A Guide to Gift Etiquette Around The World

June 11, 2018

A Guide to Gift Etiquette Around The World

Buying a gift can be a minefield, so whether you are at a meeting in Tokyo or visiting a friend in Accra, there are certain gifting guidelines you should follow to offer and receive gifts without causing offence. Here is a brief guide to gifting around the world.



In Japan, it is polite to offer or receive a gift using both hands. It is customary to wait until later when the giver is not present, to open the gift.When making an initial visit or sales call, it is common to bring a small gift. O-seibo (year end) and O-chugen (midsummer) are the main gift-giving times. Japanese give gifts to anyone they are indebted to — superiors, subordinates, colleagues, and good clients. Gifts received are repaid with something of comparable or slightly higher value on a suitable occasion, not necessarily right away.Gifts should be nicely wrapped; presentation is as important as content.


The Chinese will often refuse a gift two or three times before finally accepting it. This does not mean that they do not appreciate the gift, but it is their way of expressing modesty and good manners. If receiving a gift, there may be an expectation for a reciprocal gift or favour. This sense of reciprocity is something that most Chinese people have learned since they were children, and they are sensitive to the value of favors and gifts. It is common for Chinese people to use gifts to express their appreciation for favours they have received.

Examples of inappropriate gifts include: knives, scissors, or letter openers, which may symbolize the severance of a relationship; clocks (in many Chinese dialects, the phrase “give clock” sounds the same as “see off into death”); handkerchiefs, which are associated with crying and funerals; and items packaged in sets of four, unless it is a set of two pairs.



Gifts are sometimes given to the close relatives of important professional connections to celebrate important events in their lives, such as college graduations or weddings.
Many Muslims would find it a remarkably nice gesture, for example, if a non-Muslim foreigner sent them a greeting at the beginning of Ramadan.
Egyptians build and maintain their personal and professional networks partly by exchanging gifts, so gifts are common, especially in long-term relationships. Suppliers and vendors typically send gifts, such as calendars and items with their logos on them, to their clients.
If you are invited to the home of a Muslim family, do not bring alcohol unless you are sure that they drink.


Gifts should be wrapped and presented with the right hand. The recipient may or may not open the gift immediately.
Gifts are very important to business relationships. Many businesses show appreciation at the end of the year by giving their customers, vendors, clients, and other business associates Christmas hampers (gift baskets which have an assortment of gifts, sometimes including the company’s own products).
Multinational corporations usually have stricter restrictions about gift giving than local companies.
It is also common to give a donation for a funeral when a colleague or colleague’s family member dies.


The value of gifts varies depending on the relationship and the context. It is advisable to avoid giving expensive gifts that may be perceived as bribes. In general, gifts are given at the end of a transaction or meeting. This also helps reduce any misperception of wrongdoing.
It is inappropriate to gift flowers bundled in even numbers; yellow flowers, lilies or carnations which are associated with funerals.
Gifts may not always be opened in front of the giver, and some Russians may initially refuse the offer of a gift. It is best to downplay the gift when presenting it. If bringing a gift to a Russian colleague’s home, for example, most Russians say that it is just a little something for the house, the spouse, or the children. If the gift is refused, either in a business or household context, the giver generally places it on the table before leaving and says something that minimizes the gesture.


It is important to pay attention to any corporate or government-based restrictions around giving or accepting gifts. For example, US government officials often have strict limits and restrictions on whether and what types of gifts they can receive.

In general, Americans do not always bring gifts to customers when meeting for the first time or as a thank-you for doing business together. However they may give gifts to colleagues and customers during the holiday season in December. It is common for bosses to give gifts to employers

When a gift is given to an American, the giver might not receive one in return.  Americans often open the gift right away, in front of the giver, so that they can see what it is and express thanks for the item.


Good taste is imperative when giving gifts in France; timing is also important. In general, the French avoid giving gifts at the first business meeting.
When invited to someone’s home, most French bring a gift and present it before the meal or party.
Good gifts reflect an appreciation of knowledge and the arts, such as books and music. Gifts should not insult the intelligence of French associates. For example, a biography may be a better choice than a more simplistic book.
Giving gifts featuring a company’s logo can be considered in poor taste.
When invited to someone’s home, flowers are generally appropriate, but avoid chrysanthemums (used for funerals), red roses (exchanged between lovers and very good friends), and carnations (thought to bring bad luck). Fine chocolates or champagne are also appropriate gifts.