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Ravenous Romance Author Blog

EM Lynley

How do you really feel about Valentine's Day?

2009.02.09 00:44:29

No matter what stage or state my love life is in, I always feel like Valentine's Day is just a disaster waiting to happen. Expectations are high—unrealistic in many cases—and you are bound to put a foot wrong. The gift was not expensive enough. The gift was too expensive. The restaurant was all wrong… the complaints go on.


As much as an American Valentine's can be stressful or disappointing, we've got it good compared to the Japanese.

I lived in Japan for five years, working as a financial markets economist, and I still never quite understood how their version of Valentine's Day evolved. It's as ritualized as anything that happens over there and you deviate from the expected behavior at your own risk.


First off, women buy gifts for men on Valentine's. Men don't buy anything—just wait, they aren't off the hook though. Women who work in the more traditional Japanese office were expected to buy a gift for every male co-worker. Maybe it was just something small like some chocolates, but you couldn't leave anyone out. So now it's expensive and stressful.


Fast forward one month to March 14. White Day. This is the day the guys have to pony up. Men are now expected to give a gift to each woman who gave them something on Valentine's. The custom is that the man's gift be three times the value of the woman's gift. You can imagine the gaming that goes on here by couples. If she wants something really wonderful, she can give the man something expensive. Then she's guaranteed a minimum value of her gift. If she doesn’t get it -- well let's just say breakups occur with startling frequency on March 14. The smart guys would break up on February 13, just to avoid all of this ritual.


I'm sure that makes you feel a lot better about your own Valentine's Day-related stress, right?

So, how about sharing your worst Valentine's gift? Whether you gave it or got it, we can all have a good laugh about it now, right?


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Tags: life in japan | gift giving | discussion

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