Sample Anthropology Essay on Cultural Aspects of Gifting

Cultural Aspects of Gifting

The global interdependence in the 21stCentury has brought the necessity of understanding some of the cross-cultural details. Gift giving is one of the oldest practices that many cultures practice up to date. However, different aspects of gift giving have remained in the public domain for discussion, especially, with the increasing awareness of corruption and bribery. This also brings into focus the intentions with which a person gives out the gift. This essay looks into some of the cross-cultural perspectives of gifting. Globalization makes it necessary for people to study and understand some of the cultural perspectives of giving gifts (Cronk 2). A proper knowledge will avoid misunderstandings that may arise from such practices. A gift given in one context or culture may not have the same meaning in another context; thus necessitating the need to conduct an analysis.

In my understanding, gift giving has been an important part of growing up, with parents occasionally bringing home gifts. On the same note, I also witnessed many family friends bringing small gifts to the family. Such experience has made me grow up knowing that gifts are given to show love and affection towards a person. However, I have to realize that the American culture has a specific way of understanding giving of gifts. Presently, there are laws and regulations that control giving of acceptance of gifts in order to avoid important issues like bribery and other related corruption. Giving of gifts is something personal rather than public. In most cases, a person who has business engagements with other people would like to keep in touch with the partners and the best way to achieve this is through giving of gifts. In this culture, the best gifts are mainly greeting cards with notes or personal information in it.

Monetary gifts and other expensive gifts may lead to misinterpretation, especially, it the parties have or are likely to engage in business deals. Therefore, most people keep in touch by sending out cards with messages that point out certain important events during a past engagement. A person may also write down a personal experience at the time of writing the note. A person sending such gift cards does not entirely expect the same from the recipient; however, the recipient acknowledges receipt of the same (Cronk 4). When some receives a larger gift, the interpretation is that the sender owes you a favor from the past, or that you are indebted to the sender. U.S has laws that regulate sending or receiving such gifts; therefore, the best way to make appreciation is through smaller and personal gift cards. As noted above, monetary gifts may mean something more, except for close family members (Ruffle 410). Therefore, Americans believe that the thought behind the gift is more important, something that demands for more creativity when choosing and presenting the message through the gift. Unlike other cultures, Americans do not have certain taboos associated with giving out gifts.

In Japan, gift giving is an important aspect of the culture and anybody who travels there needs to have proper understanding. This practice also forms is also accepted with the business etiquette. Reciprocation of gift is required and anybody making a visit to the country must always carry a range of gifts to reciprocate whenever a gift is presented. In many occasions, what is important in the Japanese gifting culture is the weight that the gift has and not necessarily, what is inside. Therefore, one is required to choose packaging of the gift carefully in order to pass the right message. Cultural aspect of gifting in Japan is so common that every occasion within the social, family, or business circles require an accompaniment of gifts. Monetary gifts and other expensive gifts are common and one does not have to ask for what the recipient likes for a gift. It is expected that in occasions like birthdays, home visits and weddings, gifts must be given (Ruffle 400). Color plays an important role while choosing the gifting package in Japan; for instance, giving out a clock would mean that recipient is sick and nearing death. On the same note, presenting a male person with a green hat would mean that his wife is cheating on him.

One difference that exists between Japanese culture and the North American in terms of gift giving is the fact that the Japanese dwell on the act of giving the gift rather than gift itself, meaning that it is all about maintaining the practice out of a good will. On the same note, the Japanese culture promotes large and expensive gifts, even within the business circles, unlike the American culture. In normal social life, Japanese love giving gifts at the end of a visit and the act of giving will depend whether the gift is for an individual or a group. For instance, a gift meant for an individual can only be presented to an individual while that meant for a group should be presented in the presence of the entire recipient. Again, the proper etiquette of receiving gifts is using both hands. A person is also required to refuse accepting the gift before eventual acceptance. Japanese culture also value giving of gifts in pairs. The cultural differences between the American and Japanese cultures are different and it seems that former is cautious of the type and quantity of the gift in question (Cronk 2). Most of the gifts given in the American culture are to smaller and kept non-monetary in order to avoid breaching the laws in place. However, the Japanese culture encourages gift giving and a person is expected to reciprocate any favors given. Lack of reciprocating the gift given means disrespect and lack of appreciation. The American culture encourages smaller and personal gifts like greeting cards that share life experiences. This is unlike the Japanese culture that encourages large and expensive gifts, even in the business circles.

As noted at the beginning of this essay, the interdependence in the 21st century calls for a critical analysis of certain cultural aspects like gift giving. For example, Japanese who does business with an American must find out certain acceptable cultural practices to embrace. Otherwise, misunderstandings can easily create offence, and even breach of law in either of the cultures. Foreign etiquette of gift giving is an important part of globalization and must be embraced to boost businesspersons who travel from countries to countries. In most of the situations, one finds out that gifts must always be tied to something that has been done or that expects to be done between the parties involved. However, laws are put in place to ensure that such gifts do not influence proper service delivery of either the recipient or the giver.

It comes out that the American culture does not support giving gifts, with such acts seen as bribery, a serious corruption allegation within the law. However, the study of the same act within other cultures like the Japanese shows that gift giving etiquette is an important aspect of social and business life. It is expected that once you receive a gift, you should reciprocate by also giving out a gift of the same value (Ruffle 399). Nevertheless, it does not mean that Americans do not believe in reciprocating acts of giving gifts. It is considered a positive social culture to reciprocate whenever one is presented with a gift. On the same note, a visit to a friend’s house requires walking in with certain gifts like chocolate, cookies or even wine. Another difference that exists between the two cultures is evident on the taboos associated with gift giving. For instance, Japanese culture is very particular on what and how to present gifts. One must choose proper packaging and color of the gift. Lack of this may lead to serious misunderstandings. On the other hand, American culture does not have taboos associated with gift giving. However, that does not mean that everything is acceptable to everybody. According to Caplow (1312), American culture is also diverse and requires thoughtful procedures before making a decision on what and how to give gifts. Sensitivity is required what the recipient likes or popular joints or even celebrities.

This essay finds out that cultural understanding of gift giving are different and anybody who engages in the practice should ensure certain issues are put in place. For instance, there is need to consider the person who is to receive the gift, and this may be either an individual or a group. On the same note, the position or status of the recipient should also be considered because it may end up breaching certain cultural laws. The type of gifts to be given must also be considered and their quantity because certain types of gifts may never be acceptable in a given culture while other are allowed (Caplow 1310). As evident above, each culture has a given protocol for giving out the gift. Therefore, it is important to find out the protocol of presenting or receiving the gift. Reciprocation of the gift is another important aspect that should be considered before deciding to give or receive the gift. One culture may demand for the same while another may not demand for it.

Works Cited

Caplow, T. Rule enforcement without visible means: Christmas gift giving in Middletown,

American Journal of Sociology 89, (1984) 1306–1323.

Cronk, Lee. On Human Nature, The Sciences, 29: (1989), 2–4.

Ruffle, Bradley. Gift giving with emotions, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol.

39 (1999) 399–420.