Chuseok: a time for presents

…and other things, of course. But this post is about the presents.

Chuseok is Korean Thanksgiving. It’s a time spent with family and paying respects to ancestors. It’s also one of the two major gift-exchanging occasions (the other being Lunar New Year). This differs somewhat from Western culture, where we mainly exchange gifts on birthdays and Christmas.

Now, whereas back home we’d hit the shopping centres and search for the perfect gift, in Korea you don’t have to go any further than your local supermarket.

I took a few photos of the Chuseok display at the local Homeplus. As you’ll see, all of the packaged gifts are hampers of foodstuffs or toiletries. They’re very practical gifts, and if you know the exchange rate, you’ll see that they’re rather pricey. (For SA, drop the last three digits and multiply by 9, e.g. 50 000 KRW ~ 50 x 9 = 450 ZAR.) Each hamper comes in a bag, which will have the same design as the lid of the box. The bags have a nifty handle, seeing as they’re usually quite heavy.

Toiletries galore. Gift boxes usually consist of shampoo and toothpaste.

Toiletries galore. Gift boxes usually consist of shampoo and toothpaste.

All of the Spam! Koreans luuuuurve Spam, so there's usually an entire shelf dedicated to Spam hampers.

All of the Spam! Koreans luuuuurve Spam, so there’s usually an entire shelf dedicated to Spam hampers.

Fruit hampers, nut hampers, or hampers with Korean sweets. Those big green things with the apples are Korean pears.

Fruit hampers, nut hampers, or hampers with Korean sweets. Those big green things with the apples are Korean pears.

Oil, coffee, or, well, anchovies. Lots and lots of anchovies.

Oil, coffee, or, well, anchovies. Lots and lots of anchovies.

Mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. The round box on the left costs R900. That's quite the mushroom!

Mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. The round box on the left costs R900. That’s quite the mushroom!

If you’ve been lucky enough to receive an endless supply of Spam, here are some fun ideas to help get rid of it!

At most public schools (and most hagwons, for that matter), the principal (or manager) will buy gifts for all the staff, foreign teacher included. One of my friends has been gifted Dettol hampers by her employer – twice! She has been handing out body wash and hand soap for as long as I can remember to anyone who’s happy to receive. I was given shampoo and toothpaste for Chuseok last year, and a year’s supply of cooking oil for Lunar New Year. This year, for Chuseok, I was lucky enough to get a box with three bottles of fruit juice.

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