|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
By Minh Thu
Thirty-nine-year-old blogger and journalist Cu Trí (whose real name is Hoàng Minh Trí) and his colleagues carried out a small experiment to test whether people respected gifts.
He chose the Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn) Festival for his experiment. During the festival, people give mooncakes to each other to express their love and friendship. Even enterprises exchange gifts on the occasion.
Trí attached a Global Positioning System (GPS) device on an expensive mooncake to track it. He found that each person receiving the cake immediately passed it on to another person.
“A question popped in my mind: Is the gift really useful to a person? Does a receiver respect the gift and the giver?” Trí says.
“Many people want to buy some mooncakes as gift for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Children give them to parents. Employees give them to their bosses. Partners exchange gifts. You can even gift it to someone who has helped you as a token of gratitude. In some cases, the gift becomes a diplomatic means to show excessive interest, but such an expression need not necessarily be genuine,” Trí says.
According to him, a gift should be presented in a civilised way. “It requires sincerity on the part of the giver and civility on the part of the receiver in gifting and accepting a gift,” Trí says.
Trần Yên Ly, lecturer at an international etiquette academy, says people usually make three mistakes in gifting.
“They think that the value of a gift is determined by its price, so they do not put in much effort in decorating the gift. Most people tend to give “safe” gifts, which means common things. I believe the way you present a gift is equally important,” Ly says.
“When you make the effort to decorate the gift, it gives a good impression and also shows your sincerity,” she adds.
According to her, there are many occasions for gifting throughout the year. She considers jewellery, flowers and cosmetics ideal gifts for a woman but suggests that these should not be gifted every single time and that gifts should be chosen to suit the needs and moods of the receiver.
“I find a lot of people feel pressured into buying expensive gifts for everyone. But that need not happen. Moreover, an expensive gift can make a receiver feel in debt,” Ly says.
She suggests that a genuine, heartfelt postcard with hand-written text can go a long way in serving the same purpose as a gift.
“Gifts should not be a contest or an obligation. I don’t give gifts hoping to get one in return, and I hope people think the same. A gift should express simple sincerity,” she adds.
Lunar New Year is a good occasion to exchange gifts as it is the most important festival of the year.
I have some relatives who live in rural areas. When the New Year approaches, my mother often buys what people need for a feast, such as wine, biscuits and fruits, and send them to my relatives.
Conversely, they send local specialities, such as bánh chưng (square sticky rice cake) and dried bamboo sprout as gifts to my family.
Giving and receiving gifts has long been a tradition of the Vietnamese people, although in some cases, gifting can be stressful as people tend to overthink how best to reciprocate kindness.
“It’s like ‘You scratch my back and I will scratch yours’,” Trí says.
“If someone surprises you with a gift, and you do not have one in return, the most thoughtful thing you can do is to warmly accept their gift and follow it up with a heartfelt thank-you note,” he adds.
“Nothing makes the situation worse than someone saying, ‘Oh no! I feel so bad, I did not get you anything.’ It only highlights the gap in gifts. So just accept the gift with thanks and say how much you appreciate it,” Trí says.
He emphasises that sincerity, not gifts, is the key to maintaining a relationship. He points out how people today have become frivolous with gifts. “When a woman receives a gift, she shares it on Facebook and counts how many “likes” and comments she has got. She loves making others jealous instead of feeling grateful for the gift. When a gift is given with sincerity, it should be respected sincerely,” Trí says.
Hoàng Mỹ Liên, founder of Moon N Sun brand of souvenirs, agrees. She sells confectionary such as mooncakes, dried fruits and nuts in beautiful, well-designed boxes. When the eatables are consumed, the boxes can be used as decorative objects, night lamps and containers.
“Gift is a means to communicate deep feelings between people. In my opinion, an ideal gift should have three factors: the content inside should be real, the gift box should be decorated and there should be a balance between what’s inside the box and outside,” she says. VNS