The White Punjabi Bride
Buying Gifts For Your Indian In Laws
If you were to ask your Indian in laws what they'd like as a gift they would most likely respond somewhere along the lines of, your presence is present enough. Although the gesture of gift giving is such a personal touch that shows just how grateful you are to be a part of the family. Even though they may never begrudge themselves to ask a gift of anyone, they will graciously accept your gesture of kindness. However they may decline to accept your gift up front out of politeness, so be sure to continue to offer at least a couple more times.
Traditionally it is rupees that are given opposed to buying personal gifts for friends and family. There are certain occasions where it is expected that you give a token of appreciation as a blessing. This tradition is known as shagun in Punjab. For instance when you visit a family member for the first time it would be customary to then gift them 100 to 500 rupees as a modest gesture. However you will notice that they will never accept a gift up front and it almost becomes a playful game.
They will decline a couple more times before accepting graciously or continuing to politely decline. However it is both rude to not accept a gift and to accept a gift too willingly. The person giving the rupees will then try to stuff the money in their hand, pocket or bag and make a dash for it before they can return it. Sometimes they may just hand it to another family member who lives with them to pass it along once they have left. The tradition of bestowing gifts, particularly cash, as a form of blessing is very dominant in the Punjabi Culture.
Therefore it is only fitting that you also share your appreciation despite them insisting that they don't need anything. Why not share your culture with them in the form of giving a personal gift. I have found that majority who I handed gifts to appreciated them. Or they at the very least appreciated that I thought of them even if they secretly didn't like the gift.
When buying a gift for someone I always try to personalise it with something they would need or enjoy. Especially if it is something that is difficult to obtain in India. Otherwise as with any poorly thought out gift they are usually then regifted to someone else. With that said sometimes even the best thought out gift can be regifted, you just can't tell. Though don't let that deter you as the art of gift giving is the thought that counts. But the art of gift giving can be a difficult one so here are a few different gift ideas for your Indian in laws.
GIFT IDEAS FOR
Your Indian In Laws
PERSONALISED PHOTO BOOK - This is an affordable and lightweight option if you're travelling, to gift any family or friends. I chose to create a story book of my relationship with my partner including photos of us together, where we lived and my family & friends. Since my in laws hadn't met me until I lived with them in Punjab it gave them a way to relate to us. Not to mention what son actually shares the details of their relationship with their mother. So most mothers probably don't know much about how you met and your life overseas. My in laws then brought out the photo book each and every time we had a guest and would flick through it over a cup of tea.
SOUVENIRS FROM HOME - I don't mean going out to buy a stuffed toy iconic of your country, but rather unique items that can only be purchased in your country. Perhaps there is a certain whisky that is only produced where you are from and your father in law loves whisky. Or a brand of cosmetics that your cousin adores but can't buy locally. Or pickled fruits or vegetables that are grown locally. Even locally hand crafted arts or crafts that represent your country. My mother is a painter so she painted a landscape on a canvas for me to pack in my suitcase as a gift. Art can be difficult to pick for others however if it is hand painted then it has meaning behind it and I'm sure they won't mind keeping it on display. Even if it turns out they don't particularly like it!
USEFUL HOUSEHOLD GOODS - Most women in India are still very traditional when it comes to cooking and cleaning. They either don't want to spend the money on themselves to buy the latest mop. Or there just isn't any other brand of mop available to buy locally. Many women will use a rag to mop the floor by hand, or use a traditional broom made of sticks for sweeping, or have limited kitchen appliances although it takes longer to prepare meals. Depending on what you can fit in your suitcase will depend on what you consider buying. Though try to think of what would be useful for their lifestyle. As a toaster probably won't be something they use if they only eat roti.
STATIONARY ITEMS - Kids in India don't spend their life on the phone or a computer so are always busy playing and being creative. Therefore they will enjoy almost anything you were to give them. However stationary items are a lightweight and affordable idea. Anything from colouring books, pens and pencils, sticker books, stickers, reading books in english, english educational books and so on. Anything that will spark their creative side will be appreciated for sure. Many children are so enthusiastic to learn English however don't have access to many educational books.
I packed with me an array of different colouring books and story books of well known kids cartoons or movies. I made them into a gift bag with other items of the same theme such as Barbie. Girls love Barbie in India and it is expensive to buy locally. You could always fill up a library bag with a few story books, colouring books and stickers, along with a pencil case filled with pens and pencils. Add a toy that is of the same theme such as a barbie doll and you have a gift that will make you the favourite Aunty.
WEDDING HAMPER - Given weddings are such a big deal in India you can't really go wrong with buying any female relatives a handpicked hamper of items they can use at a wedding. Anything from cosmetics, perfumes, purses, nail polish, jewellery and the likes. Even if they don't wear makeup on the regular you know they will use it at a wedding at the least. Every Indian woman wears lipstick to a wedding. Although if you know them quite well you can always pick out their favourite brands. Why not fill up a cosmetics bag or small clutch purse with a few different lipsticks and matching nail polishes to make a lightweight gift for your female relatives.
Though it doesn't just have to be a hamper filled with cosmetics and perfumes, as you can fill a hamper with anything that the couple may enjoy. Why not fill a hamper with snacks and delectable's for the happy couple to entertain guests with. This could include any fine teas, chocolates, biscuits and really any locally sourced handcrafted delectable's that they may enjoy. The possibilities are endless and it is a versatile gift for any friend or family, even if they have different tastes.
ALCOHOL - If all else fails then I am sure your father in law would appreciate a fine bottle of whisky or scotch. These are the preferred alcoholic beverages of all Indian men, or at least all Punjabi men. However this isn't acceptable for Indian women. Particularly for those of Sikh faith as women are not permitted to consume alochol. Though if your in laws live abroad then ask your partner if alcohol is an appropriate gift. As drinking alcohol is more common for women abroad particularly if they are younger.
What did you buy your Indian in laws when meeting them for the first time?
Is there anything else you would recommend?