Answers to Questions about Social Gift-Giving and Chit-Chat with Koreans

I received the following questions from a visitor to my website recently. 

"My husband works for a Korean company. We will be accompanying the CEO and his wife (both Korean) to a weekend event; they are relatively new to the USA and this is my first time meeting either of them.

"Would it be "politically correct" for me to give either of them a small gift? Just the wife? Neither?

"In this situation, what would be considered an appropriate gift? Since I think the number seven is considered lucky, perhaps seven small candles or a box of seven nice chocolate?

"And what topics of conversation (should be interesting since I speak no Korean and they speak minimal English) are especially safe? Children/family? Should I bring pictures?"

Here's how I ended up replying to the person who sent the above inquiry:

"Yes, it would be  appropriate for you to give the wife a gift in this situation. You don’t need to get hung up on the number; but chocolates are fine. Something along the lines of clothing and fashion is likely to be better. I'd stay away from any food items that aren't universally enjoyed (such as chocolates) since you'd be surprised what kinds of American foods some Koreans don't care for. (BTW, it isn't exactly a perfect match with your situation but here's a link to my Top Ten Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression.)

"In one of the modules, the KBC Business Professional Certification mentions a number of topics you could bring up. Photos are fine, but perhaps don’t overdo it. Children and family are always a good topic and I’m sure they’d like opportunities to tell you about life in Korea and how they're faring in the US, particularly if they’re feeling homesick. Finding out what kinds of challenges the wife is facing in her adjustment to life in the US would be a great opportunity to share suggestions and answer some of her nagging questions."

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