You might think that giving someone a gift is a kind gesture, and is a good way to show extra appreciation of their hospitality and/or service.
In the UK, gift-giving is certainly aligned with these positive values, though it is still not a commonplace part of business etiquette.
Other countries, however, take different stances on giving business gifts. In Italy, for example, gift-giving may be deemed inappropriate unless a friendship has been formed; in France, buying dinner is usually preferable to gifts; and in the Netherlands, gifts can be negatively associated with obligation.
Saying this, there are many countries where gift-giving is an expected part of the business process – though it is essential to understand each country’s customs so as not to cause offence by giving the wrong type of gift, or presenting it in an incorrect manner.
Understanding the customs of the country you are visiting is just as important as investing in language training. Here are five countries for you to note that gift-giving is commonplace in business etiquette, in case you are planning to conduct business there in the near future.
In Sweden, gifts are often given when closing a deal, but rarely upon first meeting.
It is polite to wait for your host to give you a gift first.
Gifts to avoid are white lilies or chrysanthemums (as they are associated with funerals), red roses or orchids (as these signify romance), and items that are readily available in Swedish shops.
Gift-giving in China is a traditional way to show respect, gratitude and kindness, and is typically reciprocated.
The meaning behind the gift is generally more important than the gift itself, and gifts from the visitor’s home country are always well received.
While alcohol and tobacco products are popular, clocks, pears and umbrellas should be avoided, as they are associated with death or the breaking up of relationships.
Giving a gift in Japan is all about modesty. Gifts should be wrapped (avoiding ribbons or bright paper) and discreetly hidden in a bag.
They should be given in private, at the end of a visit.
Gifts should be presented and received with both hands, with the phrase ‘tsumaranai mon’ (‘a dull or uninteresting thing’).
It is polite to refuse a gift twice before accepting.
It is polite to bring a small, inexpensive gift from your home country when attending a business meeting in Romania.
Gifts are opened immediately.
Businessmen are also often invited to a colleague’s home, where bringing a gift of chocolates or wine is customary.
High-quality gifts such as chocolates, exotic fruits, coffee, tea and flowers are exchanged in Russia.
It is considered an insult to give vodka.
Gifts should not be wrapped and must be presented with bare hands.
The host will likely refuse the gift before accepting it.
If you are doing international business, easing business communication can be down to getting to grips with the business etiquette of the country as much as the language itself. That’s why SIMON & SIMON offers robust cultural training services alongside our language training – to teach the kinds of subtleties that we have highlighted in this article.