Gifts for Chinese relatives?

May 4th, 2004, 06:15 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Gifts for Chinese relatives?

I'm traveling to China for the first time to meet my long-lost Chinese relatives (on both my mom & dad's sides). I have lived in the US for 20 years and would like to take these families something that is uniquely-American, especially Californian where I live now. I need generic gifts for about 8 families who live in villages outside the big cities - but I do not know their traditions or what they can buy there - I'd REALLY appreciate your suggestions!! Thanks!
hmk2323 is offline  
May 7th, 2004, 12:05 PM
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We have similar backgrounds and I was facing the same issue a few years ago. It sounds vulgar and awkward, but my mom's advice was cash - which seemed to be the welcomed gift. I also brought candy, vitamins, etc. If they accept, taking them to a large department store and paying for their purchases was much appreciated (things are inexpensive there). You will be treated royally by them and it'll be a great experience. Have fun!
Shanghainese is offline  
May 7th, 2004, 12:57 PM
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American ginseng
espn123 is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 10:25 AM
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I agree with the American ginseng. That's what we always do and it works well. 20 years ago my parents would seek out "Made in America" clothes for relatives, but that's really rare nowadays. Many of our Chinese relatives are also now comfortably middle-class enough so that they can buy the types of electronics that would have been welcome gifts a generation ago.
PegS is offline  
May 9th, 2004, 10:41 PM
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This has become an increasingly difficult task as Chinese markets open up and people can get their hands on EVERYTHING from crest whitening strips to dried cranberries. So in away, cash -- wrapped in red paper, would be an acceptable gift, it is not so vulgar, what's the difference between gift certificates? only more flexibility.

Chinese parents want nothing more than their children to have better education and opportunities. So the money can go to their education, or perhaps bring some english reading matter, like glossy magazines that cost a fortune here. The local book stores sell a lot of 'learning english' aids so don't bring that type.

btw, american ginseng is sold here too. but sometimes people prefer the brought over kind cuz they believe it to be better quality. also, for young girls, you can bring over drug store brand cosmetics such as revlon and mabeyline. they are sold here but at quite a premium. it would definitely be a treat for girls, even grown women to get a stash of these things that normally would take some saving up to buy.
weiwei22 is offline  
May 12th, 2004, 11:09 PM
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This question has been at the back of my mind, because if I were in your situation, I wouldn't think either American Ginseng or cash would be great.

So I polled my Shanghainese colleagues today (I live in Shanghai), explained your situation, and WITHOUT giving them any examples, asked what they thought you should give.

Two girls instantly said: "American Ginseng", and the others nodded in agreement. There were also 2 votes for cash, one vote for chocolate, and one vote for children's picture books.

So, the Fodorites expertise wins again! The original responders were right!
Andrea_expat is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 02:34 PM
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What is American ginseng? And why do they want it?
gb is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 02:40 PM
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American Ginseng is a root planted almost exclusively in a few counties in central Wisconsin. There are also some grown in central British Columbia, Canada, but the quality isn't as good.

It is totally different from the Ginseng from Northeastern China or Korea. The Chinese type is "hot", the American type is "cold", in Chinese-medicine talk.
rkkwan is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 02:43 PM
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I've read an article a few years back that say American Ginseng is the most valuable LEGAL cash crop being grown here. During harvest seasons, farmers actually sleep in the fields with guns, or hire security, to guard their crops.
rkkwan is offline  
May 15th, 2004, 03:35 PM
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Where do you buy it?
gb is offline  
May 15th, 2004, 04:58 PM
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Most Chinese supermarkets in large US Chinatowns will have them. For the really high-quality one, probably some special Chinese medicine store in Chinatowns.

GNC or other health-food stores may have extracts. I doubt they'll have the whole piece, and their prices will likely be higher than in Chinatown.
rkkwan is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 12:06 PM
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I've got a related problem: I need to take gifts for probably a dozen businesspeople, and my Chinese host asked that I bring local (WA State) wine. Well, Chinese Customs allows 2 liters of alcoholic beverages, and I can't carry a case of wine anyway. What's appropriate for "VIP" customers?
mrwallen is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 12:41 PM
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How about some ice wine from WA? That should be "special" enough for them.
rkkwan is offline  

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