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traveling to Taiwan - need gifts

My students are traveling to Taipei soon, and will need gifts for their (very wealthy) host family. Recommendations for gifts needed please, especially from any familiar with the culture. I am thinking coffee beans and honey so far (been told the family likes coffee). I was also thinking to send some black tea, and high quality incense? All suggestions appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. FYI, Taiwan is a tea producing and drinking country of high quality and is a big business.

    1. be very, very careful about superstitions regarding gifts -- no knives (signifies severing the relationship), nothing in groups of four (the word for four rhymes with the word for death) but *eight* is a lucky number -- present it with both hands, make sure it's beautifully wrapped -- and it may be refused at first offer to be polite. Keep offering.

      It's pretty murky waters -- make very sure you won't inadvertently offend.

      Google "Taiwan gift etiquette" for a number of good references.

      (a bottle of high-quality alcohol is generally safe)

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunshine842

        On that note, gifting incense to Chinese/Taiwanese can be so easily misinterpreted as incense is tied with the dead. So that one should be scratched off the list.

        Other no-no's: books, clocks, green hats (my favorite), etc. Here's a good quickie guide:


        But good liquor, coffee, chocolates, etc. are always welcome. I don't know if it's some cultural or price difference thing, but Chinese visitors always stock up on Centrum at Costco. Good tea is abundant in Taiwan, so maybe other things would be more exciting.

        In Taiwan, a common gift when visiting someone's home would be a set of cakes and pastries from a local bakery / deli. Though that could be tricky if the students aren't near one / don't have time / don't have language skills.

      2. There's good local honey, so I'd probably skip that. Taiwan is a tea producing country, but mainly oolong - finding good black tea, particularly loose tea, is actually not easy. They may not have a coffee grinder at home - it took me a bit of searching to find one myself.

        For safe gifts, local candy or chocolate or a bottle of good alcohol would both be good choices. Make sure it's in a nice container -a gift bag for alcohol, wrapped or a gift bag for chocolates.

        1. Alcohol may be a problem for underage students to bring.

          Pecans are a North American nut that is becoming sought after in China, IIRC. Perhaps also dried North American fruits that may be hard to come by (blueberries, tart cherries, et cet.)

          1. Ferrero Rocher because it's wrapped in gold color, also Godiva gold box.

            Depending on how much you want to spend and if the students can bring it, XO cognac.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              Ferrero Rocher is standard fare at the 7-11s, so probably won't be seen as particularly special.

              Actually, if they are going in the summer (May-early October) I'd skip anything that will melt in high heat, because it might not survive well.

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                Really? Times change quickly (or maybe time just flies and it seems quick). It was actually your rec for chocolate that made me think that F.R. are passed around frequently. They seem to be the standard gift.

                My mom would go to Costco and get their nuts (and cigarettes but I won't recommend that). These days, the world has gotten so small that it would be surprising if there were much you couldn't get there, except what's most local.

            2. ediplomat.com is a resource I have referred to for occasions such as this

              1. What's local to your area? Nuts, dried fruits, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PeterL

                  I agree. If I were sending gifts, I would include wild rice since I'm from Minnesota. Of course, in all likelyhood, they would hate it.

                  I had a childhood friend who moved to Taipei about 25 years ago. He has a Chinese wife. He's been there so long that when he meets people he has only spoken to on the telephone, they are shocked
                  to discover he is an American. I have not seen him for about five years.

                2. In the ol' days, it's booze and butts. Johnny Walker and Marlboro.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                    And Playboy. None of which students could do!

                  2. Honestly, I think giving food-related items as gifts is just an idea littered with landmines.

                    Etiquette issues aside, and cultural differences notwithstanding, your students will have no idea what their hosts like, don't like, eat, don't eat, have, don't have.

                    If they're wealthy, as you say, then they're going to have access to better booze than Johnny Walker Black, Red, Blue, Gold, or whatever, and they'll have all the chocolates -- be it FR or Godiva or whatever -- that they want.

                    Coffee and tea are just non-starters, really.

                    Some small decorative item, like an inconspicuous vase or small (stress 'small') framed piece of art suitable for the desk (like ones you find at museum gift shops) would be a nice gesture.

                    But food related items? You're just asking for trouble me thinks.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Gesture is the key and go American. Giving incense would be playing to stereotypes. None of my relatives use it. They love their tea but it's a ritual and they only buy the best.

                      Think of it as if someone were visiting here and brought you a cowboy hat and boots. It would be nicer if they brought you something specific from their home country.

                    2. It would be useful to know how old the students are