Find two members of the culture and ask them about how people give gifts.
I don’t particularly think that gift giving customs in the United States are all that complicated or hard to understand, but I was born and raised here, so it comes as second nature. As for gift giving customs in Barcelona, let me just say that we spent an entire four-hour session of my Spanish class where my professor attempted to educate 12 of us on how to properly give a gift.
One of my favorite practices of gift giving is for a dinner party. Dinner party can mean anything from a barbecue to a paella night to just a small family gathering, but there are certain courtesies that guests and hosts follow. Firstly, guests always offer to bring something in the planning of the party, be it a bottle of wine, dessert, a salad, something of that sort. The host can either accept or decline this offer, but the guest usually brings his or her suggested dish to pass, which results in an abundance of food that nobody is ever really upset about. Honestly, this is a pretty common practice in my household too. What I think is so great is that at the end of the party, when there is food left over because everybody brought something extra, the host bags it all up, similar to a to-go box at any restaurant, and gives it to her guests as they are leaving. And it is considered RUDE to not take the leftovers with. Its like a trade off: you bring some food, you take some food, and everybody is stuffed to the brim for the next few days. I think it just exudes a friendly environment of everyone pitching in to make a great night.
The second gift giving tradition I encountered was a pretty standard tradition for most European countries when American students meet with their host families. It is customary for the student to bring a gift that represents something about their home country or state or something about themselves. My friend Peter brought his host family a jug of maple syrup because he is from a town in Minnesota famous for their maple syrup. If I was staying with a host family, I think I would have brought some sort of fancy cheese because I’m from Wisconsin- America’s Dairy Land!
I really like this tradition because it puts a meaning behind a gift. There isn’t any obsessive freaking out about ‘will they like it’ or worrying about how much money to spend. It’s a gift from the heart, which guarantees that it means something.
P.S. As Task Twelve has come to a conclusion; I must mention that this is probably my last post. I’m home in America, I’ve written just about everything I can about Barcelona and my travels (for now at least) and this blog will now only serve as a happy memory. Thanks for following.