Search Icon

Blog

Our latest news & views

Valentine’s customs around the world

By Josian Phillips, 

Valentine’s Day is not global.

For marketers, Valentine’s Day is a big opportunity to create some relevant, engaging and humorous campaigns. However, for those launching new products and/or posting social media messages overseas, it’s worth knowing that there are some marked differences regarding how the day is celebrated and its actual significance. As such, here are a few Valentine’s Day customs from around the world:

Japan

Never a nation to do things by half, Japanese people celebrate two romantic days: one on February 14 and another on March 14. Valentine’s Day is traditionally all about spoiling men, offering shy and reserved women the opportunity to give chocolate to the men they love. A month later is White Day. This was created in the 1980s by chocolate companies as a clever marketing ploy disguised as a chance for men to ‘reciprocate’ their feelings by gifting women – you guessed it – expensive chocolates. These traditions are also observed in South Korea.

How to say “I love you” in Japanese = 愛しています (pronounced “Aishite imasu”) is the literal translation, but as this phrase is not commonly used in Japan, it’s more likely you would see /say /hear “Daisuki desu” (大好きです), which means: “I really like you”.

Brazil

Don’t bother with Valentine’s Day in Brazil; February 14 falls within carnival season and so is largely ignored. Instead, lovers tend to demonstrate their affection on Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day) on June 12. This is also the eve of the widely-celebrated St Anthony’s Day, the saint known for blessing couples with happy marriages. In addition to the exchanging of gifts, homes and streets are often decorated, and parades are commonplace. Single women sometimes perform husband-finding rituals, such as exchanging love messages.

How to say “I love you” in Brazilian Portuguese = “Eu te amo”.

Germany

Valentine’s Day simply isn’t that big a deal in Germany, so it’s probably not worth making it the focus of an advertising campaign. It has naturally encroached into society a little, but has been described as “not really our thing”. As it’s not very commercial, you won’t find many decorations in the shop windows or cards on sale. That said, some lovers do exchange gifts which include homemade heart-shaped cookies inscribed with romantic messages, flowers or the unique local custom of giving pig-themed items. The pig represents luck and lust, hence why some couples send porcine-shaped chocolates, pictures or tiny figurines.

How to say “I love you” in German = “Ich liebe dich”.

China

Though Valentine’s Day is fairly popular, the Chinese have celebrated its own equivalent, the Qixi Festival (Double Seventh Day) for centuries. Taking place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (early August), it commemorates an old story of Zhinv, a fairy, and Niulang, a mortal, who fell in love. This union angered the Goddess of Heaven, who sent Zhinv back up to the skies and created the Milky Way to separate the lovers forever. Taking pity on the couple, the world’s magpies formed a bridge into the heavens by which the two could meet. Unable to stop them, the Goddess allowed the lovers to meet this way once a year, at Qixi. Young girls will offer gifts to Zhinv in the hope that she’ll help them find a good husband.

How to say “I love you” in Chinese = 我爱你 (pronounced “Wǒ ài nǐ”) in Mandarin or standard Chinese, or “Ngóh oi néih” in Cantonese.

Estonia and Finland

If you receive a card on Valentine’s Day in Estonia or Finland, then it might just put an end to your romantic intentions, for in these countries February 14 is known as Friend’s Day. Called Sōbrapӓev and Ystӓvӓnpӓivӓ respectively, the day is all about celebrating friendship rather than the object of your affections. Cards and gifts are exchanged with greetings of “Happy Friend’s Day”. All the same, the day has become a favourite with those wishing to propose.

How to say “I love you” in Estonian = “Ma armastan sind”.

How to say “I love you” in Finnish = “Minä rakastan sinua”.

While this may be light-hearted, it does emphasise the importance of doing your research before embarking on a marketing campaign which is intended for foreign audiences. Local customs differ tremendously, so it’s key that you get the right advice from the experts if you want your message to be well-received, if not loved.

Would you like to chat to Brightlines Translation about how you can reach your global customers? Call 01225 580 770 or contact us here. We are happy to help and advice is always free.

Follow us for the latest
translation news and opinions