foreign friend asks:
My 哥哥‘s birthday is coming up in the first week of March, and I want to give him a gift…. And he’s actually leaving soon, to China…next month as well and I want to give him something that he will remember me by. (I’m just kind of worried that in the future, he’ll forget about me…and just move on with our friendship, because he’s not coming back to our city where we attend school at.)
I know, from reading one of your articles about your husband and celebrating his birthday, is not that big in Chinese culture, but I just am wondering, what’s the best gift?
It’s definitely NOT the chocolate cake I made for my husband’s last birthday (which wouldn’t pack well, either). 😉
Interestingly, when I did some searching online, there are actually websites in China with tons of birthday present suggestions (like this one). Of course, people don’t usually give gifts. But when it’s a special birthday (60 years old for example) — or, in your case, a special circumstance — Chinese will dip into their pockets to buy a little something. In fact, it’s not uncommon for boyfriends and girlfriends in China to give birthday gifts while they are in the “dating phase” of their relationship (that’s 谈恋爱 [tánliàn’ài], something this married woman has long since passed).
Of course, he’s not your boyfriend — but a lot of the suggested gifts I’ve seen for the boyfriend would be perfect for him too. And most of what I’m going to recommend could easily be bought at a store like Things Remembered, where you can also get it engraved for the ultimate “remember me” gift:
- Keychains. It could be something useful, such as one with flashlight or a USB drive, or just plain lovely.
- Wallets and money clips. Chinese guys love nice leather wallets, and classy money clips to keep their cash organized.
- Business card cases. Every Chinese — man or woman — carries a stash of business cards. Give him a classic, metal-plated one to remember you by.
- Leather briefcase or messenger bag. This is a little more pricey than the other suggestions, and chances are, you can’t engrave it. Still, it’s practical, and he’ll love taking it to work everyday — which means he won’t forget you either. Buy at a department store.
- Unique electronic devices. This is an idea inspired by my Chinese husband, whose eyes open as wide as a 1 yuan coin whenever he sees any kind of cool electronic toy. Some of these get a little pricier, but you can start your search at Brookstone, which has some of the most innovative and memorable electronic gifts I’ve ever seen.
Whatever you buy, be sure to get a gift box with it — it’s a must in China for giving gifts.
Chocolate cake, however, is not. Still, if you have a great recipe — or know a great bakery — you can follow up that gift with a sweet surprise in the form of a birthday cake. You can’t permanently engrave that, of course. But it’s often the memories that outlast any gift we’ll ever give. 😉
What do you think? What would you recommend?
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.