Gift Giving Customs Around The World

The art of giving gifts is difficult at the best of times.

Firstly, there is that dreaded job of trying to find the right gift for the right price. Then there is the job of trying to wrap the gift as presentably as possible, finding the perfect time to present the gift and then, finally, hoping like mad that the recipient will actually like the gift you so painstaking bought for them.

Gift Giving Customs Around The World

As if all that wasn’t difficult enough, different countries around the world have different customs when it comes to giving gifts. What can be polite in one culture can totally unacceptable in another. It can literally be like walking through the proverbial minefield. And so, in the spirit of helpfulness, here is the I Want Those Gadgets guide to gift giving around the world.

Gift Ideas For Japanese Friends

Japan is a fascinating country full of art, tradition and culture. However, it can also have some strange customs when it comes to the task of presenting gifts. Here is our guide to Japanese gift giving etiquette:-

When giving or receiving a gift, it is polite in Japan to offer or receive the gift with both hands.

It is also customary to wait until later to open the gift when the gift-giver is not present.

In business, when making either an initial visit or sales call, it is customary to present a small gift.

The Japanese traditionally give gifts to anyone that they feel they are indebted to. This includes subordinates, superiors, colleagues and also good clients. In addition to this, gifts that are received are generally repaid with something comparable or of a slightly higher value on a suitable occasion but not necessarily right away.

For the Japanese, gifts should always be nicely wrapped. Presentation is important in the Japanese culture. For great gift wrapping ideas, read this article.

Every year on March 14, Japanese men are expected to return the value of their received gifts threefold.

Chinese Gift Giving Superstitions

The world’s most populous country is steeped in tradition and culture. This extends to the giving and receiving of gifts, which can be confusing to the western eye.

It is traditional for a person of Chinese origin to refuse a gift two or three times before accepting it. This is their way of expressing modesty and good manners and does not necessarily mean that they do not like the gift.

In China, if receiving a gift, there is the expectation that a gift will be given in return. This is something that the Chinese learn from being small children and is the epitome of the practice of giving and receiving.

Be careful of the types of gifts that you give to the Chinese. Their culture is steeped in symbolism and certain gifts that may appear to be harmless to the western mind might actually offend.

Some inappropriate gifts for Chinese include knives, scissors or letter openers as these are seen to symbolise the severance of a relationship.

Clocks are also an inappropriate gift as in many Chinese dialects, the phrase “give clock” sounds too similar to the phrase “see off into death”.

Handkerchiefs are considered inappropriate as they tend to symbolise crying and funerals.

Finally, any gifts that come as a set of four are discouraged unless they are offered as two pairs. The reason for this is that the number 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. In fact, many building in China omit not only the 13th floor but also any floors containing the number 4.

In China, birthdays aren’t traditionally celebrated before reaching the age of 60.

Money given in a red envelope is lucky and prosperous in China. Children normally tuck red envelopes under their pillow for 7 nights to bring good luck.

Egyptian Customs and Traditions

Egypt is predominately a Muslim country and, as such, many Muslims see it as a nice gesture if a foreign non-Muslim person gives them a greeting at the beginning of Ramadan.

If you are ever invited to the home of a Muslim family, do not take alcohol as a gift unless you are sure that they drink.

Ghana Gift Ideas

When presenting gifts to anyone who lives in Ghana, they should always be wrapped and presented with the right hand. The gift may or may not be opened immediately. Not opening the gift immediately does not signify that the recipient dislikes like the gift.

Gift Ideas For Russian Friends

When visiting Russia, it is advisable to avoid giving expensive gifts as they may be seen as a form of bribe.

It is inappropriate to give gifts of flowers bundled in even numbers as these are normally reserved for funerals. The same can be said for yellow flowers, lilies or carnations.

In Russia, a gift may or may not be opened in front of the giver. This does not signify a disliking of the gift.

Due to the way that Russia was governed during the Soviet era, Russians celebrate New Year with more gusto than they do at Christmas. While Vodka might seem the most suitable gift for a Russian, a lot of them would see it as an unimaginative gesture. Many might even perceive the notion as insulting.

Gift Giving In France

In France, when invited to somebody’s home, giving flowers is generally seen to be acceptable. However, avoid giving chrysanthemums, which are generally used for funerals, red roses that are normally given to lovers and very good friends or carnations, which are thought to bring bad luck.

For the French, fine chocolates and champagne are also considered appropriate gifts.

India Gift Giving Customs

In India, left hands are seen as unclean. Therefore, any gestures such as passing money or gifts should be done with the right hand.

In contradiction to a lot of other cultures, odd numbers are actually considered good luck. For example, giving £11 is preferable to giving £10.

Italy Gift Giving Etiquette

Italian children are certainly a bit spoilt. In addition to a visit from Santa, the children also have their stockings filled by a fallacious witch at the end of Epiphany on January 6.

Native American Gift Giving Etiquette

In Native America the ritual of gifting is exactly the opposite to that of any other culture. Traditionally during both weddings and powwow celebrations (birthdays aren’t always recognised), guests are actually the receivers of gifts rather than the host.

Gift Giving In South America

Similar to the Chinese culture, the majority of people from South American countries will see the offering of sharp objects as a sign that you want the relationship with them severed. So scissors and cooking knives are best avoided.

On the eve of January 6 at the end of the Christmas period, Argentinian children will customarily leave their shoes by their beds to be filled with small gifts.

Meanwhile in Brazil, seaside settlements will send gifts of flowers, fruits or jewellery out to sea to honour the Goddess of Water.

Zimbabwe Gift Giving Etiquette

In Zimbabwe, it is not uncommon to be directly asked for a gift. When a gift has been bought even without requesting it, the very worst you can do is to refuse the offering, even if the family that is giving it is starving. Also, gestures of thanks are much preferred over verbal “Thank you”. These may include jumping up and down, dancing, or even whistling.