Gift of giving is just one click away
Updated: 2012-01-19 11:11
By Lily Zhang (China Daily)
As the Chinese New Year draws near, I am getting anxious: What gifts should I take to my hometown of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, this year? The question is getting more difficult every year.
It used to be so easy 10 years ago, when I was in the United States and everything I brought back home then was met with awe and wonder - be it a box of Godiva chocolates, a gift set of cosmetics or just a set of bed linens.
Just the packaging of all these gifts would capture the curiosity and admiration of all my cousins.
The favorite gift of my father -being a very practical man - was always individually packaged US ginseng. My father was the master of ceremonies when it came to gift giving, or rather giving and receiving a gift in a discreet and quiet manner.
He always carried a pack of US ginseng with some candies in a plastic bag and left it in a quiet corner of my aunt's and uncle's compact apartment after walking in. Then we joyfully ate candies and peanuts, and sunflower, pumpkin and water melon seeds, while my aunt and uncle constantly poured tea for my father and me.
When we were leaving, my aunt and uncle would inevitably notice the plastic bag my father left there and "blame" my father: "How come you brought things again? Never do it again". In the meantime, they would always give a bag full of my favorite goodies to my father.
While it seems easy to take gifts to my hometown, it's always a challenge for my friends in the US to give me New Year gifts. US ginseng is mostly popular among Chinese and, I can only get it in Chinatown.
My American friends try to find me gifts made in the US, and it's getting increasingly difficult every year. Most things are made in China, Mexico, Venezuela and other developing countries. Finally, they have to settle on CDs of American singers and books by American authors - though the manufacturing can be outsourced, the content can't. Besides, books and CDs are always my favorite gifts.
Now, I am back in Beijing. The high-speed train has reduced travel time to my hometown from 24 hours to six hours. Wal-Mart and Carrefour are in every major city of China, and Taobao.com enables every product from every corner of the country to be delivered to every other corner within a day or two.
Finally, I decided to try my luck on Baidu.com. I was definitely not alone in the need-gift-idea camp, and many detailed answers were already provided, including the definition of gift giving, how to package and present the gift and what kinds of gifts should be given to different kinds of people, be they your driver, teacher or boss. There are commercials in the right column of the search results.
With just once click, I got my perfect gift. If required, the website can deliver the gift wherever I wish with my customized greetings in a beautiful package - no more plastic bags.
Despite the convenience of gift giving today, I am sure something will be missed - the joy of my father inspecting every present's packaging, checking the most suitable bag until finally satisfied. I am also sure that my aunt and uncle would rather see my father and me at the door, with or without a plastic bag, instead of a delivery boy with a beautifully packaged gift.