New Year Greetings Can Unintentionally Offend

I just received the following automated email response for an Australian colleague living in the Philippines. “Please note that our office will be closed on the 31st January in celebration of Chinese New Year.”

Many Westerners unintentionally offend all of their non-Chinese Asian colleagues by wishing them a “Happy Chinese New Year.” The lunar New Year is not specific to China, and due to historical factors, many Asians are unhappy with such a greeting. Many non-Chinese may not express their true feelings in order to save face for the offending well-wisher.

As a recommendation, I would like to share the comments of one of my Vietnamese friends, Phuong Mai Nguyen:

“Please NEVER EVER say ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ to just any Asian-looking face you know. Not everything is made in China. Lunar New Year based on a Lunisolar calendar is used in Korea, Japan and many other Asian communities. In Vietnam it is called Tet (Happy Tet!). It does not sound right to say ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ to a Vietnamese.”

So happy Lunar New Year or happy New Year to those of you who are celebrating this week.