Week 2: Gift Giving in China





Gift Giving in China

If you want to make Chinese friends the best way to do so is to give them a gift. The best gifts are imported Chocolate and Cake. I have personally given both to friends I have made in China. Chinese society functions on Guangxi, or networking (building relationships). In order to make friends in China, you need to develop your Guangxi with them. As a foreigner, you might feel isolated if you only interact with other foreigners, so it is important to make local friends. In my case this is even more true because I am a a home stay student. Hence, I am isolated from both American students (because I don’t live on campus) and Chinese students / locals. Here are 3 stories of friends I have made through gift giving. 

  1. Tina from the Canteen

Tina works at my school’s Canteen (East China Normal University); since day uno, she has been very nice to me. She often recommended dishes and would check up on me during my meal. I wanted to show my appreciation, so I gifted her a bag mint flavored of Ghirardelli Chocolate (mint is rare in China). Since, we have developed an actual relationship (or Guangxi).

  1. Zhon from the Canteen

Zhon works with Nina. Throughout the relationship development with Nina, Zhon would only stare at me (he wouldn’t even smile). I would say hi to him as well, but he continued to be unresponsive. I decided to buy him some cupcakes as a sign of friendship. Since, he waves and smiles. We do not talk much, as I do not speak enough Chinese and he does not speak English. However, there is an understanding that we are friends. I know now that before we were not in the same social circle; I was just another foreign student that bought food from the cafeteria.

  1. Klaus

My relationship with Klaus is still professional. He is a recruiter for international students studying in Shanghai. Klaus and his coworkers invited a group of us to a traditional dinner. I gave them a box of 48 Ferrero Rocher Chocolates, since they were hosting. They surprised me the following week with an invitation for lunch, where they presented me with a gift: tea and moon cakes! I had not realized that China runs on reciprocity.


When in doubt give a gift. It can only help you develop beneficial relationships! Chinese friends might also help you adapt to life in China, as you will no longer feel alienated or excluded. I have also noticed that saying hi to people really makes a difference. I usually say hi to the guards out side of my apartment complex. At first, they did not reply, but now they say hi and wave. I have not gifted them anything yet, but I probably should. Mid Autumn Festival is coming up (September 24th) so I have a perfect reason.