5 Minutes Prep - 2 Hour Interactive Lesson!
One of the most important things we can do as ESL teachers is to help our students crack the cultural code. Gift giving has a lot of unspoken rules which may seem inscrutable to newcomers. Unconvinced? See if you were aware of these cultural attitudes to gift giving in other cultures:
So, what about here? Is it just the thought that counts or do we also have unspoken rules about which gifts are considered appropriate?
Take a look at this picture from Callan's Holiday Jigsaws and Callan's American Holiday Jigsaws. This mother does not look very happy about the gift she just received for Mother's Day. Any idea why that might be?
Some mothers don't like to be reminded of their assumed role as the family maid and prefer instead a gift that is more personal. Others might be pleased. Gift giving is certainly not an exact science. It's as important to understand the recipient as it is the culture.
Generally speaking, in North America, it isn't considered appropriate to give a gift to your boss, as it may be perceived as an attempted bribe. Gifts of clothing and perfume are generally considered highly personal gifts only appropriate for people who are closely related or in a romantic relationship. However, clothing below the elbow or knee, such as gloves or socks or tights, is often acceptable from anyone. Less personal giifts, such as wine or stationery, are often considered appropriate for people with whom you have a professional relationship.
I've made a discussion worksheet on this soft skill of culturally sensitive gift giving, deliberately including a clock, a knife, an umbrella, clothing and perfume as a springboard to discussion on cross cultural differences. You may find this topic fits well with study about Christmas or other holiday traditions. While geared to mid-beginner to upper intermediate, you may be able to adapt it for use in beginner or advanced classes, as well. Feel free to copy it for use in your classroom. Click on the image below to view it large on your computer and download if you choose.