Gifts for Chinese hosts

Old Jul 27th, 2004, 07:39 PM
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Gifts for Chinese hosts

Will be meeting the relative of local friends in Beijing, and she and her family have graciously offered to show us around. Would appeciate suggestions for gifts we might bring them from the States. We believe they may be quite poor, and our main hostess will be a young working woman in her early 20's, who has just graduated from college. She lives with her family, and has just gotten her first job. Thanks for your help.
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Old Jul 27th, 2004, 08:55 PM
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I often take gifts to China and the big challenge is to give a gift that was not made in China in the first place.

I often take wines from CA or local delicacies that are not fresh fruit or similar products (as they are restricted).

Coffee table style books also have been well received, you can easily find books of US landmarks, cities, etc.

I have also found, particularly with young adults, that best sellers (I read paperbacks a lot when I travel) are well received as they are both very "american" and allow the recipient to practice their English.

Their are a number of gifts to avoid if you are dealing with traditional chinese - no clocks, white items (death color), scissors, or sets of things that are unlucky numbers in count.

When giving a gift, you should extend it with two hands while explaining that said gift is just a very humble token of appreciation for the hospitality and that you hope the host can accept a gift that is so humble that it is insignificant.

BTW, it would be rather unusual to be invited to the hosts home, so be prepared to meet in a public place or have them come to collect you.

Beijing is a remarkable city rich in culture and history. Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jul 28th, 2004, 04:17 AM
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I have found that a bottle of good whisky, scotch or something like XO brandy is very much appreciated by the men in the family, as US or UK brands can be hard to find and expensive. For women, perfume is a good gift; although most brands can now be found in department stores in Beijing, they can be expensive for average people. The other suggestions above are good as well.

Cjbryant's tips on how to give the gifts are excellent. I would only add that I would not expect that they will open the gift in front of you and may not do more than give a polite smile when you present it. Don't be surprised by either, and don't think that your gift is not appreciated it they don't open it and exclaim over it in your presence.
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Old Jul 28th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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Ed-

Here is a thread from a few months ago called "Gifts for Chinese relatives" which may give you some more ideas:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...7&tid=34496609
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Old Jul 28th, 2004, 05:47 PM
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Thanks for the advice, and thank you, yk, for pointing me to the older thread, as I had missed it when I searched previously. We're leaning to perfume and perhaps a book for the young lady -- and, since her father is going to help us by borrowing someone's van and driving us, we'll probably give him cash wrapped in red paper, if that doesn't sound tacky... If the family really is very poor, it's hard to know whether luxuries like wines would be especially welcome. The American ginseng mentioned in the other thread sounds like a great idea, if we can find it, too, since it sounds like that represents a basic medication in China, that anyone might want to use.
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Old Jul 29th, 2004, 07:18 AM
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Hi Ed-

I think cash would be fine. Chinese people usually put the cash in "Red Pockets", so I would think red paper should do as well. Anyhow, the Red Pockets are usually sold at Chinese supermarkets in the US.
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Old Aug 1st, 2004, 10:59 AM
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Having decided on perfume and books for the young woman, and cash for her father, we realize we have another question: When is it appropriate to give such gifts in China? Should we give our "guide" (the young lady) gifts when we arrive, and the money to her father when we see him last, at the end of our trip? Or should we give everything at the start or at the end? Do we need to be concerned that gifts at the end of the trip (when we would be naturally inclined to give them) might cause them to lose face by looking like we are paying them for services rendered? We don't want to appear not to respect their hospitality. Thanks.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 12:30 AM
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I don't think I would give the father cash at all. I think this could be quite insulting. You don't really know their financial situation, perhaps you should ask the friends who are arranging this for you. As the father can drive, that would put them if a different class than most poor Chinese. They may even have a car, but are borrowing the van in order to accommodate you and your family; again, car ownership would put them in a much different class. If he is taking you around on a weekday, then he can obviously afford to take time off from whatever job he has, again a sign that they may not be in the financial situation you assume.

If this were my trip, I would take the family out to lunch or dinner on your last day with them, and also present the gifts at the end of the meal. It would not have to be any kind of formal or fancy meal, but I think that would be a better gesture than just giving them the gifts outright.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 01:10 AM
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I could not agree MORE with Cicerone, Ed-the idea of a "lao wei" (foreigner) handing over cash to the father of a family you do not know would most likely be too insulting for words! The Chinese do indeed give money in red envelopes ON CHINESE NEW YEARS and other special occasions to friends and particularly family members -but for a western outsider? Never! Please don't do that! A bottle of good whisky would be MOST appreciated, I'm sure!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 06:51 AM
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You are echoing my initial concern -- however, I'm told that the family is, indeed, quite poor. I belive they are borrowing the van because they don't have a car -- and the father used to be a taxi driver, himself. They'll be taking us around on the weekend and weeknights only, because I believe both of them work during the day. Our friends are related by marriage to this Beijing family, and they confirmed that money would be the most useful thing to them. As someone suggested on this thread (yk) and on a previous one related to gifts in China, giving money is like giving a gift certificate to a store, in a broad sense. I hope we're doing the right thing, but, in any case, we'll have a few days to figure it out and if Cicerone and Spygirl are correct, we'll take Cicerone's advice, skip the cash, and take them to a nice meal on our last evening, instead. One last question, though -- if it turns out that cash would be a faux pas, after all, is whiskey a safe bet for a working class family? Thanks for all the advice.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 07:42 AM
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At this point, I feel like this is one for Miss Manners or Emily Post?. Here are my thoughts based on the facts you have now relayed:

