When choosing a specific gift, it’s important to consider cultural differences in your target audience.
 
A gift that is highly suitable to one culture, may unintentionally cause offence to another group.
 
Understanding gift giving and the etiquette surrounding it will greatly improve your relationships with colleagues, clients or customers of other cultures.
 
A few helpful hints are listed in the tables below

China
  • It is the proper etiquette for gifts to be exchanged for celebrations, as thanks for assistance and even as a sweetener for future favors.
  • It is however important not to give gifts in the absence of a good reason or a witness.
  • When the Chinese want to buy gifts it is not uncommon for them to ask what you would like.
  • It would be wise to demonstrate an appreciation of Chinese culture by asking for items such as ink paintings or tea.
  • Business gifts are always reciprocated. Not to do so is bad etiquette.
  • When giving gifts do not give cash.
  • Do not be too frugal with your choice of gift otherwise you will be seen as an ‘iron rooster’, i.e. Getting a good gift out of you is like getting a feather out of an iron rooster.
  • Depending on the item, avoid giving one of something. Chinese philosophy stresses harmony and balance, so give in pairs.
Europe
  • Avoid giving red carnations, chrysanthemums, calla lilies, white asters and dahlias
  • Avoid giving wine in France.
India
  • Avoid frangipani flowers.
  • Give an uneven amount of cash, i.e. $11 not $10.
  • Choose bright colours.
  • For observant Hindus avoid giving food, cattle or leather products.
Japan
  • Gift-giving is a central part of Japanese business etiquette.
  • Bring a range of gifts for your trip so if you are presented with a gift you will be able to reciprocate.
  • The emphasis in Japanese business culture is on the act of gift-giving not the gift itself.
  • Expensive gifts are common.
  • The best time to present a gift is at the end of your visit.
  • A gift for an individual should be given in private.
  • If you are presenting a gift to a group of people have them all present.
  • The correct etiquette is to present/receive gifts with both hands.
  • Before accepting a gift it is polite to refuse at least once or twice before accepting.
  • Giving four or nine of anything is considered unlucky. Give in pairs if possible.
Malaysia
  • Pay special attention to the Muslim culture. Avoid pork, knives, alcohol, and highly personal gifts.
  • Present gifts with the right hand only.
  • In Indian sections of Malaysia, avoid black and white colors. Instead, opt for yellow, red or green which symbolize happiness.
Middle Eastern Countries
  • Gift giving is important in the Arab culture, with generosity and politeness being very significant aspects in gift giving. Arabs will normally be the first to present a gift. Whenever possible, reciprocate with gifts of similar quality and value.
  • Be sure to avoid alcohol and leather products made of pigskin, which are offensive to Muslims. Also avoid giving gifts to the wife of an Arab colleague, and never inquire about her.
  • Ideas of gifts to present to your colleagues in the Middle East include the highest quality of leather (not pigskin), silver, precious stones, cashmere, crystal or porcelain.
Saudi Arabia
  • Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends.
  • Gifts should be of the highest quality.
  • Never buy gold or silk as a present for men.
  • Silver is acceptable.
  • Always give/receive gifts with the right hand.
  • Saudis enjoy wearing scent – ‘itr’. The most popular is ‘oud’ which can cost as much as £1000 an ounce.
  • It is not bad etiquette to open gifts when received.
Singapore
  • Gifts to a Government employee are seen as bribery.
  • Open a gift only after your departure.
  • Present a large gift to the entire group, or a small gift to everyone.
  • South America
  • Flowers are not considered a good gift, but if you do give them, choose only white.
South Korea
  • Gift giving is very common in Korea. Offer and receive a gift with both hands. Wrapped gifts are never opened in the presence of the giver.
  • Reciprocate with a gift of similar value when receiving a gift from your Korean colleague. Koreans like regional United States gifts and Indian/Western artefacts.
  • Wrap your gift nicely. Bright colours are preferred for wrapping gifts. Yellow and red or green stripes are a traditional Korean wrapping paper design. Avoid wrapping gifts in dark colours or red.
  • Always bring a small gift for the hostess when invited to someone’s home. Give: small gift, candy, cakes, cookies, flowers, fruit. Do not give liquor to a woman.
  • It is common to exchange gifts at the first business meeting. Allow the host to present his gift first.
  • Give: liquor (good quality scotch), fruit, desk accessories, small mementos, gifts from France or Italy (which often indicate status).
  • Do not give: expensive gifts (Koreans will feel obligated to reciprocate with a gift of equal value), knives or scissors (they signify “cutting off” a relationship), green headwear, gifts with red writing (denotes death) or gifts in a set of four (denotes death).
Thailand
  • If invited to a Thai’s home, a gift is not expected, although it will be appreciated.
  • Gifts should be wrapped attractively, since appearance matters. Bows and ribbons add to the sense of festivity.
  • Appropriate gifts are flowers, good quality chocolates or fruit.
  • Do not give marigolds or carnations, as they are associated with funerals.
  • Try to avoid wrapping a gift in green, black or blue as these are used at funerals and in mourning.
  • Gold and yellow are considered royal colours, so they make good wrapping paper.
  • Only use red wrapping paper if giving a gift to a Chinese Thai.
  • Gifts are not opened when received.
  • Money is the usual gift for weddings and ordination parties.
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