I wanted to clarify another point about my first post on lai see/Chinese New Year — having grown up in the US, while my family still celebrated Chinese New Year quite traditionally, we didn’t get public holidays, and the tradition of giving out red envelopes stayed within the confines of family to family, and wasn’t something you’d see happening at work — so that’s how this experience has really differed for me in Hong Kong.
Today – though not within the first week of CNY, but still well within the 15-day celebration period, I handed lai see to our tea lady, which I’ve already praised so much about. My secretary, upon my handing her her lai see told me that some folks additionally gave red envelopes to the tea lady and the messengers, and anyone who helped them out a lot during the year. So today, I gave our dear sweet tea lady a small gift (HK$100) to show some appreciation.
She was very gracious about it and said I didn’t have to do that but of course I insisted. A colleague was in the pantry when I did it, and replied – if you don’t take it, I’ll take it! And followed up – you must take all the lai see you can get! I supported that comment, especially because of what good care Jenny takes of all of us!
I actually felt so good to be able to make this small gesture to show my appreciation. While HK$100 isn’t really a lot of money (as I griped about in bad form earlier), it also actually is quite a lot in Hong Kong, where the minimum wage of HK$28 (~US$3.60) was only just finally passed in July 2010!
This very warm feeling was, in a sense, a new thing for me, since as an unmarried person I’ve never been accustomed to giving lai see in the past. And as cheap as I can be at times, I have to say, generosity sure does pay back!