Monday, November 06, 2006


As I mentioned before, one of my students got into the college for which I'd been helping her prepare for an interview. I thought at the time that I should get her a gift to congratulate her but my numerous health issues as of late derailed that thought. After a 10-day break, she had a lesson with me again and brought me a gift (pictured above).

For those who don't live in Japan, most gifts from Japanese people arrive looking like this. That is, they are wrapped at the store in store-brand paper and often handed to you in a shopping bag from that store. It's pretty rare to get a gift from a Japanese person which they have wrapped by hand. In fact, I can't recall ever getting a gift which was wrapped by hand.

As far as I know, the etiquette for such gifts is to accept them graciously and set them aside to be opened later when the person who gave them is not present. I think they'd find it pretty embarrassing otherwise but this could be one of those points on which I'm uncertain of what to do. Even if I was told it was okay to open a gift in front of a student, I'm not sure I would as it would waste time the student is paying for.

The gift was these two bone china coffee cups. They're average in size which is to say somewhat large by Japanese standards. She told me one was for me and one for my husband (hence the pink and blue). They are Minton Haddon Hill collection china which means they are part of a proper china pattern (the sort that couples register for when they marry). I'm sure they were relatively expensive.

In the future, the lessons I do with this student will now turn to helping her pass her classes. She just started taking two of them and it's all pretty overwhelming for her now as her first class is about the justice system in the United States focusing on the juvenile court system. The funny thing is that I understand almost everything in her textbook despite never having studied anything about the subject. It's a real testimonial to the number of courtroom dramas on television in the U.S. and how they introduce us to a lot of the legal system's jargon and structure.


Roy said...

Concerning when to open a gift.

I may be wrong, but from my observations it seems like when the gift is a "giri" gift, like towels and other obligatory stuff, it should be opened later. But when the gift is to show geniune gratitude I think it's alright to open it in front of the person. I think it all depends on their body language when they give it to you.

When in doubt I just ask them.

Shari said...

I'm always afraid to ask them because it seems like that they will look to me and try and conform to my expectations. In the student-teacher relationship, I think that's more common, especially if the student is shy or unsure of manners.

In this case, the student is quite shy (and the time she's with me relatively valuable) so I opened it later and wrote a thank you note.

Is it your impression that is "alright" or preferable to open it in front of them? Mind you, the Japanese are likely to forgive you for any faux pas so it's not all that important, I guess.

SaffronSaris said...

Hi, I came over from Roy's blog. Was in Ichihara for 5 months about 2 years ago. I've been planning to return for a holiday.
Those are pretty mugs, and do look rather expensive. In my case, I suppose I would open it when the student is gone, probably that is the case in most cultures.

Shari said...

Thanks, Saffronsaris. We have the same inclinations in this regard.

I bought some chickpeas today so I can make the Chana Masala recipe on your blog. I'm hoping to give it a try tomorrow!