​5 Unique Gift Giving Cultures

15th Nov 2016

All around the world, not only will you find different ways to give gifts, but you’ll also find different definitions of proper gifting etiquette. The great thing is, however, that no matter where you are, gift giving is a universal phenomenon!

Let’s start with 5 countries we love to visit to see how they are unique in their gift giving traditions.

When giving gifts in China, the norm is to provide a gift that can be shared with one’s entire family.

Since China is one of the biggest producers of goods in the world, they are even more excited to receive something that is either homemade or from another country they don’t have easy access to. Doing so shows the thought you’ve put into the gift and that time is extremely appreciated by the receiver.

When thinking about the right gift, it’s important to remember the following:

  • It’s considered bad luck if you give 4 or 9 of something.
  • Don’t give a clock as a gift as it symbolizes ill intent.

Once you have the gift chosen, it’s equally important to choose the proper wrapping, as it is very symbolic in China.

For instance, if you are giving a thank you gift, it’s tradition to wrap your gift in a bright red ribbon.

Perhaps you are giving a gift for a celebration, such as a wedding. In this scenario, it’s respectful to provide the gift wrapped in a silver and gold ribbon.  

Most importantly – and you don’t want to get this one wrong – only use black or white ribbon for funeral gifts/offerings. 

 Also, in China, it’s considered rude to be enthusiastic when receiving a gift. Therefore, don’t be upset if the recipient declines the gift at least three times before accepting. It’s considered customary to decline a gift, even if they are extremely excited to receive it (traditionally, they won’t not show it).

Proper gift giving etiquette is extremely important in France, particularly when you are invited to someone’s house. This shows the host that you are honored to be invited into their home, and to share a meal amongst their family. 

Unlike the Chinese tradition, the gift doesn’t need to be shared with the whole family. It’s customary to thank the one who hosted, so a gift for the host(ess) is sufficient.

Gifting ideas can include:

  • Flowers
  • Candy
  • Liquor

It’s even more accepted if the gift is rare or not readily available.  

The norm is to open the gift once it is received and to show gratitude for the gift.  

In France, they believe gifts should be given in odd numbers as it is considered lucky, EXCEPT, however, when it comes to bouquets. Bouquets of 13 should be avoided. Still thinking of getting flowers? Here’s a little tip when choosing the colors:

  • Avoid white chrysanthemums or lilies, unless it’s for a funeral.
  • Other types of white flowers are used for weddings.
  • Yellow flowers symbolize infidelity and should be avoided.
  • Red carnations symbolize bad will and should also be avoided.

Any other color should be just fine!  

Maybe not so sure now about giving flowers, and possibly asking yourself “why not wine”? Doesn’t everyone love wine? While this may be true, it’s not customary to bring wine to a dinner party because the host(ess) is usually expected to make the wine selection that will partner perfectly with the food they are planning to serve.  

Still thinking about bringing wine? Just make sure it’s the highest quality you can afford, as they will store it in the wine cellar for later use.

Similar to France, it’s proper gift etiquette to give a gift to the host(ess) when invited into their home, but make sure you give it with your right hand ! In India, the left hand is considered unclean.

All gifts given to an Indian family will be graciously received – even if they aren’t interested in using it. 

One thing to keep in mind, Hinduism is a common religion in India. In Hinduism, it is not acceptable to drink alcohol or eat beef because the cow is considered sacred. This includes items made from a cow, such as those gifts made from leather. 

Since western items aren’t so readily available in India, they are always greatly appreciated. Items such as chocolate, disposable razors, perfumes, toiletries, and household items such as plastic containers, are great welcoming gifts.

Don’t be disappointed if the recipient doesn’t open the gift right away, however, as it is usually not opened in front of the gift-giver.  Similar to France, if you are looking to give money, give an odd number value. This is also considered to be ‘ good luck’

Lastly, once you have chosen the proper gift, ensure you wrap it in bright colours such as green, red and yellow. 

Gifts that are wrapped in white or black are considered UNLUCKY!

We all know how much Italians love their food, especially when it is homemade! Italians consider a gift such as this a labor of love, and will welcome it with open arms (and bellies). 

Food is a popular gift because it can be shared amongst the whole family. It’s very important to consider a small gift for the children as well as the host(ess). 

Other great ideas for gifts are wine, chocolates, and pastries. Gifts should always be wrapped and are also commonly opened at the time they are received. 

When gift wrapping, certain colors should be avoided such as black, since it’s considered the color of mourning, or purple, because it is considered to resemble bad luck or death.

DON’T give flowers – they see the necessity of flowers to decorate funerals. If you do have a funeral to attend, keep this in mind:

  • Red flowers symbolize secrecy. 
  • Yellow flowers symbolize jealousy. 
  • Chrysanthemums are symbols of mourning. 
  • Never give an uneven number of flowers. In particular, the number 17 isconsidered unlucky.

Other gifts that should be avoided are brooches, handkerchiefs, or knives as they are associated with sadness.

Brits love, and quite frankly, expect gifts from close friends when they return from holiday. 

Great gift ideas include wine, flowers, and chocolates. When bringing a gift to a host(ess), don’t be offended if they do not drink your bottle of wine, however, as they may have already chosen one and chilled it for the meal they are about to serve.  

There is something that you can bring that is even better than wine. CHAMPAGNE! Champagne can be quickly added to the fridge and opened for an after-dinner toast to thank the host(ess). 

Spirits, on the other hand, are a matter of personal taste and therefore may not be the best choice for a gift. 

It’s also customary that if you have been a guest in someone’s home, it’s considered kind to send a handwritten thank you note.

In the British business culture, it is NOT customary to exchange gifts. 

Colleagues are likely to feel more embarrassed when receiving a gift. 

If you are looking to show appreciation, it’s best to bring your colleagues out for a drink or a meal after work. Saying thank you by offering tickets to the opera or theater is also greatly appreciated.

As you can see, there are many similar traditions all around the world. And, no matter where you are, everyone enjoys the satisfaction of either giving a special gift, or being the recipient of one. So, JUST KEEP GIVING!

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