How To Give Gifts Around the World

It may seem quite natural for you to pick up a bottle of wine and bring it over to a friend’s house for a party. However, depending on the country that you’re in, it may be insulting not to first wrap that bottle of wine or to even bring alcohol.

Here’s a quick guide to how (and what type of) gifts are given across the world.

JAPAN

There is a strong culture around gift giving in Japan. The Japanese have the furoshiki, a reusable wrapping cloth that is still used today (the Korean version is known as a bojagi). In Japan, it is common to give gifts for New Years, after returning from a trip, or when visiting someone’s home. The Japanese give gifts when someone is parting and as a “thank you.”

The most important thing is to make sure your gift is wrapped, to give with two hands (and receive with two hands), and to be humble about the quality of your gift. Many prominent department stores in Japan will complementary gift-wrap anything you purchase, no matter the shape or size.

Japanese people may also refuse gifts a couple of times before accepting it. Up to three times is the custom.

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Photo from Omiyageblogs.com

CHINA

The Chinese have superstitions around words that sound like the death, so avoid gifting anything in fours and clocks. But do use the number eight and make sure to bring something unique from your country. They also love homemade gifts and you may have to offer your present a few times before it is accepted.

Business gifts are not customary in China, unless you are giving a gift to the company as a whole, rather than an individual person.

GERMANY

Avoid gifting wine in Germany, but do bring something small if you are going to someone’s house. An appropriate gift would be an even number of flowers, except for red roses, carnations, chrysanthemums and lilies, as these are reserved for love or funerals, respectively. Also skip out on gifting umbrellas, sharp objects, and personal items.

INDIA

In India, it is important to avoid anything made with leather for gifts, as cows are quite revered in Indian culture and many Hindus do not drink alcohol or consume meat. That being said, do not gift alcohol, handkerchiefs, and sharp objects. Do opt for foods from your home country or other trinkets that reflect your culture.

FRANCE

In France, it is customary to bring a thank you gift when you go over to someone’s house, but avoid bringing wine. This sends the signal that the host’s wine is inadequate and most hosts will purchase their own wine to serve either way. Flowers, candy, or liquor from your home country are appropriate.


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Post by Barbara Lee.

Barbara is a world traveler who is passionate about sustainable food systems, responsible consumerism, and holistic living. Her professional background and interests include writing, cooking, non-profit work, and eco-conservation.