By Karen Zhang
I remember how difficult it was in China to find a greeting card for my friends. There were holiday cards for the Chinese New Year and for occasions like weddings and birthdays in stationery shops, but no card to send to a friend just to say hi.
On the other hand, I’m thrilled and stunned by shelves of greeting cards on display in Americn shops. There are not only cards for weddings and birthdays but also for sympathy, for graduation, for job promotions, and for just saying “I like you.” Just in the category of birthdays, there are cards for grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters. There are serious ones and humorous ones, sad ones and happy ones. You name it, and there’s a card for it.
Perhaps because of the wide selection of greeting cards, Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. It’s a substantial figure, about five times the population of China.
But Chinese people don’t send many greeting cards. In China I received greeting cards only from my American friends. I was always surprised that they were able to find the right card for the right occasion—birthday, Christmas, congratulations, thank-you, Halloween, get-well. The cards always seemed exactly right.
Americans are familiar with Hallmark and American Greetings as they are two of the largest publishers of greeting cards in the world. Thanks to the Internet, today more people use electronic greeting cards than the paper ones. I still prefer writing a paper card and sending it — it seems more intimate than an electronic one.
Today an American family can customize their own greeting cards with family photos and original art. But in China this is still an expensive production and is rarely done. Perhaps this is a business opportunity for the right entrepreneur.