International Gift Giving Etiquette
Countries in which a gift is expected:
Europe: Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Ukraine
Latin America: Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica
Pacific Rim: China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand
Countries in which a gift is not expected on the first visit, but would be accepted on a subsequent visit:
Europe: Portugal, Spain
Latin American: Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela
Pacific Rim: Singapore
Scandinavia: Finland, Norway
Countries in which a gift is not expected or gifts are less frequently exchanged:
Europe: England, France, Hungary and Italy
Latin American: Uruguay
Middle East: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
Cultures with detailed rituals for the ceremony of gift giving are the Japanese and Chinese. And Nomadic cultures in the Middle East have a tradition of hospitality to travelers, while Latin culture countries consider all relationships personal.
Chinese Culture: Countries in the world with a Chinese cultural influence, accept gifts with a reserved demeanor. In order to not appear greedy, a gift will not be immediately taken, but refused three times before accepting it. They will not open it, but wait until later and accept it with both hands.
Sharp objects like knives or scissors represent “a severing of a friendship or relationship” and this includes a business relationship. Also in Chinese culture symbolism is important, with colors and numbers having special meaning. Red is a lucky color. Pink and yellow represent happiness. The number 8 is the luckiest number. The colors black, white and blue and the number 4 or four of anything are negatively associated with death and funerals.
Japanese Culture: In Japan gift giving is an art form. It represents respect, gratitude and friendship. For a first business meeting, come prepared with a gift, a quality gift that is not extravagant. When offering your gift hold it in both hands and bow. Do not write out the card using red ink. It is associated with funerals. The number 4 in Japanese culture means death.
Jewish: Orthodox Jews are not allowed to eat pork or shellfish. The dietary laws are very specific regarding which foods are acceptable to eat and their processing and preparation. Because wine is used in religious ceremonies, it’s required to be kosher. If buying a gift of food or wine, it is best to shop at a kosher store.
Muslim: In the Muslim culture, the Koran forbids alcohol. Gifts of liquor or any product containing alcohol would never be selected to give. Also forbidden are products or foods from scavengers, which include pork, birds and shellfish. So a leather item made from a pig skin could not be given. A good gift is a compass. Each day Muslims must face Mecca for prayers. Gifts are presented using the right hand, or both hands and the left alone is never used to give someone a gift, as it’s considered unclean.
Hindu: In the Hindu culture the cow is sacred, plus fish and all animal products except milk or butter are shunned. Gifts are givien and accepted using the right hand or both hands and never the left alone. As it is considered unsanitary. Gifts are not opened when received.
Latin Culture: Latin cultures don’t have formal or traditional ceremonies surrounding gift giving. However, business relationships are developed as personal relationships. Gifts are a thoughtful way to make a good first impression. Black or purple paper isn’t used because it’s used during Holy Week. As in other cultures, sharp objects should never be given, since they represent severing of a relationship.
European Root Culture: Cultures without strong gift giving traditions, European cultures and countries influenced by these cultures, don’t use gifts as an integral component of a business relationship.
Patricia Desiderio, is owner and president of Patty’s Gifts and Baskets LLC, trading as Patty’s Promotions. A promotional products distributor and gift company shipping international.
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