Appropriate "gift" rules and ideas


I’d like to buy gifts occasionally for some Taiwanese people. The idea would be to thank them / acknowledge them for doing something to help me. I’m thinking of the helpful post office lady, or Chinese teachers who co-teach/assist, etc.

As a prompt, if I were doing this in the U.S., I’d probably give a small gift certificate to a local restaurant with accompanying thank-you card, a (non-heart-shaped) box of chocolates, or some candy. I don’t want to give some gift that might be offensive or misleading. Not always, but most often, the recipients just happen to be women (I’m not).

Appreciate any help,



Here’s a gift:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I learned about Napoleon Hill from your signature, but it seems he was overly fond of paraphrasing Goethe and Rilke. I think Goethe said it better.

As for the gifts for women in town… I’d avoid anything that could be construed as romantic unless potential entanglements are desired. Chocolates are out. Also, most women here are deathly afraid of getting fat.

So, a certificate of some kind might be best.

Do a search, but things that are not good to give, off the top of my pointed head, are:
Pictures with ships or boats in them
Shoes (for Cantonese)

Can’t go wrong with a ‘hong’ bao I rekon …

People here like small trinkets and knick-knacks. Reasons:

  1. Space here is limited. Large gifts can be a nuisance.
  2. The figurine, stuffed animal, or whatever can be put on the person’s desk, dresser, etc, where it will likely have a good bit of company.
  3. It has a more personal feeling than other commercial gifts such as DVDs and what not.

Having received (and having given) a good many such gifts here, I have a good idea about their importance in the local culture.

I reckon that since you are a foreigner, a trinket from your home country would be the best option. Next time you take a trip back, load up on little Statues of Liberty, London Bridges, snow globes, or whatever, dependng on where you’re from. In the eyes of a Taiwanese acquaintance, such gifts will not be looked upon as something cheap (even though they probably will be) and disposable. Rather, it will be quite happily accepted. The person will likely keep the thing forever and tell friends about the gift ‘from home’ their foreign friend gave them.

I would not give chocolate or candy, since the person could get the wrong idea. Same goes for money, which could be misinterpreted and quite possibly make the person uncomfortable.

All excellent recommendations.

That said, if this time I’m in a bit of a rush and not able to produce loads of booty from the home country, any ideas? ((what the heck is a “hong bao”?)). I’m perfectly happy giving some banal, un-offensive, un-creative, government-approved gift this time around. ??

A hong bao is a red envelope with money inside.

Could you get someone back home to send you a small box of trinkets? Wouldn’t cost too much.

If you must buy locally, I would seriously just avoid the whole gift idea and go another route: Card with a personalized note, thanking the person for X, Y, and Z. You can’t go wrong with a card, it can’t be misinterpreted, and it’s extremely common locally.

Oh, and you could still give a little stuffed animal or something to go with the card. :wink:

Really? Weird. I asked a Taiwanese friend when I first arrived about “thank you” cards. She told me that Taiwanese people just don’t do that and people probably would get confused by them. ??

If not, that would be great.

Just thought of another idea - A bilingual Chinese/English book to match their profession. A whole slew of these types of books are available, and it sort of encapsulates your Americanness, I suppose. It says, “I want to do something nice for you.” Heck, ask 100 people here if they want to improve their English. How many will say they don’t? You could personalize it on the title page.

Taiwanese don’t often give Thank You cards after you give them gifts, but they do give cards on just about every occasion, including occasions when they want to thank someone for doing them a service, helping them, just being a good guy, etc.

That’s a great idea! Thanks.

Chocolate/candy isn’t bad, you just need to watch out for when you’re giving them. For instance, giving a woman a box of chocolates is probably a bad idea on 8/2? of this year.

Snacks/food always seems to go over well in Taiwan. Whether it’s special mooncakes from really old/famous stores in Taichung or See’s Candy from the US.

A diamond ring. Cubic zirconium of course.

But if you not man enough to give the ring, which won’t be misinterpreted on Taiwan.

There always the pineapple cake fall back present.

[quote=“answerer”]Chocolate/candy isn’t bad, you just need to watch out for when you’re giving them. For instance, giving a woman a box of chocolates is probably a bad idea on 8/2? of this year.
Speaking of that, someone just told me that there is a Taiwanese (Chinese) equivalent to Valentine’s Day in the States. Anyone know what day that is?

Couldn’t remember yesterday but now I do. It’s 8/22 this year on our Gregorian calendar. It changes each year because it’s based upon the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar.

The best gift for a Taiwanese is cans of corned beef. Chinese consider it the highest form of gift-giving possible. However, be warned that the amount of corned beef you give is very, very important. Nothing less than 25 kilos should be given lest you offend the recipient by your cheapness.

That works out great!! I was starting to think along the lines of “Huge Domestic Gift Basket.” You know, stuff for the house: corned beef, a clock, scissors, a mirror, extra pair of shoes, etc. Handy practical stuff.

Funny, Spam and Canned Corned Beef are prized gifts for Filipinos. Visit Bingo next to St Christopher’s some time and see the wall of canned food from the Philippines – that is not an accident :slight_smile:

I’m wondering about appropriate gifts for my bosses and office mates for Chinese New Year. For the big potatoheads, my budget is NT$ 500, and for the small potatoes (not everyone, just the ones who’ve helped me and who I’ve helped over the past year) NT$ 100-200.

I know that when my aunts come to visit in Texas they love to go to Sam’s and stock up on socks, big bottles of Vitamin C and E, Dove lotion and soap, and peanuts. OF course the trip takes about 4 hours becuase they have me drive them to 4 other stores to make sure that Sam’s really does have the best price and that the industrial size 10 gallon jug of nuts is the biggest available… sorry, I digress