It's Christmas season. Some of you might be into the whole business of gift giving, but personally I've never been very enthusiastic about it. I think it's because of my childhood. My brother and I used to receive gifts that were (how should I say it?) difficult for a child to get excited about — like sugar-free gum or geology books.
Imagine you live in some ancient land. You're given a horse by your neighbor. It's a gift given out of good will. But the horse looks a little past its prime. You check its teeth to see how old it is. You discover that it is in fact quite old. But was it really necessary to check how old the horse was when it was a gift? Isn't that rude?
In Japan, it's very unlikely that someone would look a gift horse in the mouth. People here are generally too polite. But at the same time, no matter how grateful you can make yourself seem, when a gift is not quite what you're hoping for, you can't stop yourself from feeling disappointed.
And this happens more often than not. Getting gifts is always difficult, even for people that you know quite well. But it's especially difficult for people who come from different generations or different cultures.
In the United States, there is a system that gets round this problem. Let's say your friends are getting married or having a baby in a few months. The couple can sign up at a store that sells products that they may need or want in starting their new life together, like a new set of plates or a coffee machine.
Then relatives or friends can check that list and buy any of the items directly from the store. It's an efficient way of giving a gift and people who receive the gift will know what they're getting and they won't be disappointed.
As much as I like this system and it's a fairly common practice in the United States, I'm not sure if it's the ideal way of giving gifts. Certainly, in the case of a bridal or baby shower, practical gifts might be helpful. But the best gifts for Christmas or a birthday are those in which the giver has put a lot of thought and love and effort and time.
This is one of the reasons why you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, because, in some ways, that's a dismissal of the person who gave the gift to you. But really, when the gift carries the giver's best wishes and kindest thoughts, what are the chances of being disappointed?
Q1 Presents that Kana got from her parents during her childhood were things like:
A1) Fun gifts and lots of candy
A2) Sensible, practical gifts
A3) Silly, humorous gifts
正解： A2) Sensible, practical gifts
Q2 This proverb tells us:
A1) Make sure you check what kind of present people give you.
A2) Some horses may have healthy teeth even when they are old.
A3) Just be grateful and don't try to judge a present by its value.
正解： A3) Just be grateful and don't try to judge a present by its value.