A Travellerspoint blog

The art of functional gift giving

I will admit, I love receiving gifts. I know you are 'supposed' to love giving gifts, but in reality who doesn't like getting Frye boots for Christmas, or concert tickets for birthdays. Receiving gifts is exciting when you are '20 something poor' because you undoubtedly cannot afford the items you are given, and if you could is would be a colossal waste of your funds. I also appreciate homemade gifts more then most, mainly because the majority of my gift giving consists of crafted aprons, mason jar meals and my attempt at art. ~ Giving and receiving gifts is fun~

Now I do not have any expectations that my school in Haikou should be gifting me anything, but when I heard that it is customary I was interested in what I would be receiving. Maybe a coffee mug, book or a shiny new pair of chopsticks? All those items seem appropriate, Chinese and conventionally fun. I was not surprised to learn that Chinese gift giving is deeply rooted into culture, but found some of the rules detracting from the joy and adding to the stress of the occasion.

Minor list of rules or how I understand them...

- Do not use white wrapping paper, or give white gifts for that matter.
- BUT always wrap your gifts thoughtfully.
- Do not open your gift immediately, nor should you expect a recipient to open a gift in front of you.
- Do not give; watches, umbrellas, towels, sharp objects or shoes. These items, seemingly innocent, symbolize breaking up and severing of friendships. Yikes.
- Do send a 'thank you' letter after receiving a gift.
- If you are exchanging gifts with friends, you are expected to keep an unwritten 'balance sheet' to keep the score even.
- Common gifts are; boxes of fruit, tea, cookies, pastries, cigarettes, wine or red envelopes with money. I think I could get used to this style of gifting, I will gladly accept any and all of those items, sans the cigarettes.

For Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday that celebrates gathering, thanksgiving and praying, we were told by co-workers to head downstairs and pick up our gifts. I was delighted to see what it could be, and had a hunch it would include moon cakes, which are edible offerings honoring woman's ability to bear children. The moon cakes were being sold on every street corner, all supermarkets, kids were packing them in their backpacks and they were advertised on every bus. Cody and I tried a few at the local market and found them pleasant, but nothing to write home about. (Although in essence, I am currently writing home about them...) When we got downstairs I began to have serious doubts about how were were going to haul all of our swag home. When I learned that boxes of fruit were common, I did not take that seriously until I saw what we would be lugging on the bus.


Our total count was:
50 Kiwi's
24 Red Bean Tea Cans
48 Milk Boxes
48 Coconut Milk Cans
14 (Pork Flavored) Moon Cakes


Cody took the majority of the weight, I ended up with the awkward sized boxes and we laughed our way on and off the bus. Functional gift giving saved us some greenbacks on milk and coffee creamer for the month, but unfortunately the moon cakes were not consumed before the toss date. Pork flavored cake, eeee. I should mention that as a supplementary gift, our entire staff was invited to a jaw dropping dinner talent show to celebrate the holiday. Although, the contents of the dinner are unfit for a blog that won't allow video footage, sorry.

I am getting glimpses into the deep rooted culture of the Chinese people daily, but am bombarded with surprises hourly. I have no illusions that after a year in China I will understand the culture, it is simply too esoteric.

Embrace the Chaos

Posted by MissMaggieMae 21:23 Comments (0)

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