Some people were not sure they wanted to give their supervisor a gift because the relationship was strained.Others thought that giving a gift to a person who is doing their job is not appropriate in any circumstances.It was pointed out that gift giving creates a sense of obligation and reciprocity, which can be awkward for a supervisor – especially if they have many students. Many people do not celebrate Christmas all because of their atheist stance, others routinely have their own religious holidays ignored by Australia’s Christian slant.
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Last year at this time I did a post on what to buy a Ph D student for Christmas, so I thought I’d continue the tradition this year with one on gifts for supervisors.
When I asked on Twitter what people were buying their Ph D supervisor I was surprised by the range of different responses.
Some people had no idea what to buy and expressed interest in such a post because the etiquette for this situation is so opaque.
In countries like Australia, where gift giving ‘rules’ are largely unspoken and context dependent, it can be difficult to know what advice to give.
So I thought I would just tell you about the four types of responses I got and leave it up to you to decide what to do!
Nothing I’ll admit I was surprised when some people questioned the idea of buying a present at all.
Some explained that in their culture it was not the done thing to give a gift to a teacher (make note all you students in Sweden).
Five years ago, a student gave me a little brass plate on a stand with an etched view of Hong Kong harbour.
I am no stranger to the odd bottle of wine or box of chocolates, but a little brass plate on a stand was unexpected kind of gift from a student.