Sharing is caring or at least a great way to connect with friends and family.
In Japanese culture, gift-giving is a significant tradition to help you establish and strengthen relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
- If you’ve gone on a vacation or other travels, it’s expected that you bring something for everyone. These gifts you get for your friends are known as omiyage and are more of an unwritten rule.
- To show consideration and appreciation for others, you are expected to bring temiyage or visiting gifts when you pay someone a call.
Bottom line: giving gifts is an integral part of Japanese culture.
Popular gifts include:
- Souvenirs such as mugs of the place you’ve been
- T shirts and sweatshirts
- Soap, cosmetics, and beauty products
Today, we’ll zero in on one of the most universal gifts you can give: food.
Food is the perfect gift because it appeals to all ages and gender groupings.
So, here are some great American food gifts you can gift your Japanese friends.
Table of Contents
How to Choose The Right Gift
Before we go further, let’s talk about some standard etiquette to remember.
While there’s no limit to how much the gift should cost, you are generally not expected to spend too much money as you may make the receiver uncomfortable.
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However, you also can’t go dirt cheap. Choose a gift that shows that you put some thought into it within a reasonable price range.
Whatever you ultimately buy depends on your budget and how well you know the person.
If the receiver declines your gift, keep insisting that they take it.
Their “No, thank you” is usually just a polite decline, but they expect you to push back.
So keep at it until they accept the gifts.
Avoid anything that comes in fours or nines.
The numbers four and nine are often thought of as unlucky:
- The number four is pronounced as shi, which is also the same way you say the word for death.
- Nine sounds like ku, which has the same pronunciation as the word for agony and torture.
Don’t give homemade gifts. The point is to show that you put some consideration into your gift.
Your recipients may not see it the same way if you bring something you made at home, and it may come across as if you’re trying to wing it, which won’t go down well.
Ideas For American Food Gifts
Alcohol is typically universally included as an essential part of meals and socialization in every culture.
You can give your friends American favorites such as bourbon.
Remember to stick to authentic American varieties and avoid international brands like Johny Walker.
Chocolate is an enjoyable treat for anyone.
You can give it to people of all ages, and they are highly likely to appreciate the gift.
Choose chocolates such as Ghirardelli, Guittard, Scharffen Berger, Taza, or Potomac, which are made in America.
They will represent American dining, which you want to share with those close to you.
Sweets are naturally connected with positive feelings such as:
Eating candy causes the body to release dopamines (feel-good hormones) that make us feel pleasure and relief.
It’s no wonder why candy is comfort food for many.
Your friend will enjoy getting their share of some happiness-inducing candy.
Here are a couple of options.
While skittles may not be native to America, they are often synonymous with American candy as they are one of the most popular.
Your friends are sure to enjoy digging into a taste of the rainbow.
You can wrap each pack individually in some beautiful plain paper to contrast perfectly with the multi colored treat when they open the gift.
Fun Fact – No one really knows how skittles originated, but one of the interesting stories is about a man named Mr. Skittles who looked at the rainbow and wondered how it tasted hence the slogan “taste the rainbow.” Who wouldn’t want to taste such fun!
Other interesting candies to give include:
- Kit Kat
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Hershey’s Kisses
4. Potato Chips
While potato chips are common practically everywhere globally, choosing some unique American flavors or brands can be a hit with your recipients.
You can also consider other popular American snacks such as nachos, Twix, Cheetos or Goldfish.
Side note: Chips also trigger dopamine production, so it’s a great way of sharing the feel-good factor with your friends. Remember to look for smaller packs rather than family size ones.
While peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aren’t a thing in Japan, most people can appreciate a good jam.
Choose a great flavor in a pretty bottle and wrap it up; your recipients are sure to appreciate it.
Instead of jam, you can opt for honey or American Vermont maple syrup for a sweet gift.
6. Condiments and Sauces
Traditional American condiments such as ketchup and hot sauce can make good gifts for your friends.
It will be a great way to introduce them to American flavors and (hopefully) broaden their palate base.
Remember only to buy small bottles of whatever condiment you choose just in case your recipients don’t find them to be to their liking.
How To Give Gifts
Here’s are a few important guidelines to remember so you don’t accidentally offend anyone.
It’s generally considered respectful to hold the gift with your hands when you give it out, especially for superiors like your boss or people older than you.
If you are only giving close friends, it’s more informal and won’t matter as much.
Individually wrap the gifts in well-thought-out wrapping paper.
The gift wrap is considered part of the gift itself and conveys thoughtfulness (or lack of it).
It’s also important to note that colors have a lot of significance in Japanese culture, so steer clear of colors such as:
- Red, which is associated with death and commonly used for funeral notices and tombstones.
- Black, which is often connected to death and bad omens.
Instead, choose colors that signify that you wish the recipients only the best. For instance, green which stands for eternity, positivity and luck.
If you are giving gifts to a large group of people, make sure there’s enough for everyone.You may offend some people if you leave them out.
Don’t put pressure on your recipients to immediately open the gift. In addition, it’s often considered unbecoming to praise your gifts.
Don’t say words like, “you are going to love this!” Instead, downplay your gift.
For instance, you can say:
- It isn’t much, but I thought I’d share this with you.
- I’m not sure if this is ideal for your palate, but I hope you like it.
If you compliment your gifts, you often send the impression that you are doing it for showmanship which misses the point of Japanese gift-giving.
Embracing the tradition of giving gifts is a great way to cement friendships and relationships. Choosing to share food is one way of making this happen.
Use the above as a guide and select only foods with deep American roots and cultural ties to make them more meaningful.
Remember to stick to the common unwritten etiquette we have not mentioned.
Also, practice makes perfect. You might step on some toes the first couple of times.
However, with practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it, and you’ll be gifting like a pro and establishing solid relationships with your Japanese friends and acquaintances.
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