This time when I came to China I had to think about some presents for my host family. I knew that colour, the way of presenting, and the gift itself can have a special meaning so I was very afraid to choose the wrong one. So here I have some ideas and advice for you.
Red, pink and yellow mean happiness in Chinese. You should use colorful wrapping paper and avoid the black and white ones because white, for example, means death. Chinese people love kitsch so try to make it as outstanding as possible for a good friendship.
Different present, different meaning
Try to find something local from your hometown, Chinese people love western stuff, like alcohol, candy or give-away goods. Pens and gift-sets (like salt and pepper) are very welcomed too. Interestingly, you should never give your host family a clock as this is associated with death. A cup is also a bad omen – its pronunciation in Chinese closely resembles the pronunciation for the word ‘tragedy’.
Also take care with the number of presents you give. Avoid giving four presents in total, as four is an unlucky number in Chinese. Words which included the syllable sì (four) are associated with death or misfortune. Eight, on the other hand, is a talisman and is, for example, highly desired in a mobile number, as you would always have fortune and luck on the go.
Don´t feel uncomfortable or misunderstand the situation when your family won´t unpack your gift after you hand it over, it’s Chinese manners. And if you have chosen the right gift they will love it J
In the end, remember that your host family knows that you are a foreigner, and maybe not as accustomed to Chinese traditions, and they will not blame you for giving them the wrong present.
So, don’t be shy, they will like you either way.