Asian Americans embrace the gift culture

It had to be a soul mate reunion.

Fort Lee reader Linnie Hui wrote to let me know we come from similar backgrounds, both immigrants from Taiwan who grew up in Queens. She asked if maybe we could get together?

We met at Paris Baguette in Fort Lee. Linnie waved when I arrived and said the treats were on her. But I outwitted her while she was selecting her pastry and paid the bill before she had a chance to argue.

This is the Chinese way. My people are fond of showing their generosity and giving gifts. Chinese sayings extol the virtue of generosity: “You cannot be successful if you do not have a generous heart” is a common expression. feeling. My parents used to say to my brother and I: be cheap to yourself and generous to your friends.

Isabella Kim, 8, holds a stack of presents at her home in Norwood on Saturday, December 18, 2021. Her parents Christine Bae and BJ Kim bought a failed toy store and gave away the presents for the last Christmas seasons.

It is the season of giving for Westerners. But for many East Asians – Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and other groups – any time is a good time to show your appreciation. Although I have never met Linnie and communicated with her only by email, she showed up with Chinese bookmarks as a gift, a personal and thoughtful offer as I love to read books and books. magazines.

In America, constant gifts are part of the daily life of Chinese immigrants. Our family would never show up to a friend’s house without a gift. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. But a thoughtful little gift is a gesture of kindness, showing that you care and think about your friend.

I grew up with the constant urge to shower gifts. It doesn’t always work with some people who may be suspicious, thinking I’m expecting something in return. There is a cultural divide in how much giving gifts is too much. When I meet Asian friends, we give out little gifts, especially if we have just returned from a trip, like Demarest’s friend who came back from China this summer and handed out tea.

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Westerners usually reserve such gifts for holidays and special occasions. They seem surprised at how diligent Asians are in giving.

Part of it is superstition.

“The more we give, the more luck we have,” said Albert Chin, a resident of Paramus, who is Chinese-American. The belief is that generosity will bring good luck and prosperity, Chin explained.

Red envelopes filled with cash are favorite gifts for special occasions such as weddings and birthdays, and in dollars of eight since “ba”, which means eight in Chinese, rhymes with “fa”, which means prosperity.

Christine Bae and her husband BJ Kim have bought inventory from a toy store and have given the presents over the past Christmas seasons.

There is also the spectacle of the “face” in Chinese culture – wanting to prove that you are prosperous and generous among friends. This is why you will see fights breaking out in restaurants in Chinatown to foot the bill. That’s all to put on a good show.

And then there is just altruism paying. When Christine Bae, a Norwood resident, learned that a toy store in Paramus was liquidating its contents, she and her husband bought the store for $ 10,000 and began handing out thousands of gifts to the children. in need. For years, the Fort Lee law firm she runs with her husband, BJ Kim, has hosted a fundraising night during the holidays to raise funds for an orphanage in Korea and a domestic violence shelter in Bergen County.

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My daughter, who is more Americanized, was a little embarrassed by my need to give. No other mom has given the kids a gift on a simple play date. But she has learned to appreciate Asian abandon and now carefully selects items for her friends when we travel.

I am happy that my daughter raised in the USA has adopted the Chinese tradition of thinking about others and expressing her gratitude for their friendships. Asians give gifts at all times and do not expect to receive anything in return.

There is a western saying that it is better to give than to receive. Why not do it all year round, instead of just during the holiday season?

Marie Chao 慶 華 covers the Asian community and real estate for To get unlimited access to the latest news from North Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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