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Let’s talk about homestay gifts!

Da Jia hao!

With less than a month we will set off for the summer! Yoo-hoo~!

I’m here 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 brings instant connection if you present the right gift. 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 that 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 colors associated with funerals or unfortunate things and considered unlucky colors. Therefore, it’s better to make gift packaging red or other warm colors, symbolizing happiness and harmony.

The gift to your home stay family doesn’t have to 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. Chinese have a common saying: “礼轻情意重”, which means the gift is trifling but the feeling is profound. The best gifts are great conversation starters; it should be something meaningful that represents you.

To buy:

  • Small practical or decorative items – mugs, bottle openers, aprons, bookmarks, calendars, fridge magnet, and stamps with localized or personalized designs are very safe choices.
  • Magnet – A magnet from your hometown or your state can remind your homestay family of where you are from, and which environment you grow up.
  • 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.
  • Local products – It can be any small local products from your hometown, dried foods, coffee, local brand souvenir, just to give your homestay family a taste of your hometown.

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 handcrafts that you can make

Good luck and have fun choosing or making your gifts, see you soon!