Everytime that day rolls around I wish I had a guide to Valentine’s Day in the US. I mean, it’s hard to escape it here in the US–and frankly it is at home these days too–but no one was there to prepare me for my first Valentine’s Day in the US. So I’m here for you.
Always check the local customs
This should be a universal Expat rule. And so I’m writing it here to remind myself to do just that. And by local customs you shouldn’t be limited to the Country you’re in–that’s the easy bit. Check what the Expat customs are–that’s where you can get very unstuck. These are the unwritten rules and, one false start and it could set you back a bit.
Naively I thought Valentine’s Day worked the same in the US as it did in Australia. You like someone you give them a card or gift–secretly or otherwise. And of course if you’ve got a “better half” there’s the pressure that comes along with that status.
This didn’t apply to either of my two–aged 11 and 13 at the time–so off they went to school (dressed in pink/red if I remember right).
Must have missed that memo
My daughter came home from school that day with gift bags, cards and treats–all because it’s Valentine’s Day. Wow, that’s a lot of admirers Miss C.
Nope, as it turns out in the lower years in particular kids give everyone in their class a Valentine’s Day gift. It’s usually a lolly bag, filled by mum, with a pretty red tie and a little sweet message.
Oh dear, yep. Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal here. Fortunately with enough years under their belts they weren’t too concerned. But I had no idea. There are hundreds of pins on Pinterest with crafty ideas–specifically for your little treasures to bring to school. Sorry to everyone who didn’t get a lolly bag in return.
Learn from my mistakes
So, if you want to start off your time on the right foot, here’s my guide to Valentine’s Day in the US.
Valentine’s Day guide for Middle School
My number one tip for this age group is avoid it altogether. Put your hoodie over your head, keep your head down and pray that the day goes quickly. Life is too complicated at this age.
I think the latest “gift giving” lasts is Grade six. Hit Grade 7 (or 7th grade) and it starts to get awkward.
Valentine’s Day guide for High School
If you’re in a relationship then a present is expected. Date expectations vary but most couples definitely fall into the trap (that’s Aussie translation) of celebrating Valentine’s Day.
That will pressure is on for a pressie and date night.
Valentine’s Day at work
Beware. There will definitely be people wishing you Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s a strange concept for us Aussies who may not even wish their other half happy Valentine’s Day let alone a stranger, workmate or mate Happy Valentine’s Day.
They’re not trying to crack onto you. They’re just saying hi in a very Valentine way.
And most likely something will “happen”. That might be drinks or pink donuts or biscuits (cookies) but there will be signs of Valentine’s Day in the kitchen and beyond. You have been warned.
And, if you think I’m exaggerating, here’s Valentine’s Day at Dunder Mifflin (The Office).
Valentine’s Day out in the big, wide world
Yes, people–total strangers–will say Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s a thing. If you a masculine Australian man, please resist the urge to punch them. Please.
So good luck to you on surviving Valentine’s Day–especially if it’s your first year. You might still not want to give a pressie but you may have to embrace it. Or stay home and wait until February 15 to show your face again.
Have you been in the US a while? How was your first Valentine’s Day? Or have I missed anything? My American readers please share your tips with us Expats to ensure we have a smooth transition to life in the US.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Don’t forget to share your Valentine’s Day experiences would love to hear them–especially the culture shock stories