Weddings and Spring Festival
Hey all, I need some advice! My Chinese friend is getting married right before Spring Festival and now, not only am I going to the wedding, but for 10 days - over the Spring Festival - I will be staying with her soon-to-be-husband's family. I am so nervous! My Chinese is not so good and there are so many cultural mistakes I could possibly make. Please, please any pointers all of you might have would be helpful - or any stories you have to share!
Should I bring a gift for the family? What? How much should I give in the hóngbāo 红包? She bought my plane tickets and probably won't let me pay her back (in traditional Chinese fashion), so I think I will give them more money in the hóngbāo. I am sneaky. Haha. :P
light487December 30, 2010, 03:03 AM
With the hongbao, it needs to be remembered that when they go to your wedding they will be required to give you more than you gave them, so any amount that would compromise them into not being able to do that would be a loss of face to them. I wouldn't even have the slightest idea what is expected as a "normal" amount to give though.. lol.
As far as making "cultural mistakes" though.. I wouldn't worry too much as much is overlooked when a westerner breaks some unwritten cultural rule that is not obvious. When I am in similar situations, I often backtrack in my thoughts (when I have a moment to think) and wonder if I had introduced the wrong person first, or said thankyou too quickly, or any number of things that could be potentially offensive.. but.. the thing is.. you are a laowai.. :) They know it, you know it.. and things are overlooked for the sake of harmony. :)
Will be interesting to hear what others have to say about this.. I'm also curious and would be asking the same questions if it were me :)
Hmm...maybe I can just sneak some money into her purse when she's not looking. Last time I gave her money to pay her back for buying my train ticket, I felt really bad, like I was breaking huge unspoken rules.
Oh - this is tricky. While I don't think she would really expect me to reciprocate on the plane ticket, I would feel really bad inviting them to my wedding this coming summer in the U.S., and not be able to reciprocate. A round-trip plane ticket for one person from Hong Kong to China is a bit different than 2 round-trip plane tickets from China to the U.S. - and we can't afford it... :( *sadness*
pretzellogicDecember 30, 2010, 12:34 PM
Just my friendly 2 cents......
Since you're staying with your friend's soon-to-be-husband's family, I'd point-blank ask her (or better yet, I'd go direct to her fiance) what to bring, who to bring it for, and how much to spend on each of her fiance's family. Under no circumstances go to his house "barefoot and empty handed" (This is a Chinese saying but I had it converted into English for me by a Chinese friend after he brought a basket full of fruit to my apartment when we invited him for dinner. I wish I knew the Chinese). Tell your friend you will not go to her wedding without gifts. I say this as someone that has seen relationships with Chinese/Meijihuaren friends end over such things.
If she actually spent more than $1000 on your airfare ($900-$1800 depending on the airline and the specific days), you'd better think that at least 2 suitcases you bring with you had better be filled with gifts.
@pretzellogic - Thanks so much for the advice! I definitely wouldn't have thought of getting gifts for everyone. I felt a little overwhelmed at first when you mentioned it. But after thinking about it, I'm convinced you're right. She stayed with my family in the U.S. for just a weekend and she insisted on getting gifts for everyone. I thought it was completely unnecessary, but it seemed important to her. The gifts I helped her pick out were fairly inexpensive, so now I wonder what she thought about my choices.
I don't know what she thought either, but I'm sure that she felt better about getting everyone SOMETHING. That little tidbit you added about her getting your family something means its even more important that you demand to know from her or her fiance what to get everyone, no matter how peripheral. My rule in your case is that if she spent $1000 on your airfare, then spend maybe that much on gifts. Certainly that should buy plenty of gifts for the maybe 10-40 people for whom you'll have to make purchases, but you'll be happy you did, and your friend will be too :-)
pretzellogicDecember 30, 2010, 12:43 PM
Oh, and i'll add another couple of cents: I wouldn't sneak in some money into her purse behind her back; I let her know it was me that paid her back with a substantial gift.
cinnamonfernJanuary 23, 2011, 03:02 PM
I'm leaving tomorrow and I would still love any advice people have for the trip!
Also, are there any additional suggestions on how much to give in the hongbao for my friend's wedding? I've had a range of suggestions from Chinese friends here (from 200-500 RMB). (Her family is from rural Hebei province.)
pretzellogicJanuary 25, 2011, 05:15 AM
In case you didn't already know, if you have Bank of America accounts, you can access your bank accounts at China Construction Banks without fees or transfer costs.
I just learned this myself a couple weeks ago! Can't believe I didn't know it sooner...doesn't the CCB have a really low daily with drawl limit, though, like 1,300RMB? Or do they bring it up to the usual 2,000RMB/day limit for BofA users?
I've noticed that you can usually get 2000RMB without too many problems. You can also get 3000RMB out as well, but not consistently, and I'm not clear on under what circumstances you can do that.
Let me come to the defence of China Construction Bank. I bank with them and my daily withdrawal limit is way more than 2000 RMB. I'm not sure exactly what it is but I've managed to get 10,000 in one day with no problems, so I suspect this is a BaO limit or at least an agreement between the two banks.
Are you sure the 2000-3000 limit is a daily limit? There is also a limit for each transaction which varies from 2000-3000 RMB depending on the ATM you use. But I can withdraw this amount several times in succession without even having to remove the bank card.
BofA/CCB are certainly not under attack as far as i'm concerned. BofA's ownership stake in CCB and resulting process changes has probably saved me $500 or more in fees, so i'm a happy camper!
I was just referring to the amounts I can withdraw from the ATM. I know that I can get as much out of the account as I have, but just not through the ATM. I don't know how you're ablto to withdraw 30,000 in RMB from the ATM; your real name must be Harry Potter :-)
30,000 may be pushing your luck - I'm not sure what my daily limit is. But I'm curious, have you tried making more than one transaction from the ATM (for example withdrawing 2000 RMB twice)? As I said, I can do this several times no problem, but maybe it's different if you're using a Bank of America card.