What Are Appropriate Gifts In This Culture?
Last Updated on December 22, 2019 by Estrella
Gift giving is different from culture to culture. Remember the journalist Lisa Ling? She told Oprah about receiving money instead of toys for special days when she was a child. After that episode aired, viewers sent Lisa presents to make up for her childhood experience because they felt sorry for her. Why? They assumed it was a bad thing that Lisa did not receive physical gifts. But had they grown up in a culture where people give money as a gift instead of physical presents, they would probably not feel the same way. Giving money as a gift would be normal to them. Now, if you are new to this culture and are invited to a holiday dinner, you might be asking “what are appropriate gifts in this culture?” Here are some ideas that might help you.
What to give a host at Christmas dinners
With the holidays just days away, you might be wondering what to bring to someone who invited you to her house for dinner. Maybe it’s a neighbor, a co-worker, or a new friend.
To answer that question, first think about how close you are to this person. And if you are meeting their family, would you get a gift that the whole family would like? Or just your friend?
General gifts for hosts you do not know very well
If you do not know your co-worker or friend very well, a general Christmas present could be Poinsettia. An alternative is an orchid plant. Poinsettia is said to clean the air. And it’s the Christmas color! Although there are some with off-white colored leaves. You can find Poinsettia plants in many stores this season, including supermarkets and nursery departments of home improvement stores.
Orchid plants are sold in many places these days, including supermarkets. Trader Joe’s always carry them. They come in a variety of colors and species. And very affordable too.
If you know that your host appreciates wine, that is also a possibility. In case you don’t know which wine to buy, see if you can get a clue whether your host prefers white or red wine. Then ask the staff in the wine department of your grocery store for suggestions.
Chocolate is also a general enough gift that everyone in the family can enjoy. SEE’s candy gift wrap the box for you. You can select the chocolate, or they can do an assortment for you.
What to bring if you know your co-worker quite well
It is more fun to shop for someone you know well. Hopefully, from your conversations, you already have some idea what they are interested in, the kind of food they like. Think along these lines when you select gifts. Have they ever talked about wanting to get something they saw in a catalog? Or getting certain games? Listen to these clues. Not only for Christmas, but for their birthdays as well.
And if you also know your co-worker or friend’s family very well, you might consider getting gifts for each family member. Presents that feel meaningful to the receivers are best.
Ask your guest what you can bring
This would be a polite question to ask even if you know it’s not a potluck. Perhaps you could offer to bring dessert? A salad? Beverages? Most likely your host will say “You don’t need to bring anything.” But it’s a nice gesture to offer help with dinner.
Even if the host says you don’t need to bring anything, it doesn’t mean you cannot bring additional desserts. Especially during the holidays. Consider bringing more than one dessert. A cheesecake and a chocolate torte perhaps. These could also be appropriate gifts if you don’t know the host too well. It’s general enough that most people at the dinner would enjoy them.
One more thing. Unless it’s a cake or an orchid, gift wrap your present. This culture appreciates seeing gifts that are wrapped in pretty paper, even if they tear it off right away. 🙂 It’s about the presentation.
These are just a few ideas to help you select a gift if you are invited to a Christmas dinner. When you are new to a culture, it’s not always clear what is the appropriate present to give your host. I hope these ideas are helpful.
If this article is of value to you, here is one on How to make friends with your neighbors.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org