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Gift-Giving: Norms and Expectations

Updated on February 22, 2013

Whenever the holiday season approaches, the thought of presents and bonding with family members fills the air. During this time of the year, people throughout the world are buying presents for their loved ones. People are buying presents for those whom they appreciate and respect. The question remains to some people how much a present should be or whether or not receiving a gift is appropriate. The next few paragraphs will be my explanation and thoughts on gift-giving.

First, there are norms of gift-giving in the United States. One norm of gift-giving in the United States is that if you give a present, you should receive a present. Most of the people in the United States accept and follow this norm. Other people throughout the United States feel that sometimes accepting a gift isn’t the right thing to do; therefore, they feel as if they shouldn’t be obligated to give a gift to someone. Another norm is to give a gift around the holiday season. A third norm is to give a gift that is a decent price. A decent price of a gift should depend on how long you’ve known someone and how much they mean to you. A gift shouldn’t be accepted if it is not around the holiday season, someone’s birthday, or a long time after either one of these.

Second, there are speculations on whether or not you should give an expensive gift because you received an expensive gift. I feel that the value of a gift shouldn’t matter unless you and the other person agree on an acceptable price for the gifts. Likewise, an expensive gift might have been given to you because that is how much you mean to that person. You should think about that when you decide on whether or not you should give a gift in return. As an individual, you may refuse to accept the gift because you might feel that the person might not mean as much to you as you do to them. You might feel that returning a gift in lesser value is embarrassing and demeaning.

Third, I feel that it is easier to receive a gift than to give a gift because you might not know the expectations and assumptions of the other person you are buying the gift for. In order to figure out if to give a gift is appropriate, you should ask the person you are buying the gift for, instead of assuming they are automatically going to buy you a gift for the holidays. The value of a gift could matter in some situations. I feel that the more expensive a gift is, the more that the person cares about you. The value of a gift and giving someone a gift conflict when you get the wrong present, the present is too expensive, and when you expect a gift but do not receive a gift. The social conflicts of gift-giving are when you have interacted with someone for a long time, you feel that in a sense you are obligated to give them a gift. The problem with is that the other person might not feel or think the same way that you do. The other person might not buy you a gift, even though you go them a gift because they mean a lot to you.

Overall, the three major perspectives might view the act of gift-giving in another way. The functionalist perspective might see gift-giving as being necessary for the society as a whole to function. A functionalist might view the act of gift-giving as more products being brought and more money circulating throughout the United States, which helps to maintain the society. The conflict perspective might be that the wealthier people would only think about buying gifts for those who are as wealthy as them. The interactionist perspective might view the act of gift-giving as a way of being more social with others. Interactionist feel that the more interaction among others, the more people can relate to others and the way that they think. I feel that the perspective I agree with the most in this situation is the functionalist perspective. I agree with the functionalist perspective because I feel that gift-giving encourages others to buy more products, which helps stabilize our economy and keeps us functioning as a society.


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    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago


      thanks and yeah i guess it depends

      On if you not a materialistic person

      If you don't mind cheap gifts that you can

      Use over and over again then finding a present shouldn't be too hard.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Giving a useful gift is my first priority and I do not count a pricier gift to be better. Likewise I prefer to get something that I can use in my daily life even if it cheap.

      Useful and interesting hub. Voted up.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @Om Paramapoonya yeah i feel the same as you, i feel that buying a gift can take a while but it is a lot more fun when you you are happy with the gift you are giving away.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      Yep, buying and selecting a gift can be a pretty daunting (and sometimes exhausting) task. I think that's why many people have opted for gift cards. I still prefer going through a tedious process of shopping around and trying to find meaningful presents for people, though.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @Mongoon thanks for the feedback and being able to relate my article to your friend and his woodcarving. I feel that giving a gift deals with the person likes and something they wont expect for you to get them.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago


      I feel that gift giving is hard but you must stress too much over it and to give a gift that is unexpected and yet simple all depending on what the person doesn't and does like.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @angInwu thanks and yeah sometimes i feel the same as you do that it is hard to buy someone a gift, whether or not if they are going to get you something in return. Sometimes i feel you should ask to find out instead of assuming. Also, i feel that gift cards are a great choice and really can show someone that you care especially if you were to make a homemade gift card.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @Express10 thanks for the comment and the information that you provided that correlated with the article i wrote

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @LLWoodard thanks for the feedback. I feel that gift giving is important and that its good for people to know when it is appropriate and when it is not. I classified them into the three societal perspectives in order to give those who don't fully understand the norm of gift giving; the opportunity to understand and to see different viewpoints according to how we act as a society

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I found your insights on the various rationale for gift-giving to be interesting. Functional, conflict and interactive are three basic ways of breaking down societal norms in gift-giving.

      I'd have to say I don't believe I fit neatly into any of those three categories as a gift-giver, but if I had to choose one, it would be interactionist. I gift because it gives me a good feeling to do so, irrespective of receiving something in return.

      Good hub: voted up and Shared.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      I agree Anglnwu. I give gift cards as a last resort after much thought about what might be appreciated or really enjoyed. A fair number of people do think they are impersonal. As for my young nieces and nephew, I've never seen their faces light up more than when I give them cash on occasion but this too is not often appropriate or desired.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 5 years ago

      I find it hard, sometimes, to select gifts as well. I know it's not a good idea to give gift cards as some may think it impersonal but sometimes, it may be the best option, especially if you're not sure what to get.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      Giving gifts is always a difficult thing for me even when I know the person well. Also, not everyone like handmade items and will just say they like it just to be nice. But when I want to get them something they truly want but just can't figure out what would fit, I'll get them a gift card so they can choose for themselves.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @aviannovice yeah i agree with you i feel that something personal could mean so much more to somebody even more than a bought gift. Thanks for your feedback.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Gifting for me has pretty much been a thing of the past, unless it is for children. However, if I do give a gift, it is generally one of my own photos with a handmade frame. I like the idea of something personal, which says more than a purchased gift.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @carol7777 thank you for the feedback and i feel that selecting gifts is only daunting if your picky i myself am very picking when it comes to choosing gifts or writing articles in general. I feel that there are always expectations and that doing something personal for someone is ten times better.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      @billybuc i like your perspective on gift giving and that you agree with how i somewhat feel about gift giving and how we associate more expensive gifts sometimes with how much someone cares.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You have interesting perspective on life and I enjoy reading them. We have pretty much done away with the standard gift-giving ritual. We spend very little money on gifts. What we do give has great meaning for the person receiving the gift and many times the gifts are handmade with love and affection.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Selecting gifts is always a daunting experience. especially for family members. There are expectations ....I always like to do something personal...and get something I know the person will enjoy..especially when I know they have a special interest.


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