We have all experienced first-hand the nerves of selecting the perfect gift for your intended recipient. What will they like? Is it valuable enough? Is it not valuable enough? Is it going to be offensive?
Understanding gift-giving etiquette is essential to success, and everywhere, expectations differ substantially. Although different countries in Asia all have their own unwritten rules and regulations, many of them are consistent on certain rules.
When you have been invited to attend someone’s house, it is customary to bring with you a gift. But first, it is exploring exactly what exactly to bring.
WHEN DO YOU BUY SOMEONE A GIFT?
Gift-giving in Asia is, by all accounts, a sacred act whereby people choose to show gratitude, often for hospitable acts in a special way. When you’re invited to someone’s house, it is normal to turn up wielding a small gift to thank them for the invite, and the hospitality they provide throughout the event.
Gratitude is incredibly important for many people in Asia. When you give someone a gift, you may not always receive one in return and certainly not in that particular instance, but you will almost certainly be met by appreciation, whether that is through the form of a simple thank you, or even a small letter. At future events, you may find, especially if you are the one hosting, that the very same person may gift you with something even larger, or more valuable; a further sign of their appreciation.
Top tip: If you are gifting and individual, make sure to pull them aside and gift them alone rather than in a group setting.
WHAT SHOULD I GIFT SOMEONE?
There are no guarantees when it comes to gifting someone, but it is important to understand the setting you are gifting someone in. For example, if you are gifting a family for hosting an event, you need to consider whether the gift you choose is something that can be appreciated by all members of the family. Rather than spending too much time worrying about the cost of the gift, spend more time thinking about the sentiment behind it.
Gift ideas include, but are not limited to:
- A sentimental item from the giver’s home.
- Toys, if buying for children.
- Premium quality pens.
- An item that reflects the receiver’s interests.
- Speciality tea.
- Photographs, or artwork.
- Crafts and items from other cultures.
- Useful kitchen items.
The gifts that you should try to avoid include:
- Sharp objects
- Candy, if in a formal setting.
- Clocks, handkerchiefs and towels (commonly given during funeral events so, therefore, a reminder of negative memories).
- Umbrellas (they can be seen as a sign of ending a friendship).
With certain gifts, it is best to aim to limit when you gift them because they should only be given in certain circumstances. If, for example, you wish to gift flowers, it is best to leave it to the florist to arrange because they can advise you as to the most appropriate varieties and which colours to avoid (white and yellow is reserved for funerals, so you definitely do not want to be giving them to your receiver).
Make sure to take extra care to spruce up your gift before you give it to your receiver. Through simple touches such as applying ribbon and placing them in decorated gift wrapping/boxes, you increase the sentimental value of the gift. Colour is incredibly important in Asian culture so being conscious of the best colours to incorporate into the presentation of your gift is paramount. Red is the best colour to use because it matches all occasions, pink is also a favoured colour, gold and silver are great choices, especially for weddings. Always try to avoid blue, black or white because they’re often associated with funerals.
Numbers are also an incredibly important consideration when it comes to gift-giving in Asia. Much like the Western world, Asian countries have their own superstitions that guide the choices they make. You should always avoid unlucky numbers while considering which numbers are depicted to bring good luck. When it comes to positive interpretations, aim for even numbers and the number 8, while explicitly avoiding the number 4, 73 and 84 which represent bad luck.
- Always remain humble, even if the gift you have bought is particularly extravagant. Making it seem like it was nothing is polite.
- Don’t ask to photograph your receiver with the gift, it gives off the aura that you went above and beyond to provide the gift.
- Don’t be surprised if the receiver rejects your gift a few times, initially. This is perfectly normal, and not something to be offended by. It does not mean they are not grateful for what you have given.
- Don’t be offended if the receiver puts your gift aside to open later, rather than there and then. Gifts are often a very personal and private thing, so many Asians like to open them by themselves in a private setting.
- Do not give personal gifts in a business setting, with groups of people. Save personal gifts for one on one interactions.
- In a business setting, only give a gift after any business transaction has been complete so as not to imply influence on the business dealings.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU RECEIVE A GIFT
Etiquette when receiving gifts or quà tặng thương hiệu is equally as important as when you give, so always consider this when you are being given a gift. It is customary for you to politely decline the gift a couple of times before you accept it – but you ultimately must always accept it! When receiving a gift, be sure to take it in both hands and immediately acknowledge the standard of the presentation. It is always worth asking the giver if they would like you to open it now, or whether you can reserve it for later because their own personal customs may differ slightly to yours. And most importantly, always express gratitude!