8 tips for surviving your reunion dinner (from the director of Reunion Dinner)

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Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Reunion dinners. Love them or hate them, they're such an integral part of our Lunar New Year dinners that there's even a film about it out now — the eponymous Reunion Dinner. Directed by Ong Kuo Sin (you might recognise his name from last year's Number 1 and 2016's Mr Unbelievable), the comedy features everything you'll dread at such family meet-ups — desperate attempts to keep up appearances, trying hard to impress others, and annoying family ties — with a heady dose of humour, of course.

But if there's one thing that Ong learned from the film, it's this. "Organising a reunion dinner is just like organising a shoot! There’s so much coordination needed to find out who can make it on which day, who likes or hates to eat what dishes, who should or should not sit beside someone, and what topics should or should not be discussed." He thinks that whoever organises a reunion dinner should definitely be shown some appreciation for the effort taken to call everyone home.

His approach to making this film was to make audiences "laugh and be reminded of the significance of the reunion dinner amongst family, relatives and friends" — a stark contrast to the conventional Lunar New Year movie formula of "laughing and forgetting about the past and troubles."

But Ong loves reunion dinners — "I would do a reunion lunch if I could — so that I have time to do another reunion dinner later when I have digested my lunch!" For him, home is the best place for a reunion dinner/lunch. "It’s the place where we can all be ourselves, be it, sit uglily, eat and talk at the same time, and have quick refills without extra charges. Oh, and arrowing the juniors to wash the dishes is a bonus! You can’t have all this fun in a restaurant for sure!"

For those who need some help surviving their reunion dinners though, Ong has some tips. Here are his eight (because eight is an auspicious number) tips for surviving reunion dinners.

Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

1. Say you booked a cruise

Tell pesky relatives “I totally forgot the CNY dates and boarded a cruise!” Remember to standby photoshopped pictures of you on a cruise and start posting two days prior to that to keep up the ruse.

2. Ask to borrow money

Message pesky relatives “Hi, I invested in something that I shouldn’t have and lost some money, can you lend me some?” Send this text a week prior to the Lunar New Year and you will be free from any reunion dinners!

Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

3. Convince your family that you are attending your significant other's reunion dinner

Convince your parents and ah gong and ah ma that you are working very hard to win over a girl or boy at their family's reunion dinner. Lay it on by telling them that if you are successful, there will a new member at your reunion dinner next year! Trust me, your mum and ah ma will excuse you completely.

4. Hire an actor to act as a drunk friend

Bring along a hired actor as an emotionally unstable friend who needs company during such festive times. Tell the actor to promptly get drunk in the first fifteen minutes so that he or she needs to be escorted home. That’s your cue to go too!

Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

5. Say you have taken a vow of silence

Mime this out to pesky relatives “I have taken a vow of silence to pray for world peace." Or even better, have them printed out on cards beforehand. If you can’t avoid dinner and don't like to answer questions, hand them these cards and simply smile benevolently back to any questions.

6. Answer every question with a reverse question.

For example, if a relative asks about your relationship status, pretend to be concerned and ask them what are theirs? As they talk, you eat as quickly and excuse yourself before you need to answer the question.

Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

7. Look for like-minded relatives

Secure allies beforehand. Seek out the only relative you are able to hold a conversation with and find out if they feel the same way. If he/she is ok, quickly pretend to have a serious discussion and retreat to a visible corner of the house; thus creating the illusion you are not anti-social.

8. Buy your family tickets to Reunion Dinner

Buy tickets for your family to watch the Reunion Dinner movie plus popcorn and food. After the movie, they will be too full to eat anymore!

Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Reunion Dinner is out in cinemas now.

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