Giving Gifts at International Level

Giving Gifts at International Level When I happened to be in Denmark for a few weeks, a Danish acquaintance of mine invited me to dinner in her Copenhagen home. I bought a beautiful bouquet of chrysanthemums and went to my friend’s home. I offered the flowers to the host to express my goodwill but I noticed uneasiness on the faces of all guests. I couldn’t figure out why and also forgot about it in a short while as I enjoyed the evening. Only months later I came to know that Chrysanthemums are not the best flowers to be taken for a party. They are used in situations of mourning. Only then I realized that I have taken flowers that should have ended up in a cemetery, not a party. Such pitfalls are inevitable in giving gifts internationally.

In case you notice that your friendships with overseas friends lose their warmth at once it is possible that the gifts you give are really gaffes. Probably, you are unaware that, for example:

• Germans think that red roses are only for lovers. You must never give them to friends.

• In most of the Arab countries it is unethical to take a gift for the wife of the host.

• Both in India and in Latin American countries, you cannot give hand-kerchiefs or knives as gifts as people in these countries think hand-kerchiefs are associated with tears and knives with severance.

• In Japan a surprise gift is resented as the receiver is unable to reciprocate immediately.

• You cannot gift a clock in China as Chinese think that they are instruments associated with funerals.

• You can’t gift perfumes to business associates in France as French think they are gifts that are too intimate. Besides, remember that Paris is the best known place for perfumes.

• It is not a good idea to give lavish gifts in England as Englishmen are not in favor of lavish gifts.

• In the US you can afford to give almost anything but take care not to offend the recipient’s religious beliefs or his personal taste. Even in such an instance, Americans will tolerate it with humor. In case you plan for an overseas trip you might wonder what to take as gifts to your business associates, friends and hosts. Could there be any publications that provide guidelines to follow in international gift giving?

A report compiled after Parker Pen study lists gifts people feel comfortable with giving as well as receiving. Unique items dominate the list that also includes home decor, office decorations, instruments used in writing, liquor, clothing, magazine subscriptions and books. Next comes Jewelry, computerized and electrical toys, games and sports equipment. Recommendation of US State Department for Protocol is to consult a local resident or the nearest US consulate for advice on choosing gifts.

The Corporate ClincherMany years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that he has a habit of not looking so much on the nature of a gift as much as he does on the spirit on which it is being given and his thinking is relevant for present day gift giving as well. A gift given with affection outweighs a gift given as an obligation. Give gifts sincerely and simply. Don’t make it a contest or an occasion. You may feel more blessed when giving than when receiving but to accept a gift in a gracious manner is certainly an art. Leave room for your friends’ generosity and reciprocate. However, there are limits there. For instance, if you appreciate a possession of an Arab, he might make you a gift out of it. An accomplished traveler always remembers that it is the thought that counts at the end. A gift given with forethought will address the tastes of the recipient rather than your desires. George Bernard Show clearly summed it up when he said that you must not do for others what you do for yourself. Their tastes may differ.

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11 Responses to “Giving Gifts at International Level”

Did anyone ever tell you to keep your comments to yourself? That wasn't me! I LOVE to hear from you. Thank you so much for visiting!

  • Gina:

    Interesting post!!! Thank you for share it.

  • Helen H.:

    in some countries people do not feel comfortable accepting gifts because they do not like being obligated.

    • Stuart:

      yeeeahhh, sometimes a gift could be considered a bribe

  • Lee:

    I know that in Japan usually give expensive gifts and at the end of your visit.

    • Julia Montenios:

      also, they present and receive gifts with both hands :) their etiquette

  • Wanda Till:

    Avoid giving anyone combs or anything in sets of 4. The word “four” in Japanese is “shi,” which is associated with the word for death. Also, white colored wrapping paper symbolizes death.

    • Jason Nadeu:

      Ooohh, I know since I have a few business partners there… but in China white, blue or black are associated with funerals

  • maggie:

    Business gifts should be given at midyear (July) and at year-end.

    • Curran:


      • maggie:

        Sorry, did not specify. it’s Japan. gifts are exchanged among colleagues on July 15 and January 1 to commemorate midyear and the year’s end respectively.

  • Jessie:

    In Japan symbolism is important. A gift with sets of four or nine items are unlucky.

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