At happy hour drinks last week, my friend G became particularly incensed by the actions taken by one of his friends.
Apparently, G and his friend, K, had just come into some money together from a joint investment — which K had chosen to tell his fiancé about. This has now resulted in K’s fiancé planning extensive travels for the year ahead — trips that, according to G, “those two can’t actually really afford.”
G was angry on his friend’s behalf because he felt that K shouldn’t have let his partner know about the money. It was K’s own cash, G argued, and he felt that letting the soon-to-be-wife know about this just meant K was “losing out” on keeping it to himself.
That chunk of money that K could have kept quiet about is what we call 私己錢 si1 gei1 cheen2 in Cantonese. Literally “private money,” it refers to savings that those in long-term relationships keep to themselves, without their partner’s knowledge.
“Let him do whatever he wants with his money and whatever makes them happy,” I replied.
G then said: “Well, how would you feel if you had a partner who had extra income? Would you expect them to tell you about it? And would you tell them about yours?”
It was something I’d never really thought about. Having paid my own way since I started working, I don’t expect anyone to just hand me money. I’ve written about who should pay on first dates, but this is something different. Also, right now my income is not declared to anyone except Hong Kong Inland Revenue, so there’s no need for me to put aside any si gei cheen.
“I just think she’s rude and disrespectful for thinking she can use her man’s money without asking,” added G, who also says situations like these are reason enough to prevent our partners from knowing about any extra income.
“So this isn’t really about the money then,” I said. “It’s more about choosing a partner who isn’t going to do that to you.”
“But that’s why you don’t tell your partner about the extra income,” piped up C, who was also present. “So if you ended up with someone who could take your money, you still have your si gei cheen sitting in your account.”
I stand by my point of view that K is entitled to use his money however he pleases. And if that involves sharing it with his fiancé, then so be it. Who are we to judge how things work in other people’s relationships? Still, the argument remains inconclusive when it comes to keeping our own si gei cheen. What do you think?
All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo.
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