I am leaving on Monday for Korea and I am still trying to figure out what to get my director and also what other little trinkets I should bring for other gift giving situations. I had read somewhere that honey was a good gift, but not sure if there were some other ideas. I would prefer to bring something that is not liquid, as my luggage is already pretty full/heavy. Any ideas?
This is one that everyone loves to guess about. It is a great idea to get your director a gift, but it is not mandatory. I didn't get my first director a gift since I didn't know that it was done at the time. Most directors never really care about the actual gift, but appreciate the gesture. If you're working for a big hagwon, then your director has probably gotten the basics like chocolates and "unique" Western trinkets, so be more creative.
I have not heard anyone suggest honey before and would probably veto that idea. Many people try to think of things that Koreans might not have easy access to, but in this case, honey does not fall under that category. It is a little pricey, but money is not an issue for your director. I always like to suggest wine. Koreans love wine as witnessed by the endless amount of wine bars blanketing the streets. If you live in a country or state that is known for wine, then buy a bottle or two. Maybe you don't live in Napa Valley though, so pick up any interesting flavor that represents your home. It'll be a hit. I bought my second director a bottle of whiskey that was unique to my home state of Tennessee. It was single barrel Jack Daniels. He liked it a lot, but then again, who wouldn't?
If you don't want to be too creative or don't care, I'd suggest shot glasses. Koreans are big drinkers, so a shot glass will actually be used and it can be somewhat representative of your home nation.
*** Update 5/12/09 ***
The honey that was being referenced was Manuka honey from NZ. So, all you Kiwis out there should try to pick up some of that as I'm told that it's like gold here. Especially since Koreans love any food product that might prove benefial to their health.
From former expat in Korea and soon to be expat in China, OpenMicah...
"The shot glasses are a good idea, but you should be careful about the quality of them. If you get your director a set of cheesy local, "Welcome to Anytown USA" souvenir shot glasses, they might think them in poor taste. This is a big might, of course, because your director might actually have a sense of humor, but still, Koreans do place a lot of importance on looks and expense. They want to show everyone that the stuff they have is top-notch. Maybe you could get them a nicer set when you first meet them (maybe one that has some printing from your home area, though nice sets usually don't have that kind of stuff on them), or wait until you have been working for a little while and develop a rapport with your director. Then you can give the shot glasses, and your director would get the joke.This is just a thought. I, for one, would have gotten my director something nicer at the start of my employment, but something cheesy and funny only after I knew him for a while. Maybe after I got back from a vacation back home."
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