The language of love – it’s the one language that can’t be translated…

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, some of us may already be secretly planning spectacular date nights or getting gifts for that special someone. Here in The Netherlands, we usually surprise our partners or crushes with flowers, cards, romantic candle-lit dinners, or even teddy bears holding little hearts. Classic, but not very imaginative.


It won’t come as a surprise that, like in so many other countries, chocolates are also an all-time favourite in The Netherlands around this holiday. After all, there’s nothing like chocolates to confess your love, right? But, according to the Japanese, not just any chocolate will do. In Japan, the ladies are the ones who give chocolates to the men in their lives, and the kind of chocolate they get someone really shows how they feel about them.


If you were to give a box of ‘giri-choko’ to your boyfriend, you might have some explaining to do later. This type of chocolate literally translates to ‘obligation chocolate’ and is typically given to colleagues, male friends or relatives – men you are not interested in romantically. Instead, in Japan you would treat your husband, boyfriend or crush to ‘honmei-choko’, meaning ‘favourite chocolate’. Chocolate you wouldn’t want to receive (…as if there is such a thing) is ‘cho-giri choko’. This pity chocolate is usually given to someone you feel sorry for and don’t like very much, such as an unpopular colleague or acquaintance.


South Koreans have the same tradition as the Japanese. Although the ladies are the ones doing the wooing on Valentine’s Day, the men reciprocate exactly one month later on a holiday called White Day. On this day they thank their admirers by giving them gifts two to three times more valuable than the ones they received.

In South Korea there is even a third holiday one month after White Day: Black Day. On this day, singles dress in black and drown their sorrows with a dish called jajangmyeon (‘black noodles’) which is made up of Korean noodles with a black bean sauce. Not as good as chocolate, but delicious nonetheless.


When it comes to original Valentine’s Day gifts, the Welsh could give us a run for our money. In Wales, there is nothing quite like a wooden spoon if you want to profess your love to someone. These so-called love spoons were traditionally handcrafted with all kinds of symbolic carvings and hidden clues. Inspired by sailors who hand carved romantic presents for their significant others while out at sea, the tradition has been around since the 17th century. Today, love spoons are also an appropriate gift for weddings, births, christenings and anniversaries.



In Estonia, nobody has to feel left out on February 14th, as the Estonians celebrate a day called Sõbrapäev: Friends Day. Couples, friends and family members celebrate love and friendship by exchanging gifts and cards. So for those who dread the prospect of being alone yet again on Valentine’s Day: just spend the day with friends and toast to each other instead!

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