Giving gifts in China isn't really like it is back home...
Rocky and his cousin Frank (who both work at the gym where I go) have been behaving like total kids some days before Xmas. Every time they see me at the gym they come running towards me: “You Na, You La! Have you developed the photos from our hometown yet? Have you, have you?!” Up until now I hadn’t but yesterday I finally got myself together and went to the shop and developed 50 photos each for them. When they first heard about this they got both excited and surprised, asking me why I would give them 50 EACH?
“Well maybe you won’t always be in the same city in the future and then it is nice for you to have your own photos, right?!”
I think somewhere around there I turned into a saint in their eyes. Anyways, I am giving them some photos this afternoon and then I am also mailing some photos to the family in Shuang Xi. I was thinking about making a nice little gift package, kind of as a ‘thank you for your hospitality and for showing me your beautiful village’ –gesture, although I am not quite sure what to put in the package? It’s fairly easy to get something for Rocky’s sister, Yang Niu… Some CDs, a cute, girly t-shirt and maybe a thin English book (she wants to learn English), but what do I put in for the mom, dad, grandma and grandpa? Any suggestions?
I always find it tricky to buy gifts for Chinese people. The gift-culture over here is so completely different to back in Europe. In China you mainly give each other money (hong baos) in red envelopes on big occasions like weddings, CNY or during the national holiday. As for gifts, I have been told that fruits, snacks, bai jiu or chocolate is OK to bring if going over to a Chinese family for dinner (we gave Rocky’s family a large bag of cookies during our visit) but I don’t know… it feels so… simple to just give some cookies bought from the bakery?
Also, I find it hard to know what gifts are really appreciated over here because in China, you don’t open the gift in front of the hosts eyes (like we do back home, and go ‘ohhhhhh! Thank you soooo much, but really, you shouldn’t have!’ to show your appreciation) but rather, you put them to the side and open them after the guest have left. When me and my bf first came here and were supposed to meet with a friend of a friend in Shanghai (who was going to help us find a flat) that we had never met before. Too show our appreciation we brought some expensive Finnish glass candle holder (Iittala) and some Finnish snacks, but when we handed it over, the girl almost looked trouble, said ‘thanks’ and just put it to the side. We felt kind of blown-off, although of course I later learned that that’s just the way you do things here.
Anyways, if anyone has any good gift ideas (maybe you have given something to a Chinese friend before that has been really appreciated? Or maybe it has gone the complete opposite way? Share!!) that I can put in a package and send with the mail, please feel free to share. It obviously cannot be anything too over-the-top or too extravagant, but rather something small as a gesture to say thank you (oh, and I will also write a letter in Chinese. Now that’s going to be a challenge because my character handwriting is terrible!).