You won’t find cute little heart-shaped cards in German classrooms. “In Germany, Valentine’s Day is aimed toward adults only,” says Sharon Schweitzer, cross-cultural trainer and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. “It’s strictly a ‘mature’ subject.” You’ll also be surprised to find pigs aplenty on the day for romance since the animal is a symbol of luck and lust. Couples will give each other pig figurines and pictures, and even chocolate pigs. While chocolate is a popular dessert of choice on Valentine’s Day, Germans nibble on heart-shaped ginger cookies with romantic messages written in icing.
Men traditionally do most of the gift-giving on Valentine’s Day in Western countries, but the opposite is true in South Korea, where women give chocolate to the men in their lives. A month later, on White Day, men return the favour by giving candy. But that’s not the end of it – single friends sometimes get together on Black Day on April 14 to eat black noodles.
Women give the chocolate on Valentine’s Day in Japan too. There are a few more nuances though. Colleagues and classmates expect ‘obligation chocolate’ (giri choco), but women save ‘true feeling’ chocolate (honmei choco), which is more expensive and often homemade, for their sweethearts. Not that the women miss out on the goodies. If they don’t want to wait a month for the men to reciprocate on White Day, they’ll treat themselves to jibun choco on February 14.