Success Tips by Kimberley
Meeting Gifts - Part II
from the gift giving overview in Part I last month, today's
article will give you more details regarding cultural and
surrounding gifts, some of the reasoning behind the symbolism,
and most important, helping you make the right decisions
when it comes to business gift giving.
with detailed rituals for the ceremony of gift giving are
the Japanese and the Chinese. And Nomadic cultures
in the Middle East have a tradition of hospitality to travelers,
while Latin cultures consider all relationships as personal.
country with a population from these cultural backgrounds
will exchange gifts as a normal part of building relationships
are a symbolic way to show appreciation and further relationships
and in European cultures they are given, but
not as frequently. And there isn’t the detailed protocol
for presenting a gift, except avoiding colors or flowers traditionally
used for funerals, or romance. Australia, Canada, New Zealand,
United Kingdom, United States, and Europe fall into this category.
today’s world, with global companies,
as well as countries populated and influenced by different
and cultures, it’s important to develop good
business relationships by taking the time to learn more about
the person you’re
doing business with. This knowledge will give you insight
into choosing more meaningful gifts, that the recipient will
know was specifically selected for him or her, and be more
The following details on different cultures and religions are
guidelines to follow when selecting and giving gifts.
Countries in the world with a Chinese cultural influence, a
collectivist attitude, accept gifts with a reserved demeanor.
In order not to appear greedy, a gift will not be immediately
taken, but refused three times before finally being accepted.
Each time it’s refused, you as the giver must graciously
continue to offer the gift. And once it’s taken, tell
the person you’re happy it’s been accepted.
gift is offered using both hands and must be gift-wrapped;
it won’t be opened it front of you. It will be
set aside and opened later. This tradition eliminates any concern
that the recipient’s face might show any disappointment
with the gift.
you’re presented a gift, follow the same process
of refusing it three times then accept it with both hands.
You’ll also not open it, but wait until later.
In China, official business policy considers gifts as bribes,
which are illegal. Though the policy is softening, there may
be times when a gift you offer will absolutely not be accepted.
Should you find yourself in this situation, graciously say
you understand and withdraw it. Waiting until negotiations
have concluded will eliminate the appearance of bribery when
a gift is presented.
good guideline if there’s a concern is to offer a
gift, saying you’re giving it on behalf of your company.
It’s important to always honor the most senior person,
so he will be the individual you actually present with the
gift, stating you want him to accept it on behalf of his company.
This gesture, company to company, will usually circumvent any
problem regarding undue influence. If you have several gifts
to present, never give the same item to people of different
rank or stature. The more senior the person, the more expensive
one person is not singled out to receive a special gift,
especially in front of a group. If you’ve established
a good working relationship with someone and want to give a
gift, arrange a time when the two of you are alone to present
it. Then when you do give it, be sure to say it’s being
offered as a gesture of your friendship, not business.
gift’s value should be commensurate with the level
of the business dealings. This applies both to an individual’s
gift and a corporate gift. There are times when an expensive
gift fits the occasion and circumstance, but an overly extravagant
one could create complications or embarrassment, as the recipient
may not be able to reciprocate.
In Chinese culture symbolism
is important, with colors and numbers having special meaning.
For instance, at Chinese New Year, Money may be given
in a red envelope; it must be even amount, using an even number
of new bills.
Red is a lucky color; pink and yellow represent happiness;
and the number 8 is the luckiest number. The colors black,
white and blue and the #4, or four of anything, are negatively
associated with death or funerals. Also included in this category
are clocks, handkerchiefs, and straw sandals.
objects like knives or scissors represent a ‘severing
of a friendship or relationship’- including a business
want to inadvertently select a gift that has a negative or
unlucky association. And because of the symbolism,
it can happen. For instance, a fine writing pen would be a
good gift, unless it has red ink.
in your business relationships, you may want to make your
selections from a local store where you’ll
be given the proper information and direction. At least it’s
wise to have items gift wrapped once you’ve arrived in
the country, to eliminate incorrect choices for colors and
types of paper.
Japan gift giving is an art form, representing friendship,
respect, and gratitude. The ceremony is important; the gift
is always in a gift box, or beautifully wrapped in quality
paper, and given with great respect. Because the symbolism
is what’s important, frequently the actual gift may
be very modest.
There’s an expectation a gift will be offered at the
first meeting, and gifts will continue to be part of your business
dealings. Come prepared to that first meeting with a beautifully
wrapped, quality gift that’s not extravagant. It’s
a gesture that you’re looking forward to a long lasting
custom is to reciprocate with a gift that’s half
the value of a gift received. If your gift is too expensive,
it could create an awkward situation, even at half the value.
