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#128 Giving Vitamins as Gifts

Posted December 5th, 2009 by Peter · 12 Comments
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Just in time for the Holidays, Sophia C. says: “Asians like to buy vitamins and other such supplements in the U.S. and bring them to Asia as gifts.  They love fish oil, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, Centrum Silver – and they must be American, American-made brands.” Hi Sophia! My family does this all the time when they visit our relatives in Asia.

Giving Vitamins as Gifts, or giving gifts in general;  is very  especially important in Asian countries. Vitamins, shampoo and other “American” products are often used as gifts in this day and age because they are practical (to us) yet unnecessarily extravagant to our family members in developing countries.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Vietnam and China. In fact, we used to load years’ supplies of bar soap and shampoo for our family members in Vietnam when my grandparents would make their yearly visit so they could take them to our relatives. Why are these inherently “American” products to treasured in Asian cultures though?

In Vietnam, I’ve noticed a great deal of electronics named after American states; even donning stickers saying they were “made in a U.S.A.”  While they were probably not made in the United States, they certainly conjure images of American freedom and class mobility– but let’s save that for another post. In the same way, expensive clothing and toys will also make sure your Asian family and friends are happy this holiday season.

With that said, there are certain guidelines to Asian gift-giving that should be followed:

present1. Knives and scissors symbolize severance in relationships.









2. Romantic gifts are generally avoided (Asia is already highly populated =P).

3. Clocks are considered a rude or unlucky gift in China because their word for “clock”  sounds like “funeral”.

4. In South Korea, Japan, and China, gifts having to do with the number Four (ie. sets of four) bring bad luck. The number 13 is bad luck in nearly every other Asian country.

5. Finally: As a rule of thumb, the larger the Asian country, the less they will care if you forget bringing them gifts. In Japan, gifts are very important because of the proximity and accountability of your immediate family and friends. The same goes for Taiwan and South Korea.

Thanks for the submission, Sophia!

Do you in the SAPL family have any Asian gift giving tips or stories about your parents giving (or receiving) Vitamins as gifts? What would you recommend as Asian gifts for yourself or family and friends?

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Tags: Activities · Customs · Environment · Famous · Food & Beverage · People · Products · Relationships · Social · Tidbits

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Damien Z // Dec 6, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Vitamins and other health supplements are generally much more expensive (2 to 3 times at least) in Asian countries than in the US. As a good Asian son, I bring loads of supplements for my family and relatives for my annual trip home.

  • 2 Hugh Jerection // Dec 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Sort of true… I always bring a suitcase full of vitamins and supplements whenever I visit family in the mainland, but never really with the intention to give them as gifts. It’s difficult for some people to get certain nutrients that their meager food doesn’t provide. Although, everyone usually abuses the vitamin gummies as treats. Advil does wonders for my grandmother’s arthritis pain, and the bottle she owns has become somewhat of a cure-all-be-all thing in her village.

  • 3 WTH! // Dec 29, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    There are heaps other asian countries! It’s so disappointing only being able to read the chinese, japanese, korean and sometimes vietnamese cultures in your posts. It’s like they’re the most “asian” countries and the others (South East Asia to be specific) are disregarded! What the hell >.<

  • 4 and chocolates.. // Jan 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    the vitamins thing is VERY true, often times my parents will mail our family in indonesia vitamins.
    when we visit, its always chocolate…bc even though the brand is the same there, they swear canadian chocolate tastes better

  • 5 rex // Jan 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    My aunt once gave me this illegal tea she smuggled in from Vietnam. I discovered after I drank it that it was powder derived from a rhino’s horn and was worth more than cocaine.

  • 6 Best Chocolates // Mar 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I know chocolates ranks high on the people’s list of gifts.

  • 7 Chinamerican // May 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Haha, when I go to Hong Kong, I bring vitamins and DEODORANT; I believe that you can’t really get good stuff over there so I buy it in bulk at Costco and bring it back.

    They send me back with dried scallops/mushrooms, and tea.

  • 8 Tim // May 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    True. Vitamins,Chocolate,Sponges,towels,bed sheets

  • 9 May // Jul 21, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I always loved that our balikbayan boxes included such a mish mash of goods: vitamins, imperfect outlet store jeans, bite sized candies, toothpaste, tube socks, SPAM….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC6AryKPQfk

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