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Background: I am from Hong Kong, studying in a university.

My friend's birthday is coming and I prepared a gift for her. In order to actually give her the gift, I have to meet her somewhere on her birthday. However, there is no way to ensure that she turns up on that day. I have thought of several ways to meet her, but none of them appears to work:

I will have lessons with her on that day, but she often skips lessons. Sometimes I tried to ask her to come to lessons on time, but she wouldn't give me any promise and just slept in. She may also return home and celebrate with her parents.

  1. I want to give her a surprise, so telling her I will give her a gift doesn't work.
  2. Giving her the gift on the previous/following day is bad.
  3. Mailing is not an option because the gift is fragile. (After all, mailing a birthday gift sounds weird?)
  4. She will probably eat with her parents on her birthday, and asking her to have dinner together on that day sounds a bit weird (at least from our culture). To summarise, I want an elegant way which can let me meet my friend and give her a gift on her birthday, without telling her before. Any help would be appreciated.
  • I suppose Hong-Kong is fine as a tag. Or shall we add a China tag? – NVZ Aug 27 '17 at 14:04
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    Do you, by any chance, know her parents well enough? So that you ask them to bring her somewhere without saying, or where you can meet them for a couple of minutes? – OldPadawan Aug 27 '17 at 14:07
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    @NVZ Please don't add a China flag since there are a lot of cultural differences between Hong Kong and China. – tonychow0929 Aug 28 '17 at 1:27
  • @OldPadawan sadly no – tonychow0929 Aug 28 '17 at 1:27
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If she is a close friend then I would be comfortable to

  • Turn up at her home in the morning before she left for the day. Which perhaps breakfast treat and the gift. She would need to be close because this, in New Zealand, would be considered stalking.
  • Ask her what her plans are for the day and invite myself along to something. "That sounds fun, may I join you for that?"
  • Arrange an outing with her that she would love to do such as a cafe on the water front, shopping, or a matinee movie.
  • Arrange an outing the she would benefit from such as a study session.

As an aside, mailing use to be the only cost-effective method of delivering a gift. In New Zealand it's considered a bit of a treat to get a personal item in the mail.

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The things I did in my life taught me to (try to) be more flexible. I refer specifically to your statement

Giving her the gift on the previous/following day is bad.

If you think that way, you are overly committed to meeting your friend on her birthday by which you put yourself under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

Life is full of imponderables and @Bradley Wilson in the earlier answer is absolutely right to say that you can't 'ensure' you will meet her on the birthday itself -- especially if the gift is to be a surprise.

The flexible choice is to find a way to meet her and give her the birthday gift a day or two before the birthday arrives. This approach gives you more opportunity and more options.

It is not 'bad', it is 'smart', unless giving a birthday gift a day in advance is specifically forbidden in your culture.

In fact this is what ensures that you can personally give her the lovely surprise birthday gift, as you have planned for days to do.

It was very nice to read that you have so thoughtfully 'prepared' the birthday gift for her and I should strongly advise you [not to depend on the vagaries of daily life as applied to the non-certainty of being able to meet her on her birthday, but] to give her the gift a day or 2 ahead.


OP's comment gave the following very useful feedback to this answer:

Usually [here in Hong Kong] we try to give the gift the next day (though suboptimal) if giving it on the birthday is impossible.

Thanks to OP for the necessary and valuable feedback, which clears up the cultural context. But again, the principle of my answer holds, with 'a day in advance' being changed to 'the next day' in accordance with local cultural practices -- the idea of 'flexible' is not to become too anxious about needing to get the gift-giving done within a narrow time frame over which one has no real control, putting oneself under various types of pressure in the process. The spirit of friendship expressed by gift-giving would be expected to be more significant, than the exact date of giving the birthday gift.

  • I don't think this is a good idea from a Hong Konger's perspective. Usually we try to give the gift the next day (though suboptimal) if giving it on the birthday is impossible. – tonychow0929 Aug 28 '17 at 1:37
  • Thanks for the feedback, which clears up the cultural context. Again, my answer holds with 'a day on advance' being changed to 'the next day,' @tony200910041 -- the idea of 'flexible' is not to become too anxious about needing to get the gift-giving done within a narrow time frame over which you have no real control, putting oneself under various types of pressure in the process. I shall edit my answer to reflect your feedback. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 6:35
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You need an insider.

Find out what is her plan for the day which most likely won't be changed.

  • Maybe she's spending the day shopping with her best friend?
    Find out who this may be. You can ask for his/her cooperation to lure her to a place of your choice, or just ask where she is or where she is planning to go.

  • You mentioned dinner with her parents.
    This is what I expect from Chinese(-ish) culture. Despite you don't know her parents well, you can contact them beforehand and ask for their cooperation without putting too much burden on them. Explain you want to give her a surprise, assure them that it will only take a couple of minutes, and you only need them to tell where they will be having dinner, either now, or just when they are about to go (ask their contact numbers).

    The response will vary greatly depending on their first impression of you (if they never know you at all), but tell them it will be alright if they say no.

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