Don’t be surprised however, especially if you’re
a high level executive, to receive a lavish gift. The Japanese
executive will consider your status and the business relationship
when selecting your gift. As I said, it’s an art form.
you have a gift to present, don’t pop up at the end
of the meeting with it. You don’t want to surprise your
Japanese associate. The proper procedure is to tell him or
her sometime during the meeting that you have a small gift,
or gifts, you’ll want to present at the end of the meeting.
This verbal cue respects the protocol, and allows the opportunity
to make arrangements for any additional people who may need
to come into the meeting for the presentation.
you offer your gift, hold it in both hands and bow, saying
that let the person know, ‘this gift is insignificant
in comparison to the importance of the relationship’.
Saying it’s “a small thing”, even if the
gift is expensive, conveys this sentiment.
The Japanese will politely refuse a gift once or twice before
accepting it. And it will not be opened in your presence. When
a gift is offered to you, follow this same ceremony. Politely
refuse once or twice, and then accept it with both hands, saving
it to open later.
addition to gifts being routinely given for various occasions
there are two ‘gift giving’ seasons
each year. One is mid-summer (O-Chugen) and the other at the
end of the year (O-Seibo). A gift should be given during each
of these seasons.
of food or liquor (cookies, expensive candy, and fruit) are
always good choices especially for modest gifts. If you’re
bringing a gift from your home country, make sure it’s
not ‘made in Japan’. And don’t select company
items with your logo that may be a promotional item and look
of the long held traditions, you may choose to shop for,
at least have your gifts wrapped by a store, after
you arrive in Japan. This way you’ll know your gift will
Japan symbolism is important. A gift with a pair of items is
but sets of four or nine are unlucky.
the number 4 also means death; and the color red is associated
with funerals, so don’t give a pen with red
ink, and don’t write out a card using red. Books aren’t
appropriate; and sharp objects like knives, scissors, and letter
openers symbolize ‘severing a relationship’.
than looking at the ceremony and symbolism as obstacles,
about them so you’re comfortable. Then this wonderful
tradition of exchanging gifts will add to the enjoyment of
your business relationships.
Latin cultures don’t have formal or traditional
ceremonies surrounding gift giving. However, business relationships
developed as personal relationships. And in order to build
a strong and lasting friendship, gifts are a thoughtful way
to make a good first impression, and socially continue showing
generosity, appreciation, and kindness.
relationships become personal, find out about your Latin
client’s lifestyle. Then using these
details, select insightful gifts that will reflect how important
this person is. Always have the gift wrapped in a quality paper,
as this is a subtle detail that can express the value of the
you’re a man giving a business gift to a female,
in order for the gift not to be construed as a romantic overture,
tell her you’re delivering the gift to her on behalf
of your wife, or your secretary.
in this culture will also influence the choices you make
for gifts and wrapping paper. Black or purple paper
isn’t used because it’s used during Holy Week.
associated with death or funerals that wouldn’t
be used include handkerchiefs, and yellow, red or white flowers.
in other cultures, sharp objects such as knives or scissors
never be given, since they represent a ‘severing
of a relationship’.
Jews are not allowed to eat pork and shellfish.
The dietary laws are very specific regarding which foods are
acceptable to eat, and their processing and preparation. The
foods that meet these stringent regulations are called kosher
foods and have kosher labels.
wine is used in religious ceremonies, it’s required
to be kosher even for social drinking. So all wine and wine-based
drinks consumed must be kosher, prepared and bottled by Jews.
Unlike wine, other types of alcohol are not required to be
kosher. Therefore, you can select a fine bottle of liquor to
give to a Jewish client or associate if he drinks.
you want to buy a gift of food or wine, it’s best
to shop at a kosher store to guarantee you’ll be giving
an acceptable gift to your Jewish business associate. Even
fruit should be purchased there to insure it’s been properly
the Muslim culture, the Koran forbids alcohol. Gifts of liquor
or any product that contains alcohol, such as perfume,
would never be selected to give. Also, forbidden are products
or foods from scavengers, which includes pork, birds, and
shellfish. So a leather item made from pig skin or ostrich
could not be given, nor any food from these groups.
categories are also not appropriate for gifts. These include
clothing items, which are far too personal
to give as gifts. Dogs are considered unclean, so any dog item,
even something with a picture of a dog would not be given.
And knives because they have a sharp edge – severing
relationships- are not appropriate.
that consisted of sculptures, drawings or photos showing
body, especially a nude or partially nude female
body, is not acceptable as a gift. And although nicotine is
discouraged, it’s frequently used in the Arabic and Middle
A good gift for a devout Muslim is a compass.
