One of the interesting differences between Taiwan and the UK is the giving of gifts. In general, people just don’t give gifts at Chinese New Year, except perhaps to their parents. While this makes some aspects of the holiday season easier to deal with here, it’s quite awkward for most Brits to adopt the Chinese tradition of giving money in red envelopes (or ‘hong bao’).
So when I asked my wife about gifts for Mother’s Day, what unique gifts for her and her mother, you’ll find it easy to guess what she said: “Cash”. This is a sentiment most Chinese share: why give a present that might be useless when cash is what I can really USE?
There are occasional times when you are expected to give gifts, but if you’re not family, then cash is expected: Weddings, Anniversaries, etc. Choose an amount that ends in 6 or 8, such as $388. If it’s a funeral, then choose odd numbers, such as $500. Never choose a number with lots of ‘4’s… the recipient may take offense because the character is associated with death. Similarly, never give an umbrella or a clock or watch, as these are considered unlucky, too.
Otherwise, smile, be polite, and inquire first what is expected.