If you are invited to a wedding, baby shower, bar mitzvah, or other celebration, it is expected that you will bring a gift. Unless you know the host very well, the gift should be modest in value, about $25.
For a wedding, the bride will have "registered" at one or two local department stores, indicating the items and styling she prefers. You can buy the couple a gift that isn't listed, but most people buy something listed on the registry. If you buy an item listed on the registry, be sure to tell the store that you are doing this, so that the couple doesn't receive duplicate gifts. For a baby shower, bring a gift appropriate for a newborn baby. For a bar mitzvah, bring a gift appropriate for a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah gifts tend to be more formal in nature. For example, a gold-plated Cross pen is quite common. Personalizing the pen by engraving the recipient's full name will be appreciated.
If you wish to give a gift when you leave to return to your home country, the best gift is something that is unique to your country. It does not need to be especially valuable or rare, just reminiscent of your home. Possibilities include a book about your country, an inexpensive handicraft or piece of art, or something else that reflects your culture. If the children collect coins and stamps, they would be very pleased with a set of your country's coins or a selection of mint stamps from your country. Items that are common in your country but difficult to find in the United States are also good.
If you owe a debt of deep gratitude to an American host family, a common way of repaying it is to take the family to a form of entertainment, such as a baseball, basketball, or hockey game, the ballet, or to a good restaurant.
When giving gifts to a business acquaintance, do not give anything of a personal nature, especially to a woman. Do not give cosmetics. A scarf is ok, but other types of clothing are not. Something appropriate for the office is best. But gift giving is not as important in America as it is in other countries, so there is nothing wrong with not giving a gift.
If you need help selecting a gift, talk to a salesperson at a department store. Tell them about the person who will be receiving the gift and the reason for the gift, and they will help you find something appropriate and within your budget.
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