There’s a reason why giving gifts is one of the 5 love languages. It is not only integral to human communication as a part of social etiquette, it also makes the receiver feel love and appreciation. The act of gift-giving cuts across multiple cultures all over the world. You can hardly find any society without some form of gift giving rules. In Japan, there are some customs for gift giving that are completely different from western rules.
In this article, we will be comparing gift giving customs in western countries and in Japan. Gifts do not just happen to be shared between people for no reason. Most of the time, it is rooted in culture or the relationship between the giver and the receiver. You could learn a thing or two about these customs and apply them to yourself; however, you can check out some gift ideas to give your loved ones by reading our gift guide.
Although the Japanese folk and the Westerners are fond of gift-giving, the traditions that surround them are different. What might be acceptable in Japan might be considered rude in the West and vice versa.
In Japan, almost any occasion is an excuse to give gifts. Anything notable, from weddings to housewarming and graduating. The Japanese even exchange gifts in businesses to show that deals have been finalized.
Unlike in most places, emphasis is placed on the ritual of gift-giving more than the value of the gift itself. Traditionally, the Japanese do not celebrate birthdays or Christmas, but recently there's been some influence from Western cultures, so don't be surprised to see people receive birthday gifts.
In Japan, gifts or souvenirs are called “omiyage” and they are bought when someone goes on a trip, it is not exactly a gift per say. If you want to know more about Japanese culture, you can check out our article on Japanese Omiyage.
Although people in Japan are not naturally given to celebrating birthdays and Christmas, they have special occasions set aside for giving gifts. These periods are 'Ochugen' and 'Oseibo.'
In a place like the USA and the UK, the act of giving has a slightly different purpose from what is intended in Japan. The gift is given as an expression of love and consideration for the receiver. Emphasis isn't placed entirely on the cost of the gift item but its worth for the person who receives it and how much joy it brings them.
Westerners tend to open the gift in the presence of the giver. The purpose of this tradition is so that the giver can see that the gift they have given is indeed appreciated by the recipient.
When gifts are received, it is customary to express pleasant surprise, shock, and gratitude, usually by saying, "thank you, I wasn't expecting this!" even if it was expected, or "I'm so happy, I've always wanted one of these!".
If you find yourself looking for a gift to send to your boss or friends, why don’t you try sending a ZenPop snack, stationery or ramen pack? Here at ZenPop Japan, we have monthly packs filled with amazing snacks and stationery from Japan. Click here to order yours!
This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem and edited by us.