"My Chinese friend didn’t even look at the present I gave her."
It’s considered as impolite to open a present immediately or in front of the gift-giver. Why?
There are a few possible explanations; firstly, Chinese people don’t want to appear greedy (even if we are); secondly, we don’t want to make the present-giver lose his/her face if the present is lousy or if we don’t like it; thirdly, it can indicate that I appreciate the relationship, not the present and I am grateful whatever you give me; finally, it may be a secret between you and me and I don’t want to make it public!
Do Chinese eventually look at what you give? Of course! we will look behind you. We do appreciate this friendliness as much as everyone else does although we may express a bit differently from others. We are grateful and will remember by heart. It just takes a bit longer time for you to notice.
Traditionally, the Chinese should decline a present a few times before accepting it. They may also truly decline it if they think the relationship is not that close or the situation is not appropriate.
The ritual of offering a gift thus may become very tiring because of all the declining and insisting. So some people may choose not to mention it at all if they are visitors and simply leave the present at a corner. Be rest-assured! The host will find out soon and may either call to say thank-you or give something back to express their appreciation.