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Suggestions for Gifts to Homestay Families

Hello everyone,

In less than 3 weeks we will set off for the summer. As the exciting day approaches fast, you must have lots of questions piling up in your head. That’s why we are here to help and answer your questions. We will also be sharing useful tips to make your preparation as smooth as possible, so stayed tuned!

Today I’m writing to give you some tips about choosing gifts for your home stay families. As you know gifting plays a very important role in Chinese culture. Choosing and giving appropriate gifts for different occasions is a highly respected social skill. It is a true test of how well one understands the complexity and subtlety of Chinese relationships. If you don’t know this already, there are a few things you might want to avoid while choosing your gifts.

To avoid:

  • Clocks or watches for seniors – Clock pronounced as [zhōng] in mandarin, means “the end”. Therefore, giving someone a clock implies “your time is up”. The same applies to the watch.
  • Umbrellas – Umbrella pronounced as [sǎn] which means “separation” in Chinese. It implies the friendship may not last.
  • Medicine for the healthy – Giving someone medicine as a gift implies that the receiver will get sick. But in recent years health care products are becoming a popular gift for seniors. If you do go for this option, choose something which will benefit the receiver’s general health, e.g. fish oil or Vitamin C, rather than something for specific health problems.
  • White and black for gift wrapping – In Chinese culture, black and white are colours associated with funerals or unfortunate things and considered unlucky colours. Therefore, it’s better to make gift packaging red or other warm colours, symbolizing happiness and harmony.

Are you scratching your head about what to get for your home stay family after reading the ‘to avoid’ list? Don’t worry. The gift to your home stay family is a token gift which shouldn’t be something expensive. It’s just to show your respect and courtesy. It can be difficult to choose a gift for someone you have not met yet, but it’s also a good opportunity to show your imagination and creativity. It’s the thought that counts when it comes to gifting. Confucius once said, ‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.’ This motto also applies to gifting. Choose or even make something which means something to you, which tells a story about you or your hometown, which will remind them of you.

To buy:

  • Small practical or decorative items – mugs, bottle openers, aprons, bookmarks, calendars, fridge magnet, stamps with localised or personalised designs are very safe choices.
  • Local food – Bring something you like or hate to share with your home stay family and tell them why you like or hate it and see what they think about it.
  • Small games – Bring a small game to play with your home stay family. This can be a very good icebreaker. It gets everyone involved and creates a good environment for communication.

To make:

  • A card to express your excitement of meeting them
  • Bookmarks
  • A small painting that you paint
  • Print and frame a photograph you took and loved
  • Any other small handcrafty things that you can make

Good luck and have fun choosing or making your gifts.

Ross, Benjamin, Patricia