Staying with a host family in China is one of the best ways to get a vivid glimpse of Chinese culture! Let’s better understand the importance of host gift giving and how to find the perfect host family in China for your stay!
How to Arrange a Homestay in China
These days, it’s easy to arrange a homestay for your visit to China online. Chinese families present their homestay availability on self-service online platforms, many of which are not blocked in the country, and you can then pick which families look like the best match. Some examples of popular homestay websites include:
Airbnb is a worldwide service that has, fortunately, found its way into China. It allows homeowners to rent out their homes or parts of their homes. In China, this service is commonly used as a way to find eligible students for homestays, and many Chinese families across the country have provided details on their living arrangements online for you to consider.
Unlike some other options for finding homestays online, Homestay.com was designed specifically with homestays in mind. This website boasts over 33,000 homestay options, and it features a simple interface for finding homestays for either long or short-term stays. Like similar websites, Homestay.com has user reviews that will help you determine if a particular family is right for you.
This informal website helps you meet up with other travelers and find places to stay in a variety of countries around the world. While Couchsurfing.com is mostly oriented toward helping young people find groups of fellow travelers to join, it also has hundreds of listings for homestay opportunities in China.
Why Giving Gifts Is Important in Chinese Culture
Even though many international students have an easy time finding a homestay in China, many of them end up dissatisfied with their visit due to cultural barriers. If you want to get the most out of your visit to China, you’ll need to understand everything that you can about Chinese culture to make sure that you adapt to your new life without a hitch. One of the most important things to understand about Chinese culture is the importance of gift giving.
In China, gift giving is an integral part of social life. In the West, gifts are usually only given for occasions like Christmas and birthdays, and Chinese people also observe major holidays by giving gifts to people within their social circles. However, the Chinese give gifts much more frequently than their Western counterparts.
Chinese people traditionally exchange gifts for holidays, group dinners, and even business meetings. The Chinese also exchange gifts on the Chinese New Year, but these gifts are generally formulaic and come in red envelopes. There’s an expectation that gifts will be given whenever you enjoy the hospitality of another person’s home, and since staying as a long-term guest is one of the most advanced forms of hospitality, your host family will definitely expect gifts.
Considerations When Choosing a Meaningful Gift for Your Chinese Host Family
Before you pick out gifts for your host family, there are a couple of considerations that you should keep in mind:
The Specific Interests of Your Host Family
As you pick out the perfect gifts for your Chinese host family, you should consider the specific interests of the members of the family. For instance, if the whole family loves sports, a team-themed scarf from your university might be the perfect gift. However, if the adults in the family love to drink coffee, you should opt for some gourmet coffee from your region instead. If you don’t know enough about the special interests of your hosts, don’t worry, we have other catch-all ideas as well!
The Importance of Representing Your Region
Your Chinese host family won’t be impressed by generic gifts. Instead, the best “thank you” gifts for your host family are those that can only be found in your home region. Think about which particular commodities your region is known for as you pick out gifts for your host family.
Gifts for your host family shouldn’t over the top. Generally, small, thoughtful gifts that say something about you are the best received by host families. Here are some examples of perfect host family gifts:
1. University Scarf
If you’re from a university town, pick up a school scarf. This gift is a perfect example of something your host family won’t find anywhere else.
2. Hometown Coffee Table Book
Big, visually-oriented books that say everything there is to say about your hometown are great gifts for your host family. Your host family will be able to share this book with their friends when they come over for dinner.
3. Home State Calendar
Try giving your host family a calendar with pictures of the sights and sounds of your state. This will help them understand your local culture.
4. Locally Roasted Coffee
Like Americans, the Chinese love coffee (at least for special occasion). They especially love trying coffee that hails from places they’ve never been before.
5. American Bourbon
Chinese people have an affinity for genuine American-made products, especially American liquors like bourbon and whiskey. If you bring a bottle of American bourbon, such as Jim Beam, with you, you’ll create an opportunity to share a drink and bond with your host family.
6. Locally Crafted Sweets
Inexpensive artisan sweets are one of the best gifts for your host family. You can sweeten the deal if these candies represent your home region in some special way.
7. Local Jam Set
Artisan jams are great icebreakers, and you can also use them to share the berries of your home region. Enjoy them over breakfast with your new host family.
8. Local Honey
Sharing local types of honey with your host family serves a couple of benefits. First, honey is sweet and universally beloved, and it also contains all of the pollens that are only available in your home region. Honey is an extremely popular item in Chinese culture, with speciality and imported shops selling Manuka honey for hundreds of dollars.
9. Original American Branded Items
American culture has a cult following in China. Whether it’s Nike shoes or official MLB baseballs, items that represent true Americana are perfect gifts for your host family. For female hosts, skincare items such as fine lotions and creams would definitely be a hit.
We hope we have helped shed some light on gifts for a Chinese host family. I’ve always been sure to bring gifts to all dinners hosted by my Chinese friends as well as to new employers when I started working at new schools. I definitely recommend incorporating a gift to whatever special occasion is bringing you to China!
Any ideas we missed? Be sure to comment before and we can add it to our list!