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In China, gift giving is something that is done in reciprocity. For example, if you give someone in China a gift, they will give you a gift in return when the time is right. It is a way to build and maintain friendships. In most countries, gift giving is a practice to do that, but the universal idea in China of providing a gift to the person that gave you one is unique. There is also some additional information you need to know before giving a gift in China.
Read more in our gift giving etiquette series:
Chinese Gift Giving Customs
- It is customary for the person receiving the gift to give a gift to the giver when the time is right, as mentioned above. The same is expected of you, to the person who gave you a gift.
- When you are invited into their home, bring a gift to the host or hostess. They will often decline the gift a few times before accepting it.
- Make sure your gift is wrapped and not in the shop bag that you bought it in. It is ideal to wrap it in red wrapping paper.
- Give and accept gifts with both hands while giving good wishes to the other person.
- Gifts are not to be opened in front of the person who gave the gift.
Giving Gifts to Chinese Hosts
- Some choices that make good gifts are a gift from your country, local wine and cigars, kitchen gadgets (except for knives or other sharp objects), fruit or flower tea, overseas coffee, vitamins or health supplements, and fruit baskets.
- Think about the financial status of your host or the person you are giving a gift to before you buy the gift. You want to try to match the price to what they can afford, so they don’t feel embarrassed or that you are holding back.
Business Gift Giving Customs & Etiquette in China
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- Gifts are given when having formal meetings with government officials, clients, and potential business associates.
- It is common to give gifts to close business associates when they get married, have a child, or buy a new house.
- Any business negotiations that are going on should be finished before gifts are exchanged and make sure the gift is given to the negotiation team leader.
- People in a business who are of equal order should be given gifts of the same type and value. If not, it could be misunderstood.
- If the gift is from the company you are representing, make sure you state that and explain why you are giving the gift.
Gift Giving Occasions in China
- Chinese New Year
- New child
- Welcome home
Tips for Giving Great Gifts
- Red is a happy and lucky color. Gold and silver are colors for weddings.
- The numbers 8 and 6 are lucky numbers.
- Greeting cards are not as common in China, so it’s okay to give gifts without greeting cards.
Gift Giving Don’ts in China
- Avoid black and white, as those colors are for funerals.
- Sharp objects such as knives shouldn’t be given, because they mean that you are ending the friendship or relationship. Likewise, handkerchiefs mean saying goodbye forever.
- Avoid gifts with the number 4, as it sounds like death. Also, avoid 73, 84, and 250 numbers.
- Cut flowers are for funerals, so avoid giving them as a gift
It’s important to keep in mind that this is just a general guide to gift giving etiquette in China. Gifting customs differ between regions and individuals, just like in any other country.