Friday, January 18, 2013


I have some questions for my local readers for best practices regarding lai see in the upcoming year.

  1. What is the going rate for weddings?  Obviously there is a range to consider and I have attended some really posh Chinese weddings as well as informal ones where hundreds of people show up and cram in at tables.  What do you think is the range of appropriate lai see gifting for weddings?  Should you give lai see if you don't attend?
  2. What would you advise for doormen, cleaners, and other people who work at a residence?  What would you give a doorman who opens doors and carries packages in a fancier estate versus the guy who sits by the door and stares at you in the simpler residence?
  3. How about a domestic helper?  Live-in versus nonresident?
  4. How about the servers at your favorite restaurant or local pub?
  5. What is the deal with married couples and single friends/colleagues?  I'm used to the going rate being 10 or 20 dollars but I have recently been informed that married couples are supposed to give larger amounts of money to close friends who are single to show how much they care or something like that.  Here's a wad of cash proportional to how much I value you since no one else does.
  6. Is there anyone that I'm missing?
Usually before a wedding banquet SB and I will ask a friend who is in the wedding party for advice.  We hope it isn't too weird or vulgar to ask for advice but we figure it is better than putting up an insulting gift.  One of my teammates bitched to me that her boss gave her a paltry amount that didn't cover the cost of the meal and then got a parking voucher that cost her another $100.  I would rather be remembered for asking than remembered for other reasons.  


Spike said...

1 - For weddings, I always used to give $500 if just me or a thousand if I was attending with my now ex-wife. But I haven't been to a Chinese wedding in ages.

2 - For service people where I live, I believe that $100 is considered generous. If someone has really gone out of their way for me during the year, I might give $200.

3 - Never had a non-resident domestic helper, always had live-in and never Chinese. I'd usually give $500 for CNY and I think that was probably on the generous side.

4 - Servers at restaurants? Never did this.

5 - If I recall correctly, a married person is supposed to give 2 envelopes to a single person, one with each hand. A token amount, $10 or $20 per envelope, is fine. "It's the thought that counts."

6 - People in your office, especially staff junior to you or unmarried people. I also give packets to my elderly neighbors.

Further tip - giving old, wrinkled bills is considered unlucky. Everyone lines up at the bank to get new bills to give out.

Carole Hill said...

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Kind regards,


Unknown said...

Spike is spot on except wedding gifts.. Wedding gifts have gone up significantly as the cost of banquets has increased. The common practice is about $800 to $1000 per person. I noted several years ago in SaiKung that local elderly folks gave mini bus drivers a red packet on Day 1 or 2 of CNY, wishing them something like "safety in and out". I thought it was such a nice gesture that I had adopted it myself, delighting many a driver. It is not the amount ($20) but it is the symbolism that they really appreciate. Hopefully, it is a reminder that they should pay more attention on the roads.