Monday, September 10, 2012

Gift Giving Wars

A bit late on the bandwagon with this one, but the San Francisco Chronicle's mother's blog, The Mommy Files, had a rather cute story the other day. The short of it was a new set of parents with 14 week old twin boys (Boy are they gonna have a lot of fun) took a cross country flight from San Francisco to DC and in an attempt to pacify the passengers in case they failed to pacify their sons passed out bags of candy with cute little notes attached and an offer of earplugs.

Now I can sympathize with the parents, traveling with kids is difficult sometimes and I admit that my experience with public transportation, such as trains, buses, and planes, has brought home that many non-parents tend to view any child who is having a problem as some kind of crime against humanity.

As an aside, on my last trip home, I requested an aisle seat and was told that the only one left was next to a baby. The ticket agent cringed when she told me this, expecting do doubt that I would start ranting about having to be near a child, I just grinned and informed her I have two small boys... kid noises are NOT a problem.

I'm not too sure I agree with the need to hand out goodies, feeling that kids should have the same chances to go places as adults do, and at least you can understand why they are crying as opposed to the 'adults' who get smashed and loudly talk, but it's a nice gesture nonetheless. What was interesting for me though was how... Japanese it seemed, even though I have no idea if the parents are Japanese or not.

Japan is a land of gifts. You go somewhere, you bring back hordes of small gifts to hand out. You arrive somewhere, gifts. You need a favor, gifts. You cause a problem, gifts. You're born, enter school, graduate, get married, and/or die, you give and get gifts. It's summer or winter, gifts (Though this is dying out). Sometimes it seems as if the whole of the nation is currently working on a rather large bribery system.

Now it should be noted that we're, usually, not talking about large amounts of gifts. Coming back from my in-laws, I got my fellow teachers a box of orange cookies from my wife's hometown. That was acceptable, just as other teachers who went out and about brought in something small to snack on from wherever the winds took them. Our neighbors got something slightly larger, my private students something smaller, it all works out in the end.

Except when it doesn't.

Japan has some rather intricate rules regarding gifts that no one, not even the Japanese, seem to be fully aware of. When to give a gift and to whom usually is pretty simple. But sometimes... Well, sometimes gift giving wars happen. Gift giving wars happen when the party of the first part gives a gift to the party of the second part that the second part feels was way too much for the event in question. In other words, if the parents above had handed out small bottles of whiskey, many Japanese would feel that it would be far, far too much for such a small inconvenience. Then, well, then the balance has been disturbed and MUST be rectified. So the party of the second part returns with a gift of their own. But if the party of the first feels that THAT gift was way too much, well then the balance must be restored by giving another gift.

Wash, rinse, and repeat.

No comments:

Post a Comment