1. Your friends' view is probably the best one, in that they know the family and their financial situation, etc. I would definitely take their opinion if your friends are mainland Chinese, as they would obviously know what would be acceptable better than us foreign devils.

2. Perhaps the family is actually expecting you to pay them, as the father is an out-of-work taxi driver. I don't know how frank a discussion you have had with your friends about what is expected, but perhaps now is the time for that.

3. On the other hand, just because you are poor does not mean you don't have your pride, and offering hospitality is a big thing in Asia generally, so they may not be expecting payment, and a gift and a meal would be a nice gesture.

I don?t know how to say this without sounding crass, but I hope this ends up being a good way for you to actually see Beijing. If he is only available during the day on weekends, you will have to plan carefully. I would not go to the Summer Palace on a weekend in August (when your trip is as I recall), so if he volunteers to take you then, you may need to come up with other suggestions (perhaps one of the farther access points of the Great Wall.) The Forbidden City could be quite crowded on a weekend as well. To the best of my knowledge, none of the major sights in Beijing are open in the evenings, so I am not sure what you will be doing besides driving by them; perhaps he means to take you to an acrobatic show which would certainly be fun, or Chinese opera.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 08:00 AM
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Thank you, Cicerone!

Thank you, Spygirl!

When I first read this - about giving money to the father in a RED envelope, my nerves were screaming "How tacky!" But then, customs change and who knows, with all this "out with the old, in with the new" that's current in China today, maybe giving cash is in - in some parts of China.

Now, my suspicions are confirmed and I can say it aloud: HOW TACKY! {come to think of it, it'd be tacky even here in the States.)

There are ways to give cash if you really feel that it will help. One way is to slip something to the daughter (NOT the dad) at the very end of your trip and say that you are helping with the "gas money" or some other poor excuse like that. She will refuse and you will press the NON-RED envelope on her. Thus, will begin the careful dance of shoving the envelope back and forth. Just make sure you make the last shove, even if it is to leave it on their dining room table and then make a hasty dash for the exit.

If they take you to the airport, you may find yourself doing the dance at the airport. If they really don't want the money, they will find some way to get it into your pocket, your luggage, etc. If they really need the money, they will end up with the envelope just before your plane takes off.

The farewell dinner that you give should be given, whether they are rich or poor. It's a great idea.

Have fun! Enjoy China!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 07:38 PM
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Usually the best way is when they take you out, have them take you to a good restaurant that they've always wanted to go and pay for the food. Chinese people LOVE to be treated in nice restaurants by their friends.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 08:43 PM
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Chinese people use red envelops to give cash year round, no big deal; however, I do think it's tacky for a westerner to give Chinese people money in a red envelope.

And, I think X.O. Cognac is better received than whiskey. And don't bother with anything lower than X.O. quality.
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Old Aug 5th, 2010, 06:11 AM
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I have a related question and don't think a new thread is warranted.

I stayed with a family for 7 days (just last week) in Zunyi and also attended a few dinner parties with the family's friends.

My lady friend asked me to contribute RMB 2,000 to the family which I thought was rather excessive.

The family and friends are not poor and mostly government employees.

Any comments on the amount?
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Old Aug 5th, 2010, 09:47 AM
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> Any comments on the amount?

Outrageous, but if you didn't arrange a formal amount before the visit, you have no leg to stand on (short of simply refusing).

Quite often in China 'friendships' are not at all what they seem.
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Old Aug 5th, 2010, 10:33 AM
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Is your lady friend related to this family? Seems like they are turning their home into a "bed and breakfast" and more. If you don't pay, she probably won't be your "friend" for long.
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Old Aug 5th, 2010, 03:34 PM
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Thank you guys for your response.

Yes, the lady is the family's daughter, and I had been writing with her for some 12 months, and talking about marriage. This is perhaps not the place to go into details, but together with 2 other (money) incidents during my visit I have concluded that she is a very dangerous lady and her ultimate goal is permanent residence in Australia and take as much money as possible along the way.

The evening before leaving, she tried to pull another trick hoping to get an additional rmb 2,500. I did not fall for it.

It was my 4th visit to China. The first visit wasn't very pleasant either.
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