It’s been a while since my last article… what can I say… university was stressful and a lot of things happened lately that kept me from writing new articles, including writing papers for seminars. But anyways I am back again and I try to publish more often for those, who like to read what I have to say (^_^)
So let’s get back to business. Omiyage! That’s kind of the Japanese equivalent to what we call ‘souvenirs’, but the whole concept is somewhat different. We (Westeners) buy souvenirs on vacation 1. Just if we want to (no one will be angry, if you don’t bring a souvenir, right?) 2. Just for people, who we are super close to (like parents, own kids, significant other … maybe also for our 1-2 best friends) and 3. of course for ourselves. Japanese people on the other hand were taught from young age on that they have to bring Omiyage for everyone! This includes of course, family members, friends (not just the close ones), colleagues (even if you just have a part-time job) and just in case some more for the neighbors of your aunt 3 grade…. Ok the last was over exaggerated, but you get the point. You have to buy a lot, always!!!
I observe this phenomenon for some years know with the exchange students at my university. Somewhen in the second half of their stay this topic inevitably comes up and they seem to be quite stressed about it. Probably because it’s more like a duty to do it! So at some point they ask me and other German students for advice on what is typically German and what we think would make a good souvenir. Well, these questions were quite hard to answer, because although I’m German I didn’t know what Japanese people would consider a “good Omiyage” until I saw that myself, when I was there. They have stores that are dedicated to Souvenirs (mostly sweets) at basically any bigger train station and for sure every airport.
Now that I know a little bit more about what the receivers expect to receive, for German Omiyage I suggest: Haribo in small package sizes or single wrapped chocolate (like Lindt or merci or Ferrero or Kinder), because it’s easier to share… so you can bring 1-2 packages for each set of people. Also Alcohol is a good thing to bring, but that can lead to problems due to weight limitations for suitcases and also you can just bring a certain amount of alcohol to Japan. Side note: Don’t ever bring licorice / Lakritz… they HATE it for sure!!! (I never met even one Japanese person, who liked it…)
Even if it’s troublesome to buy so many Omiyage on the one side, it’s really nice to receive them on the other side. These are examples of Omiyage that I received from good friends, who were in Japan:
This is much more than what you are expected to bring in Japan though… don’t worry, you don’t have to spend so much money on each person usually!
It’s more about the thought that counts. So if you bring something as an Omiyage for Japanese people, it’s totally fine if you bring something small from the place where you have been. In fact it is better to not make it too big, because then you put the pressure on them to bring something equally or even bigger for you next time. Trust me on this; it is a never ending cycle, which you don’t want to start! So better keep it small. (At least for colleagues and extended family/ not-so-close friends)Of course if you want to bring something more special for your significant other or your parents f. ex., that’s fine as well!
So in case you ever plan to visit Japan, just bring a few small things from you’re home country and you are good to go! You never know who you will meet and who might invite you to a beer or a cup of tea…
See you soon