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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.