'Way back when MrLogical first headed to Seoul
You may also recall that, when we held our housewarming, we received some gifts that - back in the US - would have been considered very odd indeed, including toilet paper and laundry detergent. I have to say, though, as far as gifts go, it makes tremendous sense to give someone something that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, will get used. Looking back across the many housewarming gifts I have given during my life, I have to admit that a good many of them have probably been regifted or shuffled off to a garage sale or a thrift shop. Had I presented a jumbo pack of toilet paper instead, I feel sure the story would have been quite different, although I suspect we would have been removed from a number of Christmas party guest lists as a result.
Anyway, the point is, gift-giving is a bit different over here. On the one hand, the Koreans really go out of their way to wrap everything as beautifully as possible, and one of the most popular items with expats are the gorgeously colored and embroidered cloths - bojagi - that are used for wrapping gifts. And even something mundane, like a doughnut, is wrapped in tissue or cellophane and fastened with a lovely golden sticker before being carefully placed in a tiny decorative bag with the shop's logo on it. It really does seem like anything that is given or sold to you is presented as nicely as possible. On the other hand, the items you get - especially free samples and the like - are not always the types of things that we, as Westerners, expect to receive. (My favorite example of this was the guy at the electronics market who sold me and MrL two transformers and then presented us each with a juice box, but - as always - I digress.) Believe me, I'm not complaining at all. In fact, I really like this practical gift-giving. However, just because I like it doesn't mean that it still doesn't occasionally take me by surprise.
I submit as evidence the free gifts that MrLogical and I have received in just the past 3 weeks.
The first gift was presented to me. I sing with an International Women's Choir, and we had provided part of the entertainment at a conference for a business organization that promotes foreign companies in Korea, held at an extremely posh downtown hotel, in which all the banquet rooms were named after exotic flowers, as in "You will be dining in the Blue Jacaranda Room this evening." After we sang, we were provided with a very haute cuisine dinner (by haute cuisine, I mean all the food was presented
Now that's a practical gift, right? Of course, most of us live in apartments and, therefore, have nowhere to use a grill, even if we had one, but, really - it is the thought that counts.
A few weeks later, MrLogical was signed up to compete in a cycling race. As it turned out, the event was canceled due to rain, but since he had already signed up, he still got the 'participation gift.' Again, in the US, the gift bag for cyclists would have probably contained a couple of energy bars, a water bottle, and maybe some packets of electrolyte replacement gel. Here's what he brought home with him:
That's right: 4kg of rice. That beats energy bars in my book any day.