Relationship Advice: Dating Etiquette
Despite the casualness surrounding contemporary courting, chivalry, according to our gallant panel of Hong Kong socialites, is far from dead. “Pulling out chairs, opening doors, letting the lady go ahead of you, walking on the outside of the sidewalk, helping her with her bags – these are all important parts of being a gentleman,” says socialite Margery Au. Charles Yang, partner at SY Yang & Co and well regarded for his social graces, emphatically concurs. “These acts never go out of fashion,” he says. “Guys who neglect them simply haven’t been brought up properly.”
As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words, and chivalrous gestures are a good way of tangibly demonstrating that you care for your partner’s comfort. In light of this truism, Smith notes that new technology has added to the gentleman’s repertoire.
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“Say your wife is out of town on a business trip. You can surprise her with a call saying that you’ve found a great restaurant near the hotel for her to try after her meetings and that you’ve already emailed her directions and taken care of the bill with your credit card. There are all kinds of things you can do these days – be creative.”
In the dating domain, Dee Poon still generally assumes that the guy will pay for the first date, but as the relationship progresses, she prefers to skip the hassle of splitting bills and would rather take turns picking up the tab.
“With equality in the workplace and women earning good wages, I see no reason why a woman shouldn’t pay if she asks a guy to dinner,” agrees Carol Murray. “Whoever does the asking should pick up the bill.”
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There is more debate around the weightier matter of the wedding proposal, however. Margery Au feels that it’s important for a young man to follow the old custom of approaching his potential parents-in-law for their blessing before proposing to his bride-to-be. “It’s important to show respect to the family.” Dee Poon, meanwhile, thinks doing so just adds needless anxiety to the situation: “Unless you’re already close with the parents and everyone hangs out, I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Given the emotionally charged nature of the issue, Smith advocates a nuanced approach. In this day and age, no marriage proposal should ever come as a complete surprise to either side of the relationship. After the couple has decided that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, she suggests they invite the bride’s parents to dinner, whereupon the groom can take the lead in the conversation, announcing his heartfelt intentions and asking for the parent’s blessing.
“It’s not that the daughter is a piece of chattel to be passed from father to husband,” she says, “It’s about respect for the understanding that you’re asking to become part of the family. Be sure, though, to phrase it so that you’re asking for the parent’s blessing, not their daughter’s hand in marriage. If you’re asking for her hand, the assumption is that you’ll walk away from the relationship if they say no; whereas, if you don’t get their blessing, you can still proceed with the wedding; it just means the parents aren’t particularly happy about it.”