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I left my former employer some time ago. The departure was on good terms, and they clearly liked me on both a personal and professional level because 1) they asked me to freelance for them (which I'm doing), and 2) I received a lot of heartfelt & personal farewells when I left.

I'm now based in a different country but visit the original office semi-regularly (~ twice a year). The past several times, my former colleagues were all very happy to see me and bought me gifts.

How can I get them to stop doing so? They're not expensive gifts - just chocolates and the like - but I view them as luxuries and am loath to use the Earth's finite resources thus. Certainly I never buy these items for myself. Besides, now it feels like a vicious cycle where I feel like I should buy them gifts too, and then we're all consuming when we don't need to. Declining is also awkward because the gifts are perishable and have already been bought.

I get that they undoubtedly mean well, but at this point, I actively do not want to receive gifts. How can I get them to stop buying me gifts?

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    I think the country matters. If it's Japan, for instance, the gift-giving may be usual and difficult to stop.
    – mkennedy
    Dec 24, 2019 at 21:16
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    @JoeStrazzere Earth's finite resources is just the first level though - even if Earth's finite resources can handle an occasional gift, I still don't want to consume chocolates, because they're unhealthy.
    – Allure
    Dec 24, 2019 at 21:17
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    @mkennedy I tagged with the country. The original office is in Singapore, but I'm no longer based there.
    – Allure
    Dec 24, 2019 at 21:20
  • @StephanBranczyk there's what's necessary and what isn't. Eating meals consumes Earth's resources, but I'm not going to starve myself to death. Surprise visits ... are they viewed as impolite? The visits are not entirely for personal reasons, there are also business issues to discuss (to do with the freelancing).
    – Allure
    Dec 25, 2019 at 12:17
  • @Allure, Forget surprise visits. I didn't know this was work-related. Dec 25, 2019 at 16:17

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Maybe you can step in with an alternative prior to arriving at the office? The giving of gifts to guests/visitors is very culturally related, so you may not manage to get certain cultures on board.

But with some folks you may be able to say something like - "I think you guys are great, but what I really cherish is having the time to catch up with you - I really don't need these gifts. What I'd love more is..." and then name an alternate form of hospitality that makes you more comfortable. For example, maybe propose that you all do something together (share an evening meal?) and then if they really feel like they must pay for something, they can argue with you over who pays for the meal.

If that fails - then maybe claim a chocolate allergy, and recommend instead something that strikes you as more sustainable/useable or something you could donate to someone in need before you leave town.

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