You Say It's Your Birthday!
August 27, 2013 8:18 PM   Subscribe

A quick question about Korean culture and receiving gifts.

I received an unexpected birthday present from a Korean co-worker. I’ve read that Korean gift giving etiquette dictates that a gift of equal value should be given in return to the giver in some cases. Does this apply to receiving birthday presents? Should I quietly wait for their birthday to come around and reciprocate? What would be an appropriate measure of showing my thanks? Thank you for having a look!
posted by CoinOp to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
Are you Korean? Are you in Korea? No? Then I don't see why this should be given any special handling.

The appropriate thing to give is a thank you note.

If you want to give the co-worker a gift on his/her birthday, that would be nice.
posted by phunniemee at 8:23 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Let’s assume that I was very touched by the gesture and wanted to find a more meaningful way to thank them as the question implicitly states.
posted by CoinOp at 8:47 PM on August 27, 2013

Yep, gift-giving in Korea is pretty explicitly reciprocal, so you should give your co-worker a more-or-less equal gift on his or her birthday.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:59 PM on August 27, 2013

Are you in Korea? Is your co-worker Korean-from-Korea? Or Korean-American/Canadian/European? I think these questions might matter. But I see nothing wrong with giving a gift of similar value when it's his/her birthday, as that is customary in Western culture as well.
posted by greta simone at 9:40 PM on August 27, 2013

I think your plan to wait for their birthday is an excellent one. Also taking your co-worker out to lunch as an immediate thank you would probably be a welcome overture of friendship. If you two end up being closer friends, you can enjoy the tussle over the check and resort to ruses ("I'm just going to take this phone call outside" or "I need to use the restroom") to pay the bill first without the other one knowing. Going dutch is a no-no so it's nice to assume that there will be subsequent meals that can then be paid for and repaid in turn.

I just had a Korean wedding in Korea and my parents said (only partially tongue in cheek) that it was about time all their friends ponied up the equivalent in wedding cash that my parents have been giving at their friends' children's weddings. (I'm on the younger end of the progeny produced by my parents and their class cohort, and got married on the late end of what's typical for Koreans).
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:45 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

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