23 August 2019
Valentine's Day has become a big-ticket event for many retailers in Hong Kong and China. Photo: CNSA
Valentine's Day has become a big-ticket event for many retailers in Hong Kong and China. Photo: CNSA

Romance in the new age

If Saint Valentine, the third-century Roman priest, were alive today, he would be surprised to find how popular the annual day of romance commemorated in his name is in this part of the world.

This morning I must have browsed through some 800 headlines on news related to Valentine’s Day, or about 10 times more coverage than the story on the conviction of seven policemen in the Ken Tsang assault case.

One reason for the increasing chatter surrounding Feb. 14 is commercialization.

As an advertising executive told me, businesses such as hotels, restaurants, chocolatiers, jewelry shops and flower sellers have begun to take Valentine’s Day as seriously as Christmas.

That is not surprising as a study has shown that people in Greater China are the biggest spenders in Asia Pacific when it comes to pampering their loved ones with gifts and meals on Valentine’s Day.

According to the latest MasterCard survey, mainland Chinese topped the list in Valentine’s Day budgets, planning to splurge US$310 on average, followed by people from Hong Kong (US$282) and Taiwan (US$271). 

That compares with an overall average of US$133 for the Asia Pacific region.    

Well, the spending by mainlanders to mark the day of love may not be as high as that seen during China’s signature Singles’ Day event in November, but it still represents an incredible sum.

The expenditure shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the rising price tags of everything from flowers to meals during the special occasion.

We’ve seen reports, for instance, that a bunch of flowers in Guangzhou came with a tag of more than 1,400 yuan.

Hong Kong retailers, too, are not far behind in the attempt to cash in on the Valentine’s Day fever. At a supermarket in my locality, I found a heart-shaped steak-cut being sold for over HK$400.

It’s clear that Feb. 14 has become one of those big revenge days for retailers who have been losing out to online shopping.

That said, let’s bear in mind that Valentine’s Day activities, especially dating, have received a boost due to online platforms.

Consider the survey by a local shopping mall operator which showed that 73 percent of respondents said they used online platforms to arrange their dates.

In the poll, conducted on 500 people in January, 27 percent of respondents identified online forums as the most commonly used route to pick their love partners, next only to workplace or college interactions (36 percent) and friends’ referral (28 percent). 

Thanks to platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, youngsters now have more information and are able to get to know their potential partners better.

Also, tools such as Meitu, the popular app that allows users to present makeover versions of their actual visual selves, do help, at least in ensuring initial breakthrough in exchanges between the two sexes.

The new economy babies have not only helped break barriers such as geography, age and looks, they also allowed users to identify the kind of person they would like to start a relationship with.

Personally, I had a decent surprise when I found that some of my students, who are usually reticent in class, were talking at length when asked about their experiences with dating apps like Tinder.

They are the lucky young generation who can easily amass a thousand friends online and find love quickly without having to commit to a lasting relationship.

Another growing new trend, which one can detect on the street, is the acceptance of boyfriends who are younger in age.

According to an APM mall survey, over 50 percent of women aged between 19 and 37 said they won’t mind if their dating partner is three to five years younger than themselves.

The male respondents, meanwhile, also said they had no problems with dating women who are three to five years older.

Welcome to the new age of romance!

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EJ Insight writer

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