Each day he must face Mecca for prayers. With a compass, no
in the world he happens to be, he can easily find the correct
you’re in a country that’s not predominantly
Muslim, and you’ll be entertaining Muslim business associates,
select a restaurant that serves halal food. And don’t
have alcohol served, especially if any government or religious
officials are attending, even if you know your guests may drink
in private. It’s far better to stay more conservative
are presented using the right hand, or both hands. The left
is never used alone to hand someone a gift, as it’s
the Hindu culture the cow is sacred, plus fish and all animal
products except milk or butter are shunned. Therefore, you
would never select any leather or food product from these
Hindus also don’t drink alcohol. Though some will,
especially if westernized, don’t ever offer a gift of
liquor unless you know the person drinks, and you’ve
verified with him that it would be an acceptable gift. In some
cases, the person may drink when traveling abroad or in private,
but will not drink in public when in his home country.
are given and accepted using your right hand, or both hands;
never only your left hand, as the left is considered
unclean since it’s used for personal hygiene. And gifts
are not opened at the time they’re received.
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. This doesn’t mean an occasional and
appropriate gift is not appreciated. It means, a person
is not expected
to present a gift on the first meeting, or on a routine basis.
matter which culture you may be doing business with, it’s
always professional to be attuned to opportunities for developing
a more comfortable business relationship by hosting a meal,
an evening at the theater or a sporting event. These opportunities
may present themselves when you travel to the other person’s
home country, when the other person comes to your country,
or when the two of you are attending a meeting or an international
conference in a third locale.
There are some countries in which a small
gift is expected
at the first meeting. These include Japan, Indonesia, Philippines,
South Korea, Taiwan, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Russia,
Poland, and Ukraine.
in other countries you don’t want to give an item
with your company logo. These are Belgium, France, Greece,
Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
In many cultures, items with a sharp edge symbolize the severing
of a friendship or relationship. In these cases, you wouldn’t
select a knife, pair of scissors, or a letter opener for
a gift. Because of this common symbolism, it’s better
to select a gift from another category, rather than risk
making a bad choice.
If you’re doing business in a country known for producing
a particular product, local pride and quality dictate that
you wouldn’t offer that item as a gift, especially if
it were manufactured elsewhere.
examples are: leather and wine in Argentina; leather in Brazil
Uruguay; beer and wine in Germany; wine in France
and Italy; vodka in Russia and Poland; scissors in Finland;
and silver in Mexico, because it’s considered too common.
Electronic Gadgets and Office Accessories
Business gifts that are useful for a businessperson, whether
an executive or a staff member, are electronic items such
as laser pointers, PDAs, calculators, and address books.
and office accessories that make good gifts include fine quality
pens, or pen and pencil sets, business card holders,
good leather briefcases or leather organizers for use in
the office or in a briefcase.
the person smokes cigarettes, a nice cigarette lighter could
A quality bottle of liquor or wine always makes a good gift
for someone who drinks alcohol, unless the person lives in
a region noted for producing the product.
Universally, this is a good choice. There are many fine quality
chocolates that make exquisite gifts for a business meeting,
for taking with you to someone’s home as a hostess gift,
or for a thank you to a staff person who’s helped you
on a project. Because it can be boxed in various sizes, it
also works if you need a gift for a large group.
even kosher chocolate for you to give to your Jewish business
associates and clients.
Flowers can be frequently used as a gift, especially if you’ve
been invited to someone’s home. You may want to bring
flowers with you to the house, send them prior to the dinner
party, or have them sent the following day as a ‘thank
you’. It’s best to advise the florist that the
bouquet is to be a gift, and the reason for the occasion, so
an appropriate selection can be made.
In Europe, the old European tradition of always giving an
odd number of flowers is still followed today (all except 13
which is considered unlucky).
In some cultures a particular color or type of flower is associated
with romance or funerals, and would not be chosen to give a
hostess. Red roses are frequently considered romantic. Funeral
associations frequently occur with lilies or calla lilies,
chrysanthemums, Frangipani, white roses, marigolds, carnations,
heather, and white or purple flowers. In some Latin countries,
yellow flowers symbolize contempt.
do you become known as someone others want to do business
with, whether across the street, or around the world? Besides
being knowledgeable about your product or service, develop
a rapport that builds long-term relationships.
good resource to help build that rapport is a personal reference
create and use throughout your career. A key category
is filled with information you learn about the people you interact
with. Many times it’s the small details that can make
the best impression.
