Giving Gifts

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Giving Gifts

“Books make great gifts because they have the whole world inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” Neil Gaiman

We all grow up with healthy and unhealthy stories about love. When I was growing up, I learned some beautiful things about love. I learned that loving people means treating them with kindness. Loving a person means believing in their potential, cheering them on and celebrating their successes. It means not wasting your time trying to change them. Just try to help them see their own brilliance. 

But I also learned the unhealthy things which weren’t so helpful to me. I learned that loving someone means putting them above yourself and always being available to them. It turns out not to be true. Being a martyr helps no one. Living like this breeds resentment. Another was to  always listen to whatever they have to say – even in an angry voice. That turns out not to be true as well. 

There are many ways of expressing love. There is speech, touch, quality time and special kindnesses. Some people show love through food.  Cooking is a way to bring people together, to love  and to listen. I didn’t grow up in a family that cooked like that so I did not understand  until I was older, that cooking for someone was more about love than sustenance. 

I have always been a shopper. The idea of buying a gift is to show someone you were thinking of them, you recognize what they do for you and you’ve paid attention to their likes and chosen something for them. It is a way that I can show love when words are uncomfortable. A gift says I love you or I notice what you do for me without  any physical touch except the appropriate hug.

When I travel, I don’t have a lot of time to shop. My favorite thing is to find the perfect piece of street art or photograph for my kids. They have pieces from all over the world. I buy beaded bracelets in countries that do that and give them to my family and friends.  When I find something I like that is inexpensive and specific to a country, I buy a few as gifts. I like people to know that I think about them when I travel.

Gift giving should be simple but for me it is complicated. It is hard to figure out what another person might want or need.  It isn’t about a price tag but a way of communicating. I don’t think about what I want to buy. I think about what I want to say to this person. If I do not know the person well enough or I am out of ideas,  I try to think of gifts that most people would like such as scarves, wine, donations in their name or gift certificates    

The gold standard for the perfect gift is a genuine smile on a kid or anyone’s face when they open it.

Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,

JAZ

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What To Bring Or Not Bring To Someone’s Home In A Foreign Country

What To Bring Or Not Bring To Someone’s Home In A Foreign Country

“What you consider gross—dead rats—I consider considerate gifts.” Jarod Kintz

I’m a person who always likes to bring the right gift so having dinner in foreign country at someone’s house always requires a bit of research for me.

To the Japanese, gift giving is a way of communicating respect, friendship, and appreciation. It is good to be ready for the gift giving ritual that has been deeply rooted in the Japanese culture for centuries. Everything should be beautifully wrapped and ripping open the paper is bad form. Downplay the importance of the gift. This is typical in all Asian cultures. Always present the gift with two hands.

Do not give wine as a hostess gift in Argentina because it is considered common. Champagne or hard liquor is fine. Don’t bring scissors or knives because that means you want to sever the relationship.

What can you bring to someone in China? They make everything there. First off gift giving is not easy. They don’t open their gifts in front of you and they refuse them several times. You have to be persistent but not pushy. It’s a delicate balance. Again no knives or scissors to break the relationship. I am missing something. When people in these countries get invited for dinner is the go to gift a pair of scissors? Why do they have even have to say that? Also no clocks or anything in sets of four. Four is an unlucky number in Chinese because it sounds like death. This is true in most Asian countries. Avoid white chrysanthemums because they are used at funerals.

In Malaysia pay attention to the Muslim culture. Avoid pork, knives, alcohol, and highly personal gifts. Present gifts in the right hand only. In Indian sections of Malaysia, avoid black and white colors. Instead, opt for yellow, red or green which symbolize happiness.

Israelis have a tendency to overdo gift giving and put a lot of thought into choice and presentation. If you are going to the home of Orthodox Jews or Muslim Arabs remember that the gifts must not violate any of their religious beliefs. Candy, flowers and gifts for the kids are always appreciated.

If you are invited to a Quechua home in the mountains of Peru, coca leaves are an acceptable gift. Coca leaves have always been present at all important moments of community life. Today, the history and traditional use of the coca leaf in Peru are a solid part of ethnic and national identity.

In Korea, generosity is a highly valued personal trait. Give expensive gifts if possible.

When invited to a home in Russia, bring something other than vodka. If you bring flowers only present them to a woman. Avoid yellow flowers (unless you picked them yourself in the countryside). White flowers should be given with caution. Same with red as they usually mean love. Fine chocolates are always appreciated.

In Italy, it is nice to bring cakes for coffee when invited to dinner. The cakes have to be of a special kind, bought in a pasticceria by weight. These delicious cakes are placed in intricate patterns on a golden paper tray and wrapped in paper nicely folded with carrying handles After opening the present the hosts and the other guests will take pains to point out which cakes, they each do not like. In the end the cakes are pushed aside in the assumption that nobody can eat another bite after having partaken of a full delicious meal.

You must bring a gift if you are invited to someone’s house in India. Chocolates or flowers is acceptable. Different flowers have different meanings in India so always check with the florist about what is a proper choice. When in doubt red roses usually work. If they have children (and many do) it is nice to bring something for them. If you are visiting during a festival always carry a box of sweets with you. Be cautious in giving leather as a gift. The cow is sacred in India and many Hindus are vegetarians.

In Ethiopia a traditional gift if you are visiting someone’s home is coffee. However a chicken from the market may be well appreciated. They cost anywhere from $5-12. The average weekly wage is around $25 a month in a government job. So a chicken is quite a gift. If they have room the family may keep it for eggs. If not then it will make the next meal. To transport them, just pick them up by their feet. When chickens are upside down they do not move or make noise. They are very easy to handle. See this is where they lose me, I feel bad to carry an upside-down chicken around.

Fly safe,

JAZ