Christmas is approaching, and it is a race to find the right gift for our beloved ones. You are probably wondering as well, “What can I offer my Ayi, my Chinese colleague, or a friend?” Your objective: please them with a gift they like, without making a culturally odd mistake.
What you will choose will of course be different depending on your relationship with that person.
For your Ayi, I would advise you to look for a useful gift! Don’t forget that she doesn’t have the same needs as you. Like many women, she might appreciate a handbag, a winter accessory, and clothing such as a scarf and warm gloves. Why not a nice sweater? An electric appliance like an extra heater may be less “sexy” but if she does not have one, it could make her more happy than you expect!
Or why not a souvenir of the past year together? Last year, I offered my Ayi a calendar with pictures of my daughter. She was so happy to keep this memory and also said, “It’s a great idea, I was about to buy one!” I did not think I would do so well. On the other hand for the previous year, I did not have the same success. As her back was frequently painful, I offered her a massage treatment. She categorically refused. I do not really know the reason, but I think the cost could make her feel uncomfortable!
As I’m French I know that buying a perfume or a lotion is always very appreciated. It is not necessary to ask if the smell will please her because she most probably won’t wear it. She will keep it as a decoration at home. My Ayi made me laugh one day when she told me her daughter had put on her shelf the perfume offered by my mother, so that she can show it to all her friends when they visited her! On the other hand, I avoid soap or shower gels for fear that she thinks it is necessary that she take care of her hygiene.
Or simply a gift that will serve her for her future? It can be English classes, cooking classes (I preach for my parish), or a cookbook? It will be useful for both of you at the same time!
What gifts should you avoid offering absolutely?
Keep in mind a few rules that will prevent you from making an odd choice:
A watch or clock, “zhōng zhōng (钟 钟),” has a similar pronounciation as “sòng zhōng (送终),” which means that the family of a deceased person has performed all the tasks related to the burial of their beloved.
Shoes. You may be tempted to offer comfortable winter shoes to your Ayi. You will take a risk with the size but it will be appreciated I am certain. However, for men never offer it to your Chinese girlfriends because according to Chinese thought, she could use them to run away from you, thus putting an end to your relationship!
A hat, especially green, is to be avoided because of the expression “wear a green hat”, or “dài lǜ mào zi (子 子)”, which is used to express that a woman has cheated on her husband!
For children, never offer a white hat, a saleswoman told me one day. This brings misfortune. The custom for children is rather pink or red.
Now you just have to make your choice! Do not worry about whether you need to attach a small greeting card as they are rarely used in China.
Olivia is from South of France and is a food lover with an eye for nutrition. When she arrived in China she felt the need to iron out everyday kitchen problems so decided to teach her wonderful Ayi about balanced meals by introducing her to Western food culture. “Cuisine mei wenti” Academy was born out of this need. Later in 2014, as she became a busy mum, she realized how cooking varied food for her little girl was important. Follow her on wechat: guinebaultolivia, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for her newsletter on www.cuisinemeiwenti.com/blog, where this article originally appeared. Also take note, her online classes for ayis are now available.