By recording these details – preferences,
hobbies, interests – when it’s time to buy a gift,
you’re gift will reflect the person receiving it. A preferred
brand of whiskey, dinner at a favorite restaurant, a special
or custom made item for frequent sporting activity, like personalized
golf balls or a fishing pole.
The recipient will know through
subtle details that he or she is important, and the business
relationship will flourish.
Giving and receiving gifts properly is an important
part of international
business. Therefore, Kimberley would very much like to receive
input from our global newsletter subscribers on gift-giving
for their country. Please send your ideas directly to Kimberley Roberts at
HERE to receive Kimberley's new ClassyTips newsletter each week
by Stephen Taylor, Director of
the International Business Center
encourage and receive a number of questions submitted
by visitors to the International
Business Center, International
Business Careers, and Geert
Hofstede Websites. We periodically share some of
these questions and answers here for the IBC Newsletter
Question from Canada - What
are the possible shortcomings of the individualism/collectivism
classification for international marketers?
We're not sure what you mean by 'shortcomings'. However,
implications of the individualism versus
collectivism ranking can be significant for international
a culture is individualist, then marketing to this style would
emphasis on how the product or service will enhance the individual's
recognition and differentiation. It may also include
segmentation/differentiation by age, income, education, etc.
An example is
the US where the teenage segment is marketed products that
them from other groups - even sub-segmentation by specific
ages of the teen. The bottom line, people
want to be recognized for their uniqueness, even if that
means joining others around them in a similar way (I want
different, but not too different).
antithesis of the above is the collectivist culture, where
the market is
penetrated by emphasis on 'joining' with others, and the
to the entire society by that 'joining' and participation
that takes place.
Again, an example would be the history in China where everyone
virtually the same design of clothes, the Mao look. It is
important to show
that by buying the product or service, a person does not
'stand out', but
'fits in' to the group. Obtaining 'buy-in' from top societal
leaders can be
an important step in cultivating these markets.
from Jamaica - What impact does culture have on International
is a very good question because it underlies the purpose
of Geert Hofstede's work to establish cultural Dimensions
through research with IBM employees at facilities around
research demonstrates the significant differences between
cultures and therefore the way people behave differently
based on their culture, i.e. Power Distance, Individualism
versus collectivism, Masculinity versus Femininity, Uncertainty
Avoidance, and of course Long-term versus Short-term orientations.
Differences in each of these areas can create potential
problems in the workplace, both between individual employees,
as well as between managers and corporate operations in different
parts of the world.
upon Hofstede’s research, and that of subsequent
scholars, Culture, which closely correlates to religion,
is a primary motivational driver that can impact virtually
every decision an individual makes. Therefore, to practice
international business without clearly understanding the
importance and impact of a culture on the people you are conducting
business with can be a prescription for failure – both
business and personal.
from the Netherlands - Do you have information about
of "masculinity" and "femininity"
in the Hungarian and Czech culture?
Answer: Based on Geert Hofstede's cultural Dimensions, Belgium
has a Masculinity index of 54 and the
Czech Republic has 45, compared to a world average of 50, and a European average of 59.
these scores, we can hypothesize that the male populations
in these two countries are not "overly
aggressive or assertive",
yet not "modest". Therefore,
neither country has an exaggerated, or over compensated position
in the area of Masculinity and Femininity.
the other side, women do have the ability to take on some
level of masculinity, as the male population
does have a moderate level of strength
in their masculine positions.
is, the women do not over-compensate to the masculine side
due to an excessive amount of masculinity
within the male population. This type of
over-compensation can be seen in countries such as Austria
(index of 79) and
Hungary (index of 79), see these European locations:
Japan (index of 95) and Venezuela (index of 73) , see these
high Masculinity ranking among the four countries above (Austria,
Hungary, Japan, and Venezuela) is indicative that they will
a higher degree of gender differentiation
of roles. The male dominates a
significant portion of the society and power structure. This
situation generates a female population
that becomes more assertive and competitive,
although not at the level of the male population. In the
case of Japan, although
the male controls the 'public' arena, the female compensates
by having a very strong and dominant position
in the 'private' arena - the home.
There is some additional information at these locations:
Hofstede site gains popularity
new Geert Hofstede Website is receiving more visitors each
day since its introduction in April. The site has
taken one of the favorite components of the International
Business Etiquette Website, the Hofstede graphs, and
made them better, added more countries,
and incorporated new information with a new site design.
encourage schools, organizations, and businesses to link
to this new site and its great resources. If
you're a business school student, talk to your professor
about this new site and incorporating it into the lesson
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