Culture Shock

Gift giving: don't expect effusive thanks

Emily Strasser
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As I unpacked my suitcase, I pulled out the nice soap and journal I had brought as gifts for my new Tibetan roommate. “Here, I brought you something,” I said. She took the things, looked at them, said, “Oh, thank you,” and set them aside. She never mentioned them again. I was a little disappointed, and I worried that I had gotten off to a bad start. Finally, a German nun who has spent years living with Tibetans told me that Tibetans don’t react effusively to gifts—that would imply attachment and greed, which are contrary to Buddhist ideals. Since then, I have been very glad to know this, as it has saved me from disappointment when I have received similar reactions to my gifts.


Posted on 3/17/2009 by

Dawa La

Dawa La

There is truth to what Emily has shared. But, I also disagree a bit. Yes, to show greed or attachment is not part of Tibetan good manners, but, to be honest and spontaneous is respected in westerners. We are not Tibetans, even if we share their faith. I saw great joy in the eyes of Tibetan friends this past summer in Yushu when I very excitedly received the unexpected gift of a chupa (Tibetan dress) as a farewell gift from the parents of one of my teachers. They knew I was not attached to the gift -- just very happy have something given from their hearts. There is a blance between copying behaviours and making them truely our own.

Posted on 3/18/2009 by

Emily Strasser

Emily Strasser

Yes, good point. I did not mean to say that travelers should not respond as they would naturally to gifts from Tibetans. Tibetans understand that we come from a different culture, and they are just as observant and curious about cultural differences as we are. I just think that people spending time with Tibetans should be aware of their standards, so they aren't disappointed if they receive a less enthusiastic thanks for gifts.

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