Meet the Canadian Valentine’s Day

A Canadian and Japanese on a very Canadian Valentine’s Day date

Maiko Tanabe – The Aquinian

It was a date with a notepad and a pen, but still, it was the best date I have ever had.

Now, I have a confession to make. I had never had a Canadian (or North American) Valentine’s Day before. I had never celebrated it in a Canadian way.

In Japan, where I’m from, Valentine’s Day is quite different. It basically serves as a day of confession for girls.

They give small gifts, especially chocolates, to boys. By giving chocolates, you tell the person you like him. This kind of chocolate is called “you-are-my-real-target” chocolates.

But Japanese girls have other kinds of chocolates to give out on this day as well.

The most famous one, aside from the real target chocolates, are “obligation chocolates.” Girls distribute them to whoever – their co-workers, bosses or classmates – to show appreciation that they are here as their friend, but don’t love them.

It sounds kind of rude when it’s written down, but it’s supposed to be polite.

So until my boyfriend and I broke up this summer, I kept that tradition. Yes, I sent him a box of chocolates every Valentine’s Day. I celebrated it in my very Japanese way, even though I have been in Canada for the whole time.

And here’s one more confession.

When I got this job as the international editor, I promised myself that I would avoid including myself in the section, except for being a writer and editor. I just thought I would feel uncomfortable if I did.

So here, for the first time, I’m breaking that promise with five more issues left to publish this year. Damn, I was so close.

But I’m doing this because I wanted to experience what it’s like here in Canada.

I’ve experienced Canadian Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day, Canada Day, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, oh and STU’s famous April 6th Day, to name a few. They sure were something I never had back home. It was like watching one of those Hollywood movies.

So why not Valentine’s Day? And why not make it a story, as I’m always desperately looking for story ideas?

So I shamelessly asked Ms. Bailey White to take me out on a very Canadian Valentine’s Day date, and she was kind enough to accept my offer.

Then, our fake Canadian Valentine’s Day date began and here’s what I discovered.

1. The Date (itself)

It was a surprise. Well, technically, the date itself was not a surprise since I was the one who asked Bailey to take me out. But still, I didn’t know where we were going, or what we were going to do. It was sweet and I was already beginning to love Valentine’s Day in Canada.

2. The Date (the person)

Bailey was a perfect date. She picked me up on time, dressed very Valentine-ly with hot pink tights, and brought me a box of chocolates, a card, a stuffed animal and another chocolate wrapped in the shape of a rose, which she hid in the trunk until she gave them to me.

To be honest, I always had bitter, cynical feelings about Valentine’s Day back home because there were so many kinds of chocolates to give out that the day almost lost its meaning. So I thought giving chocolates is meaningless, even though I had kept that tradition. I was just being polite. But I take that back because getting the chocolates only made my day sweeter. Giving chocolates is sweet.

3. The Place

The selection of a restaurant was very Canadian. We went to McGinnis Landing, since it offered appetizers at half price. The place itself was very Canadian, with a line of hockey sticks hanging from the ceiling and walls filled with pictures of hockey games and players. I couldn’t help but stare at the ceiling and the walls, because it was a weird view for me. And again, I shamelessly asked Bailey why they have so many hockey items at a restaurant, where they don’t use them at all.

4. The Food

The food we ordered was great and again, very Canadian. Since they were half-price appetizers and we were starving, we ordered too many – nachos, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks and potato skins. None of it was food I have back home. I don’t think I had had them until I came to Canada.

The other day, my friend from Japan and I were talking about how we have never had chicken wings back home. There is something similar, but not wings. At least I have never seen them back home. We were talking about why, since in Japan you can get pretty much anything, but we couldn’t figure it out. So I drew my own conclusion: maybe, we don’t like anything we can’t eat well with chopsticks (except for certain things).

I tried to eat the last pieces of wings with a fork since I didn’t want to get my hands all greasy again and Bailey found it funny. I found it funny, too. We had some laughs, but probably it’s the same deal with chopsticks. Or maybe, chicken wings weren’t the best choice for a date.

5. The Conversation

It went great. We had deep, meaningful conversations (read: girl talk) and I think we agree that most of it should be off the record. Except for the conversation about hockey. Again, very Canadian. I had never talked about hockey in my life before I came to Canada. I don’t think I had ever said a word “hockey” in my life before I came to Canada.

After the date, I’m a little wiser about Canadian culture and how Valentine’s Day works in Canada, thanks to Bailey. But the most important thing is, the date went really well and I’m pretty sure there’ll be a phone call in the next few days for a second date.


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