What are the best gifts that I can bring from overseas for my Chinese friends?
This is not really about the gift but more about the relationship you have with your Chinese friends.
When it comes to China, you can bring them 1) a valuable gift that will mostly be offered to someone else while saying “look, it comes from X country “ or 2) a gift that they will actually enjoy and keep.
If they are your true friends, you may want to chose the 2nd option. Any small, even inexpensive, thing that have surprised and amazed you while abroad will do. Just share the experience you had finding it with your good mate and you are on for a nice discussion.
Now if you just want to offer something because you think you have to, you should go for the first option. Buy something that they will know and recognize instantly. Prefer food and useful things though, not decorative stuff. For instance, if you go to France just buy wine for men and cosmetics for girls. It is widely available at a moderated price and it will be easy to put in your luggage (no perfume or LV bag, it is out of your budget anyway). Also for 1, try to keep the original package intact. Boxes are almost as important as the gift inside in China.
There is another case where you think your Chinese friend could truly benefit from offering a valuable foreign good to his boss or some important people he knows, but you still not want to buy him some random tourist gift. Being from a Western background, you may dislike to offer standardized and boring presents because you have been used to think about the right birthdays and Christmas presents for your whole life (this question stands as a proof). Actually, the gift culture is so different in China that solution 1 will work for almost every one there, except the richer or more “westernized “ maybe.
So I will advice that you go for 1 to please your friend and 2 to make yourself feel good. Despite what we are told in Western education, offering gifts is actually a two-way process.
This text was originally published in quora.