The Dos and Don’ts of Gift-Giving Around the World
With the holiday season upon us, giving gifts is top of mind for many of us these days. But whether you are celebrating Christmas, New Year or any other seasonal holiday, in many cultures, exchanging gifts for loved ones, friends or acquaintances is a tradition throughout the year.
While there is almost no one does not enjoy receiving a gift, finding the right present can be tricky, especially when the friend, colleague or boss comes from another part of the world. So we want to share a quick guide to giving gifts around the world with you.
You should expect to be rejected once, twice, or even three times when giving a gift in many East Asian countries. This is done to avoid seeming greedy or impatient. You are well-advised to do the same when you are offered a gift in one of these places if you want to be polite. Also, you're expected to thank them when the person finally accepts the gift.
How you handle your gifts in Asia and the Middle East is very significant. The left hand is considered unclean in India and the Middle East, so use your right hand to give and receive gifts (unless the gifts are so heavy, then use your two hands). But, always give or accept a gift in East Asia (China, Thailand, Vietnam) with both hands, palms up.
After receiving a gift and as a thank-you for the hospitality, gifts are given to show gratitude throughout Asia. In Russia, thank-you cards are considered as impractical; instead, send your hosts a small gift after dinner or overnight stay.
Scissors, knives, and basically anything pointy or sharp, represent the severing of ties and relationships in more countries than you might imagine — a decision that you would actually prefer to avoid when you have the time of buying and wrapping a gift.
Don't give an umbrella to someone in China — it means you want to end the relationship. Always avoid giving a green hat in China and Hong Kong; they convey an unfriendly message that your wife is cheating or that your sister is a prostitute. Straw sandals, handkerchiefs, and clocks are also taboo in these two cultures because of their association with mortality. For the same reason, skip brooches and handkerchiefs in Italy. Forget to hand over a potted plant as a hostess gift in Japan — it's thought to encourage illness.
When you’re gifting multiples of flowers, money, or chocolates, be sure to steer clear of unlucky numbers at all times. Because only even numbers are lucky in East Asia. Except the number four, which in many Asian languages has the unfortunate luck of sounding like the word for death. On the other hand, odd numbers are the choice of local people in Europe and India, with the unsurprising exception of 13.
Experts from all over the world agree that gifts should always be wrapped up. That being said, the symbolism of colors varies from country to country. Avoid white, black, and blue gift wrap throughout Asia as they are associated with mourning. And while the yellow paper in India is considered cheerful and suitable for celebratory gifts, in China if it is covered in black writing used solely for gifts to the dead.
Due to their association with death and religious ceremonies, black and purple are abandoned in South America, and in Italy purple is simply considered unlucky. Color, folds, and ribbons are not just an important element of presentation — they are symbolic in many cultures, and the wrong wrapping could send the wrong message.
In these countries, it is considered embarrassing to receive a gift from anyone other than the closest of friends. When you happen to have a best buddy from this part of the world, prepare to have any gift you give thoroughly examined — it's a sign of appreciation and respect for the gift and giver, who is supposed to carefully select the best quality possible. Don't give men something made of silk or gold.
After all, every gift is a wish for happiness. No matter what the occasion, show your gesture of generosity and express your happiness to celebrate it with family, friends or your loved ones through our exclusive gift box or hamper selections filled with handcrafted cookies, travel cakes, and chocolates designed to please any connoisseur.