Ideas and Tips on Gift-Giving in Korea

If you’re new to South Korea, you’ll notice the hundreds of specialty shops that dot the city streets that offer more goods and gifts you could ever hope to buy for yourself. A great way to take advantage of these amazing shops and indulge in their wares is to immerse yourself in the rich tradition of gift-giving.

Many Asian cultures value modesty and graciousness as staples of their culture, and South Korea is no different. This translates into the gift-giving culture as a wonderful way to express gratitude towards others who have shown their kindness. If you are new to the culture, here are a few tips to help your gift-giving in South Korea go smoothly.

Valentines Day Gifts

Valentines Day Gifts

Gifts for your loved one don’t need to cost a fortune. These homemade gifts are affordable and thoughtful. They’re not cheap or naff like the ones you used to make at school and with some creativity and time you may create something brilliant. And besides, if they really love you, they would love your macaroni card too.

I prepared a gift and a sweet treat for my valentine, the difficult part is trying to keep them secret, so even though I’m publishing this online fingers crossed he won’t read this post for a least a week.

“You know this boogie is for real.” – Children’s Day extravaganza

I start most of my classes with an introduction to the day: What day is it today? What day was it yesterday? How is the weather today?…you get the idea. So when I flipped the classroom calendar to May my kids were quick to fill me in on the most important day of the month. Children’s Day (어린이날)  is celebrated every May 5 and became a public holiday in 1975. The day is meant to “esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness” (Wikipedia), although what I gathered from my students was: presents, presents and more presents. Parents and grandparents give gifts to their children and spend time with them either at home or on an excursion of sorts (zoo, museum, movies, mall, etc).

Life in Korea: Buying presents for people back home

Unless you have plans to return to your home country for the holiday season (happy ChristmaHanukKwanzikuh to you, by the way), buying - and shipping - presents is the likely way to get your gifts home in time for the holidays.

While you know your parents and friends better than I do, here are some suggestions for making their Christmas a Korean one - and yours an easier one. Before purchasing, shop around. The same thing will cost 20% less (or more) at other places around town.

While Dongdaemun and Namdaemun are fairly well-known as tourist traps, they're decent place to pick up something for everyone. Even Itaewon can be a decent place to pick something up if you're priced them elsewhere. Things with hangeul will seem silly to us, but your parents might enjoy explaining it as a secret code.

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