Holiday Shopping! Friendship in Jeopardy Again?


The semester is almost finished! Yay! This is a special period of time for Chinese students who are going home for their holiday. Most Chinese students must have had this experience when family and friends back in China ask you to buy things for them because things are cheaper here in the U.S. These things include beauty products, handbags and health supplements. Bringing gifts for family and friends is a good manner, which should be encouraged. But rushing to outlets stores on black Friday in order to get all the things on their shopping list is NOT a pleasant experience. As a result, many Chinese students usually panic around the holiday in fear of the expected shopping lists.

Before I flew back to China from New Zealand after finishing my exchange program, I had to throw away my suitcase and get a larger one so that I could carry all the things I bought for my family and friends. I also had to throw away some of my clothes and shoes because my suitcase was extremely overweight. Over the years I have gradually learned how to deal with unwanted shopping lists and friends that ask too much from me. Hopefully, my tips will come in handy when you are in the same situation, too.


True friends put you first, not their shopping list

Think about this. When you feel upset and post a sad selfie on social media, people comment below and ask if you are ok. Are those really your closest friends? For me, best friends would not comment below my post, they would call me immediately to find out why I am upset.

This is also the case when it comes to holiday shopping. When your “friends” somehow learned that you are flying home for holiday, they text you right away with a long shopping list. These people, for most of the time, are not that close to you. To be honest, they are just some random names on your contact list.

How can you tell who are the good friends and who are not? This is simple. I was texting my best friends in China even before I booked my flight. And I offered to shop for them if they wanted anything. Often times, they would refuse or only ask for one small item. Even so, they might worry that they caused me trouble by asking me to buy it for them. These are your true friends. And they make me willing to spend the time shopping for them.


Make the shopping trip a lot easier for yourself by making RULES

Then how to avoid other troublesome “friends”?

Even though you do not sincerely want to do them this favor, but it may be rude to say not to them right away. How to achieve a win-win situation? My tip is, be frank and straightforward.

Tell them:

  1. You only have an afternoon for shopping;
  2. You are only going to this one outlet and will only buy the things that are available at the store there;
  3. They will need to pay you back in RMB at the exact ratio when you make the purchase, tax included;
  4. Sometimes when you finally deliver the iPhone or Tory Burch handbag to them, they blame you for choosing the wrong color, or the price not being significantly lower than the price they are sold at in China. So tell them, in advance, it is their job to do thorough research about prices, and they should make it clear in the shopping list that they do not want you to buy something if it is higher than a certain price;
  5. Ask them to make their shopping lists as specific as possible. So that you do not have to anxiously wait in line in these stores and ask them if they can accept a different color of the handbag they wanted. Keep in mind that due to the 16-hour time difference, they will probably be asleep when you are doing crazy shopping for them.
  6. At last, ask them to understand that you are not being tough with all these “rules”, this just makes things easier for both of you.

Making these rules in advance makes these not-so-close friends more cautious when making their shopping lists for you. Since often times they fail to consider all the trouble you will go through in order to do them a favor. Ask them to understand that you are sacrificing your spare time to do them a favor (the underlying message being “they cannot take this for granted”).


Do not feel bad if you appear to be unfriendly with them

It is part of Asian culture to “make compromise”, “put others first” and “not to say no too easily”. I understand that sometimes us Chinese students will feel bad if we say no to unwanted shopping lists. Eventually, we would accept their requests even we do not want to. And we get blamed at when we fail to get them the exact same items they had asked for.

It doesn’t have to be that way.


You need to know for yourself that, it is not your job to do them this favor. And they should understand that, too. If they keep pushing you or even blaming you, you can care less about your relationship with them.

You will be able to tell who your true friends are, and who are just taking advantage of you. For the latter, do not feel bad if you say no. You can say no whenever you want to, but if you do say yes to their requests, do your best to keep that promise.

Are you doing a lot of shopping for your family and friends, too? I hope you are truly enjoying it and shopping for the people you love.

Happy thanksgiving and have a fun black Friday shopping!


2 thoughts on “Holiday Shopping! Friendship in Jeopardy Again?

  1. Julia

    To be honest, this blog stressed me out a little bit! I’ve never had the experience of living somewhere with lower pricing than my home (sounds great!), so I’ve never had to shop for others (sounds terrifying!). Your suggestions are great, and I’m sure they are very helpful when the situation arrises. I might also add that it’s OK to tell someone that you won’t have space in your luggage to bring things home for them – especially if you aren’t close.


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