That hard-to-buy-for person? To my parents, that could have been John’s father — given the conversation we had yesterday about what to give him for the holidays.
“Wouldn’t he like, say, one of those pocket knives?” my dad asked. “Or a letter opener? Or even a tool kit?”
But John shook his head “no” at every suggestion, leaving my dad surprised and even laughing. After all, we essentially vetoed what he considered the top three must-have gifts for the average American guy his age.
While John’s dad was only a few years younger than my dad, he was a world away when it came to interests and needs. Unlike my dad, John’s dad wasn’t one of these handyman types who liked tinkering around the house, and would never have imagined that anyone needed a special tool to do something as simple as opening a letter. He cultivates bonsai in the garden, dabbles in painting and calligraphy, pens his own articles and self-published books, and reads the newspaper from front to back everyday. And while I’m sure some American men out there must share his passions, I’ve yet to meet him.
It’s no wonder, then, that cross-cultural gift-giving challenges so many of us — enough to keep a steady stream of “what should I buy him/her in China” e-mails flowing into my inbox.
In the end, my parents settled on an engraved pen — sure to please a certain “cultured” retiree in Zhejiang with a penchant for writing.
P.S.: Have a hard-to-buy-for person in China on your list? Check out my gift guides.