When Chinese Americans visit family and friends in their homeland, gifts from the U.S. are a must. But TVs and fashionable clothes aren"t rare anymore, and anything "Made in China" won"t do.
George Bao felt like a rich man the first time he flew back to China from America.
He had so many gifts for his family and friends, he was lugging eight cardboard boxes in addition to his suitcase. That was in the 1980s, when flights weren"t crowded. The airline didn"t even charge him for the extra luggage.
As for what the gifts were, the memory makes him laugh. He had brought secondhand clothes scavenged from yard sales.
"My father was so happy," said Bao, who watched the elderly farmer put on his first Western suit, beaming even though it didn"t fit well. "China had nothing back then. Anything I brought back from the States was considered special."
Times have changed. Living standards in China have risen fast — especially in the wealthier coastal areas. Hand-me-downs from the U.S. will no longer do.
And now that China has transformed itself from backwater to manufacturing powerhouse, it"s not so much what the gift is but where it comes from that matters, said Bao.
“他们不一定都会说英语，但人人都知道那３个英文单词。当看到‘Made in China’的标签时，他们就会想，‘你怎么送我这种东西？’”
"They may not all speak English, but everyone in China recognizes those three words," he said. "When they see the label "Made in China," they will think, "How come you gave me this?" "
也就是说，如今买什么礼物带到中国去，已成为令美籍华人头疼的事情。 These days, in other words, buying gifts to take to China is a major headache for Chinese Americans.
"It really does consume people when they make preparations to go back to China," said Clayton Dube, associate director of the U.S.-China Institute at USC.
Like many visitors to China in the 1980s, Dube knew just what to get his in-laws. He bought a Japanese color TV in Hong Kong and lugged it on and off trains and buses to their home in mainland China. Back then, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines were luxury items. Few Chinese families could afford them.
现在，尽管中国的家用电器种类繁多且产量可观，但送礼依旧很重要。 Now all manner of electronics are abundantly available in China, but giving remains important.
杜布说：“人们无法想象空手回国的场景，带礼物已成为一种习惯。” "People can"t imagine going back to China without bringing something," said Dube. "The gift is part of the ritual."
Yunxiang Yan is an anthropology professor from UCLA who has written extensively about gift-giving in Chinese culture. But even for him, figuring out what to take has become so overwhelming that he now chooses not to give any gifts.
One reason I don"t give gifts is because I go back so frequently, a couple of times a year," said Yan. "We are living in a shrinking global village with increased communication and traveling. Now, going to China is like visiting a next-door neighbor who lives a similar lifestyle. So there is no more need."
ritual 例行公事, 老规矩
yard sale 现场出售，院子买卖
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