Gift giving is bullshit. It really is. Cynically, I think the majority of the time people give gifts with the expectation they will receive something even better. Think of our culture and what gifts have spawned. Regifting. Fucking fruitcakes. Gift cards to Cracker Barrel. Really? To Cracker Barrel? Thanks, Aunt Gina, you fucking twat! I love you too! See, that is such a classic example of why gifts are just stupid. And if it's stupid, you know Koreans are going to elevate it to a level of mastery that will be infuriating. They say ignorance is bliss. Oh, how true that is.
Koreans take gift giving really, really, really, really, really, really seriously. It's a matter of personal pride and honor. Samurais and the Knights Templar have no concept of bushido, or chivalry compared to the expectations of the Korean Exchanging of Gifts. I only had 24 hours to prepare for my trip to Korea, so the only gifts I had for Han Mu (my biological male person who helped create me) were the wedding album my wife graciously suggested I bring and a rubber bracelet that has my motto on it. It says "Strength and Honour". I never take mine off. It reminds me to be a better person because I don't have the proper moral compass to just be organically decent. I need constant reminding.
I discovered during my trip I have uncles, aunts, and cousins and they all wanted to meet me. I'm a total rookie at Korean gift giving, so I figured, hey, I'll buy the meal, that's enough, right? A microsecond after awkwardly meeting strangers who have tears in their eyes, out come the presents for me. A bottle of Andong soju. A purse for my wife. Little porcelain Korean dolls. How the fuck did you guys know I was married? Han Mu must have lit up the gossip chat line as soon as I left him the previous night! An uncle gives me cash. Ummm...these shoes are Italian. They're worth more than your life. (Please friend request me if you got this reference, as we are cut from the same cloth). It was Lunar New Year, and it was explained to me by the translator that giving cash is kind of required. Oddly enough, Han Mu forgot his wallet again.
Funny side note: After the first dinner, Uncle Moneybags, Han Mu, and I go to my grandmother's resting place. It meant a lot to Han Mu that I see where she was. So we go. It's really hard to describe burial spots in Korea, but there are no real cemeteries. Imagine a post office PO box set up. Now expand that to Costco size with thousands of rows. It's something like that. They have rows of private rooms where you take the ceramic faceplate of the box and make a ten minute shrine out of the room. In honouring the dead, you're supposed to give a gift. So, not showing up with a gift must run in the family, because we showed up empty handed. My uncle runs up to the Death Eleven to find something worth giving. No luck. We're shit out of luck and Grandma's spirits are going to be pissed and offended. I got it! I remember the soju I got earlier. So, I literally regifted to my dead grandmother the bottle of soju I just received. I remember thinking "no one is going to believe that this is happening."
Koreans are pretty polite, so I'm pretty sure my aunt and cousins left the meal and waited until they got out of earshot to start ripping me a new asshole for not giving them anything. But, if there is one thing I am besides culturally rude and unprepared, I'm a competitive motherfucker. Game on, putas. You think you’ve won. Oh, you just wait.
Three weeks ago a 14 pound box was sent to Korea. Don't do this. Ever. I went to the post office and I spent $114 to ship this damn box. So right off the bat, I'm already spending more JUST IN POSTAGE than all of the family's gifts. I very casually take a picture of the label for tracking purposes to send to the cousins to let them know the box is on it's way. The picture might have had the price of shipping? Who knows for sure? wink wink.
The rest of you have Google to look things up. I have my wife. All I have to do is casually mention something and Speed Researcher is off and running. I told her I needed to send back some gifts. She thought at first about gifts for Han Mu. After wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes, I had to gently correct her of that notion and tell her, no, I need gifts to the well adjusted and normal members of my new found family. You know, the ones who gave you the gifts I came home with?
Research states that Koreans love honey. Further research showed that AA Milne got the origin of Winnie the Pooh from his Korean dry cleaner. If you want to describe something awesome in Korea, you say "that's so honey". Honey is rare and expensive in Korea. Koreans also love coffee. Trivia fact: there are more Starbucks in Seoul than in New York City. I told you all you would learn shit here! So, my cousins got each 1 lb of East Texas honey, 1 lb of local East Texas Toasted Pecan coffee, 3 specialty soaps, and 1 specialty scented candle all locally crafted. This was put into canvas shopping bags that have the shape of Texas printed on it. Also, t-shirts from Therapet for each one of their husbands.
So in the art of reciprocal gift giving, in the battle of Fishers vs. Ohs, just like Monday night Trivia here in Tyler, winner winner....CHICKEN DINNER!
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