Happy Valentine’s Day! – my colleague from Philippines starts our call today. I am a bit surprised, as it is not exactly the occasion you would congratulate your colleagues with. Then he continues: “our HR is giving a rose to each female employee and they will continue with chocolates later on”. Not bad! I end up thinking I must be in a wrong country…
You may recall that I wrote about Valentine’s Day in Japan before (if not, see here). Two years later nothing has changed, chocolate sales have been at their peak for the past few weeks, and even the chocolate masters who normally do not sell small selections of handmade treasures in tiny beautiful boxes, are all here, featured in one of those numerous chocolate markets around the city.
A French colleague (it’s her first Valentine’s Day in the team) decided to follow Japanese tradition and buy small boxes of chocolate to the male colleagues in her immediate team, including the boss. I maintain my gaijin (read: foreigner’s) stance, and do not plan to buy any chocolates for anyone in the office. Yet, it does not mean that I cannot join the chocolate tour to taste and help her choose. Brilliant idea! We also invite a Japanese colleague to join, just to make sure that we can get to sample and avoid any unexpected language barriers that may arise (you never know).
So, a few days before the Valentine’s Day, after a quick lunch (you learn to east faster with time, as you may read here), we leave office with a mission to sample chocolates and help my French colleague buy all her boxes. We walk around, look, taste, discuss, and debate about the (fine?) line between the Japanese way and Western way, especially where a chocolate box includes heart-shaped chocolates… You may realize that there is zero romantics involved here, yet, it probably takes growing up in Japan to really fully accept the concept.
With each year I see increasingly more flower shops advertising some Valentine’s Day ideas, though all Japanese male colleagues are firm and consistent in that they do not buy any flowers to their wives or girlfriends on Valentines’ Day. As one has put it, she would get suspicious and think that something has happened (i.e. that the guy is either guilty or hiding something).
While I recall queues of men at flower shops in Paris, you see similar queues of women at chocolate shops in Tokyo. It’s a strange world, I think to myself getting to taste one last sample piece… for this year 😉
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” (Charles M. Schulz)