, my husband shares my feelings on this subject, so I’ve never had to use this phrase on him.

Click to Tweet: Valentine's Day cards are so 肉麻 (ròu má) - cheesy!

鸡皮疙瘩 (jī pí gē da)  – goose bumps

Right now, the cold weather in Shanghai is the main reason for my goose bumps. But you can also use this expression to describe that skin-crawling feeling you get when you see something disgusting.

Like a Valentine’s Day greeting card with especially 肉麻 (ròu má) language.

For instance, when I see a dozen red roses with his and hers teddy bear ornaments wrapped in purple paper: 

我浑身都起鸡皮疙瘩 (wǒ hún shēn dōu qǐ jī pí gē da)  – My skin crawls all over.

俗气 (sú qi)  – cliché; tacky (lit. vulgar)

It’s common in China for couples to wear matching clothes (and not just on Valentine’s Day).

While many people think it’s sweet, I personally think this habit is 非常俗气 (fēi cháng sú qi)  - extremely tacky.

This February 14th, I plan to stay in and complain about how ridiculous Valentine’s Day is. Use the vocabulary you learned today to join me in NOT celebrating Valentine's Day! 

Are you celebrating Anti-Valentine's Day this year? Do you have any Chinese or Western Valentine's Day stories? Share with me in the comments below!
Ready to spread some love? Check out these articles: 

5 Useful Words that Describe the Dating Scene in China

How Dating is Done in China

5 Things Chinese Women Love About Western Men

What to Expect When Dating a Chinese Guy

Whiny but Equal: Tantrums, “Sajiao,” and Chinese Feminism