D left on Saturday to go to Nepal for a few weeks, and N’s mother (Aunty) has been visiting and thinking about gifts to bring home, so recently shopping trips have been on the rise. Such as two weekends ago when the six of us (Aunty, N, AS, P, me and D) decided to go to an outlet mall near by.
As we rummaged through some shops AS, N and Aunty were telling me that they have to be careful what gifts they buy because people back home are very conscious about where products are made.
In the US a lot of our products are made in China. Most Americans are used to that, we don’t really think a lot about our manufactured goods. Factory made products are so ubiquitous that I really appreciate unique handmade, handcrafted products, and love to bring handicrafts back from my travels.
In Nepal (and many other parts of the developing world) labor is cheap, and handmade products are everywhere. People are more interested in manufactured goods, but they pay attention to the label. If you bring a manufactured good from the US, they want to see something “Made in the USA” or at least from a country far away like Nicaragua.
Bringing products back from the US with “Made in China,” “Made in India,” or “Made in Bangladesh” doesn’t seem to make sense, since these countries are close by, and many of the products in Nepal are also made in these countries. I never really thought about that before.
N’s mother told me a story while at the mall. She was in the US for a conference in 1989 and had a Sri Lankan roommate. The two women went shopping for their kids back in their respective countries, and her Sri Lankan roommate found a cute frilly white dress to bring back for her daughter. She asked N’s mother to hold on to it while she went to search for the cash registers, and while she was gone N’s mother checked the tag. The dress was “Made in Sri Lanka.” When her friend came back N’s mother showed her the tag. “I’m so glad you told me! Imagine if I brought a gift to my daughter from America and it was made in our home country!”
Granted—often times products available in the US are of a different quality than the products available in other countries, even if they were made in the same place. For example, in Kenya, which is a big tea producing country, locals are not able to buy the best quality tea grown by their own countrymen because everything above a certain quality is exported. However I understand the disappointment of getting a gift “from the West” only to find out it was actually “Made in China” when your country borders China.
Food for thought the next time I buy a gift to send to Nepal!