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Exchanging expensive gifts with sister-in-law a burden

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company worker in my 30s. Every year on my birthday, my sister-in-law gives me a luxury bag or wallet or some other expensive present. As I feel obliged to give her an equivalent gift on her birthday, it’s become quite a burden.

I asked my husband to tell her not to do it, in such a way as not to offend her. Perhaps she just forgot after time passed, but the next year she once again gave me an expensive gift. The items are not my style, and I always end up sticking them in a closet.

When I ask her what she wants, she requests an item priced at ¥70,000 to ¥80,000. As there is not much I can do about it, I get a gift priced at ¥40,000 to ¥50,000 and hope she won’t notice.

From my viewpoint, the going price for birthday gifts for relatives should be somewhere in the ¥5,000 to ¥10,000 range. I dread the approach of her birthday every year.

This year, I will be preparing to give birth around that time. I thought I would make do with a gift priced at several thousand yen, using the excuse that I don’t have time to shop. But before I could do that, she again gave me a high-priced bag and clothes on my birthday.

I understand I should clearly tell her. But I can’t bring myself to do it, and that’s making me miserable.

S, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. S:

Exchanging birthday gifts is normally something to enjoy, but you feel it’s become a burden in this case. It’s probably because you are a reserved and compassionate person. When you first received a birthday gift from your sister-in-law, you may have said something like, “How nice, thank you,” even though you didn’t actually like it. Perhaps now she mistakenly thinks that you are pleased with the gifts that she gives you every year.

But she does not put much thought into it. While her living situation is different from yours, it appears she is not the type to put herself in your place. And being a kind person, you can’t press your husband harder to ask her to do so.

Your upcoming childbirth is your chance. Tell her clearly that you can no longer give expensive gifts as your family will have a new member. You should get your husband involved here. As he is her elder brother, it will offend her less than if it comes from you.

We all have different ideas regarding giving and receiving gifts. In my case, I love receiving hand-painted drawings from my 6-year-old nephew. It may be nice if your child, as he or she grows up, draws a picture for their aunt’s birthday every year. I think it would be a heartfelt present.

Akemi Masuda,

sports commentator

(from April 21, 2017, issue)Speech

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