Giving gifts can be tricky. Factors such as age, status, occasion and culture have to be taken into consideration when picking one. A common misconception in gift giving is that gifts have to be, or at least look expensive to be appreciated and that these should be reciprocated.
Gifts are traditionally given for the celebration of milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and on holidays such as Christmas or New Year. Bereft of a formal occasion or holiday, gifts may also be endowed as an act of love or friendship, gratitude, piety towards others, solidarity, sharing of wealth or to prevent misfortune. These are also brought to people’s homes when invited for lunches or dinners.
If you live in a society where you study or work with people of different nationalities, it pays to know their tradition as far as gifts are concerned. This saves you and the receiver the embarrassment should you pick the wrong gift or violate their practices. Here are a few samples:
- Australia: When invited to someone’s home, a box of chocolates or flowers given to a hostess, or a good bottle of wine is a suitable gift option. Australia is now big on the green revolution or environmental buzz. Environment-friendly made products such as recycling bags are appreciated. Gifts are opened when received.
- Philippines: Filipinos are generous with gifts, especially during the Christmas season. The price is immaterial; the important is, the recipient is remembered on that special occasion. Filipinos make an effort to shop for gifts for everyone in the family and in the workplace and for godchildren. When going abroad, they buy pasalubong (gifts from overseas) and mandate themselves to do so. Meanwhile, they receive gifts graciously but do not attempt to open gifts in front of the giver.
- Germany: When invited for lunch or dinner at home, bring flowers for women and wine for men. Instruct the shop to wrap the flowers “as a gift”. Also, when choosing wine, make sure it is imported and not German-made, as this is considered cheap. Among Germans, avoid giving pointed items such as knives, scissors and the like.
- China: It is customary for the Chinese to refuse a gift three times before accepting it. If you are the giver, make sure to offer the same gift three times. Red is considered a lucky colour, so it is ideal to wrap gifts in that hue, and avoid colours such as white, blue or black which are associated with death. Other gifts with the same association, such as clocks, straw sandals, handkerchiefs and chrysanthemum should also be avoided.
- South Africa: South Africans take pride in their wines so these make ideal gifts. When invited to their homes, wine, flowers or good quality chocolates are customary gifts. They also appreciate gifts wrapped with a nice presentation.
- Spain: People in Spain appreciate a nicely-wrapped gift. When visiting someone’s home, bring chocolates, pastries, or a high-quality wine. When bringing flowers, make them out in odd numbers, except 13, which is considered bad luck. Most important to note is the number of children in the household, as it is customary to give gifts to the little ones.
- Sweden: The best gifts to bring when invited to someone’s home are chocolates, flowers, liquor, wine or cake. Like in Spain, it is best to bring gifts for the little children at home. Flowers should also be in odd numbers. Avoid flowers associated with funerals such as lilies or chrysanthemums, or those associated with romantic intentions such as red roses.
For gift-giving traditions of other countries, click www.giftypedia.com.
Aside from culture, another consideration for gifts is the budget. Admittedly, we do not want to look too cheap, or too arrogant. We want to give something that will not strip you off some skin but will still be meaningful and appreciated. Here are some gift budget-friendly considerations:
- DIY gifts
Creative people do not have to spend a lot to make something of value; they make something from existing resources. The same is probably true if you are skilled enough with your own two hands and have plenty of resources to come up with something good. Whether you are good at sculpting, handicrafts or similarly useful skill, you are never going to run out of anything that is value worthy of being called a gift.
- Buy from Thrift Shops
At the right places, some thrift shops contain something in them that is still of great value but a price lower than when it is bought brand new. Some may be even too old to be even reproduced yet are good enough to be taken as a gift. With a good bargaining skill, you may be getting these items at a budget far lower than what you would expect. There is no shame about it either as the recipient would not even know where it was bought. Even then, they are more likely to not matter.
- Go Grocer About It
Some groceries are not necessarily expensive when bought in bulk. This makes grocery items ideal as gifts and is a practice common nowadays. To get the most from your purchases as a gift, get those items that are not easily used or consumed. Call it a mileage, but it is worth every cent you spent if the item you’re giving is being used for some time. You may even be remembered about it while it lasted.
- Get Personal
When tangible gifts are not really an option maybe as a result of better ideas, you can always just get personal about it. With the right people, simply you being there is a gift enough in itself. Perhaps, you can help a friend organise a potluck party to celebrate a birthday, for example. Or run an errand for a friend. Maybe she’s dying to colour her hair for months but do not have the time to go to a salon. Offer to do it for her at the comfort of her own home.
- Teach them how to save
How we lament the struggle to save money from our take home pay. An ideal gift is a recycled can or box that’s all taped up with a slot for dropping money. Attach a matrix which specifies how much money need to be set aside over 52 weeks or a period of one year. The amount should increase incrementally by adding the base amount to the total donation for every week. If you start at $5 on week 1, by one year, the total amount will be more than $6,500 in a year! You hardly spend a cent and actually help someone start the habit of saving!
- Make a token donation
If you know the favourite charity of friends or family members, you can make a token donation in their name. You get to help advance a cause, and at the same time benefit people who are in need. Perhaps another idea related to this is plant a tree on their behalf. Imagine, with just one seedling, you not only immortalise your loved one by naming the tree after them, you also put in one point to save Mother Earth!
Young American author Sarah Dessen said, “The best gifts come from the heart, not the store.” It is not the price, or the quantity of the gift. It is what you put into it that matters– the thought that comes with it. Sometimes, a genuine effort is more than the most expensive item anyone can purchase. This gift need not be decked by beautiful wrappings and twisted ribbons. An open and generous heart always comes unwrapped.
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