My first Valentine’s Day with by future husband will always be memorable. Valentine’s Day is somewhat recognized in Thailand, and the Thai people promote the giving of cards, chocolate, and roses. But they really try to discourange kissing in public, which isn’t done in this culture (and they always fail when it comes to the western tourists).
When it comes to the people of the Lisu Hilltribe, among whom I do my work, most don’t recognize Valentine’s Day at all, and if they do, they keep things discreet and give nice practical gifts to their loved ones. I had a Lisu friend who was being courted by a man from Europe, who gave her red roses. She asked me what the roses meant, and I said they mean deep romantic love. But she gave me a puzzled look and said, “But…can’t he give me something I can use? Like…pay for two months of my rent?”
Seriously, that’s what she said.
My own sweetheart didn’t know much about Valentine’s Day, so he asked me, “What do you want me to give you?” Not very romantic, but you can’t expect that kind of romance when you’re dating someone from another culture. They didn’t grow up with it, so you actually have to tell them what is expected on these kinds of holidays. So I told him, “I want you to give me flowers, roses if at all possible.” After all, I had fond memories of being insanely jealous of my college roommate, who got any number of roses from her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and would then hang them from the ceiling to dry so she could keep them longer.
So on Valentine’s Day….my boyfriend prepares a fish. A big fish, covered in salt, cooked over a firepot in true Lisu style. He also gave me a small pretty box…of chocolate. When I asked him why the chocolate, he said in all seriousness, “You can’t eat flowers!”
This year, I’m going to ask for chocolate. With my record, he’ll give me flowers, saying the chocolate will make me get fat.