Gift giving is the practice of exchanging goods, especially during a ceremony that may be gratuitous or intended to reinforce social and economic relations. Different cultures within communities have developed transaction structures, but every community values the element of free gifting that is unaccompanied by some requirement or expectation. However, in many traditional cultures, such as Indians, gifting entailed responsibility and the formation of socioeconomic bonds (Cronk). This paper would detail a cross-cultural comparison of gift sharing and argue whether a free gift exists. Cronk explains that giving is an aspect of reciprocal exchange. He does not acknowledge free gifting rather he considers giving as a form of strengthening existing relationships or a way of creating new associations. Cronk is of the opinion that in every society, there are strings attached to the act of giving. For instance, Captain Louis received a gift of horses so as to strengthen ties with the chief. Moreover, the white settlers from England received the Indian gifts, but they understood that a return was expected. There is no free gift according to Cronk. For example, an Englishman arrived in America and was offered a pipe as a gift that he used to set a mantelpiece. Later he learned that the Indians wanted their pipe back that got him shocked for the short-lived generosity. The Englishman did not understand that the welcoming gesture was meant to create a relationship that should be maintained through multiple mutual exchanges. Therefore, his failure to reciprocate was a sign of being rude and unfriendly (Cronk). It is evident that giving should be reciprocated.
Moreover, Richard Lee while working in the Kalahari Desert with the Kung Bushman gives an elaborate understanding of giving. While in the desert he was studying the gathering and hunting subsistence economy of the Kung. He had to cooperate and share his food with the Kung so as to effectively carry out his mission. The Bushman called Lee stingy and hard-hearted when he failed to give his portion of canned food. To cover up for this and create a good relationship with the Kung Bushmen he purchased Christmas oxen for the Bushmen community to slaughter it as their usual annual gesture. However, the Kung did not appreciate the gift at first as they disapproved Lee for claims that he was proud and arrogant. The concept of giving exhibited here is that for cooperation and healthy relationships to be enhanced, one has offer gifts to the other party with humility (Borshay 32). Furthermore, the movie Ongka’s Big Moka focuses on explaining the concept of ceremonial giving as a form of creating prestige on the giver. This was a kind of free gifting however that was intended to increase the standards of Ongka (Nairn).
Gifts can be given on several occasions including Christmas holidays, New Year’s celebrations, baby showers, paying of bride price among other occasions. The kind of gifting determines the type of gift given. For example, many cultures around the world practice dowry payment when marriage is done. The gifting is a form of appreciation to the girl’s family. Therefore, it is given according to Lee Cronk opinion that reciprocation must accompany gifting. The groom’s family is given a daughter in marriage, and they have to reciprocate the act by paying dowry so as to establish social relationships. Other gifts given during Christmas and Valentines are a form of reciprocating love from one another. Though the love may not be a material or tangible thing, the act of gifts of paying for holiday trips to the partner is made to enhance social ties. Some gifts can be given to boost economic integration and ties. For instance, when the American president visits China, he can be offered gifts so as to create relationships that will promote the trade between the two states.
The concept of free gift can only exist in a business setup where the owner wants to carry out promotions. They can offer some commodities for free to the customers so as encourage or attract them to buy things in their shops. However, the act is solely not purely free because in some situations a client has to purchase a considerable amount of goods so as to receive the free offer. On the other hand, the business aim is to create economic advantage and relationship with the buyer. Therefore, one can establish that there is nothing like a free gift in the society. This is because the giver always has their motives and intentions of giving the gift. For example, a free gift of wall clock from the electronics shop is meant to persuade the buyer to keep on buying in the same shop or attract other people to become customers.
Gift giving is a commonly practiced culture among the society that is always accompanied by an act of reciprocation. However much a gift might seem to be offered for free, it is always accompanied by gratitude or generosity in the future. It is evident that gifts enhance the social relations and friendship among people. Other awards are given to boost the economic ties and increase trade. Therefore, there are no free gifts apart from those who are given naturally by God such as the air that we breathe.
Cronk, Lee. Reciprocity and the Power of Giving. New York: Pearson, 2003.
Lee, Richard Borshay. Eating Christmas in the Kalahari(1969). New York, 2011.
Ongka’s Big Moka. Dir. Charlie Nairn. Perf. Andrew Strathen. Prod. Charlie Nairn. 2017.