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Gifts from Siagon’s sweethearts

February 28, 2011

I have mentioned in previous posts how generous and warm-hearted the Vietnamese people are. Last month, on my birthday, I was reminded once again of this. I received birthday gifts from quite a few people here, but four of them stood out to me.

The first was from a girl, Kim Chi, who works at one of our favorite hangouts. She can out-sass any westerner and has a withering evil eye. She is also spontaneously sweet (She gave me a keychain out of her purse when she saw I only had a poor, lonely key,) and has gone out of her way to try to spend time with me. Around my birthday she asked me to come see her. She gave me a perfectly wrapped box with this in it:



It makes me smile every time I see it because it is so silly. I don’t understand why it says woman and money, or why it has a hair lid, but I don’t really care. It’s awesome.

The next gift was given to me by one of our pilots and his Vietnamese girlfriend. I have been seeing the waving cats in stores ever since we arrived here and couldn’t imagine what the point was. Their arms never stop moving. Why are the cats always waving at us? When I opened the box, I was pleased to know that I would finally learn what they were about. She explained that the cat is waving people into the store, enticing them to come spend money, so it symbolizes prosperity. That is something I can deal with.



The cat has done what any normal cat would and found the highest perch in the house – on top of Al Fresco, our six-foot tall air conditioner – and waves to everyone who comes in.

They also gave me this hand-stitched picture – a typical Vietnamese boat and river-house scene made up of thousands of horizontal stitches.

The third gift was from my dear Ann. It is a balsa wood puzzle that will (eventually) look like a deer. I realized how long it’s been since I put a puzzle of any sort together – much less a 3-D one. She’s going to have to help me with this one.



The last gift I received was from one of the waitresses at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Gringo’s. Her name is Chau and she always likes to remind me how lovely she is. If she serves you once, twice at the most, she will remember your name whenever you visit again. She gave me two pairs of beautiful earrings wrapped in this box. I’ve noticed with many of the gifts here, the presentation is as important as the gift. I’m all about gift bags and tissue paper, but, for the Vietnamese, gift-wrapping is an art. They use glue instead of tape, make intricate folds in the paper, and, in Chau’s case, fold tiny, origami stars and glue them on for decoration.



These gifts make me feel special, happy, and extremely lazy. They remind me how far one thoughtful gesture can go toward making someone else feel wonderful.

What is a gift that made you feel warm and fuzzy all over? Was it because of what the gift was, or because of who gave it to you?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 14:27

    I already miss your waving cat. Thanks for the wonderful time we had in Vietnam.

    • March 1, 2011 19:23

      The cat misses you too. I really hope you get to come back. We had such a good time with you two xo

  2. March 1, 2011 09:18

    Such treasures. I love the weird mug with the “huh?” message and the removable toupee.

  3. Charity permalink
    March 7, 2011 09:24

    I’m so happy you had a great birthday with these special gifts!

  4. Andy Zimmerman permalink
    March 21, 2011 07:06

    Hi Grace!

    You’re a great writer. Didn’t know you had this talent. Enjoy reading your blog. So glad our birthday/Tet gifts to you have proven to be a meaningful part of your experience living in SE Asia – Andy & Kim

    P.S. We are in the middle of our paperwork exercise applying to the VN government for our marriage license. When you get a chance, can you e-mail to us a couple photos from your birthday of all of us together at the table?

  5. July 28, 2011 16:54

    Very cool to read about how seriously gift wrapping is taken in Vietnamese culture – I didn’t know that! I write a blog about gift wrapping and have posted about Japanese gift wrapping, but haven’t been too successful on finding much info about gift wrapping in other cultures. I’d love to hear more of your observations on gift wrapping in Vietnam if you have a chance!


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