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When and how to give lai see in 2023

I've lived in Hong Kong for 8 years and I'm still a little mystified about red pocket giving. As soon as the fai chun (red paper with luck messages) start to go up I get sweaty palms. The moths in my wallet even more so!

How much to give to these lovely 'familiar strangers'?

Totally depends on how close you are to them and how well you know them. A general rule is $20-50. Totally fine to give more if you can afford more. This is your building staffs' 'year 13' bonus. If they're usually asleep - $10!

How about colleagues?

You only need to give to those you manage or are 'under' you on the work hierarchy. A fair amount is $100, but more greases the wheels. You might get some randoms jumping on this if you're high-up so have some packets ready.

What about family members?

This is where it gets a little more complicated. Anyone married gives to those younger and unmarried. It's fine to give as a couple. Married couples can also give to those older and unmarried - a maiden aunt perhaps - but it's a bit weird; judge the situation accordingly.

Parents give to their own children as part of a tea ceremony. Children are expected to pour tea for their parents, wearing traditional Chinese dress, say some good luck messages - the type of which are written on the fai chun but a bit longer; "Happy New Year Dad. I hope the tax man doesn't find your second wife." That sort of thing.

What do I put in the packet?

Clean, crisp and ideally brand new bank notes. A 'new look' note is also acceptable but not a crinkled up one. Don't add coins; you're not 10. Wherever possible avoid all iterations of the number 4. The numbers 4, 14 and 24 are associated with death for Cantonese-speaking people due how they sound when spoken. Don't be giving out any 'must die' notes.

When does all this start and end?

Chinese New Year 2023 officially starts on 22nd January and finishes on 25th January. Make sure you don't start gifting before 20th January or you might feel you need to gift again to the same people. Make sure to keep a little bundle of red packets about your person for just-in-case situations and to avoid embarrassment.

How do I know when to give a red packet?

Most times it's fairly obvious. Other times, someone might approach you saying 'gung hei fat choi' or 'sun lean fai lot' with their hands clasped. That's means it's lai see time and it's your time to shine!

What if someone gives me one?

BOOM TIME! You're young and single and/ or employed. It's your time to shine. Take the lai see with both hands and say 'dod ser sai' - with the last 'd' almost silent. Under no circumstances do you open it in front of the giver. Makes you ruder than Rudy Giuliani.

Happy Chinese New Year to you and your families. Wishing you all great health, wealth and happiness for the year of the rabbit.

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