International Gift Giving Protocol

Please select the appropriate region on the table of contents to the right to learn more about the corresponding gift giving protocol. Most of the information was collected from Roger Axtell's Do's and Taboos Around the World.

You can also view the list below to gain a rough understanding of the prevelance of gift giving in a particular country/region. Please note that if a country belongs to a region where gift giving is less prevelant, that does not mean you should avoid giving gifts. It simply means that giving and receiving a gift is less expected but will still be warmly welcomed. This table was adapted from Axtell (1993).

Areas where gift giving is more prevelant Areas where gift giving is less prevelant
  • Japan
  • Middle East
  • East & South Asia
  • Latin America
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

 

Africa

Country Do Don't Recommended Gifts

Nigeria

  • Use both hands
  • Indirect Eye Contact
  • Wrap Gifts
  • Give a gift in the left hand only
  • If giving a gift from a man to a woman, the man must never say the gift is from himself
  • Expensive gifts and alcohol
  • Quality Pens

Rwanda

  • Use both hands when giving gifts
  • Food items and books
  • Give gifts that are, in any way, connected to war/weapons
  • Expensive Gifts
  • Watches, clocks, and trays

Senegal

  • Use both hands when giving gifts
  • Wrap gifts
  • Food items like chocolates or pastries
  • Expensive Gifts

 

South Africa

  • Give gifts after you've developed a good business relationship
  • Cigars, whiskey, wine, flowers, nice chocolates
  • Give gifts after an initial meeting
  • Alcohol or pork-related items
  • Carnations
  • Desk accessories
  • Quality Pens

Uganda

  • Food items and books
  • Point at people or make direct eye contact
  • Expensive gifts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia

Country  Do Don't Recommended Gifts

China

  • Give gifts on behalf of the company (vs. as an individual)
  • Give gifts to an individual in private
  • Use both hands
  • Eight is a lucky number
  • Gifts coming in pairs is good luck
  • Give clocks, watches, calendars, scissors, handkerchiefs, knives, straw sandles, sharp objects
  • Give anything of value in front of others
  • Four of anything
  • Be surprised if a gift is refused, up to 3 times
  • White, blue, and black are associated with funerals
  • Quality pens
  • Business/desk accessories
  • Barware
  • Tie bars

Hong Kong

  • Items representing your company or country
  • Give and receive with both hands
  • Clocks, blankets, books
  • Unwrapped gifts
  • Open gifts in front of the receiver
  • Quality Pens
  • Belt Buckles
  • Crystal paperweights or boxes

India

  • Give household items
  • Modest gifts representative of your country
  • Small gift of flowers in a vase
  • Good luck colors are green, red, and yellow
  • Odd numbers are lucky
  • Leather
  • Ties
  • Toy dogs or anything with dog images
  • Open gifts infront of others
  • Bad luck colors are black and white
  • Multiples of three
  •  Frangipani blossoms are associated with funerals
  • Crystal: vase, decanter, bowl, barware
  • Knives
  • Business/desk accessories (no leather)

Indonesia

  • Give gifts to celebrate an occasion
  • Small gifts/tokens representing your country or company
  • Small gifts of flowers in a vase
  • Good luck colors are green, red, and yellow
  • Odd numbers are lucky
  • Unwrap in presence of others
  • Even number sets
  • If Indoesesian-Chinese: see China dont's
  • If Muslim: leather and ties
  • Quality Pens
  • Crystal vases or barwar
  • Business/desk accessories (no leather)

Japan

  • Give a gift - it's very common in Japan
  • Wrap the gift & give in private, at end of visit
  • Comment on modesty of gift
  • Items made by well-known manufacturers
  • Products that are difficult to obtain in Japan
  • Sets of 5 are lucky
  • Present with two hands
  • Give gifts in even numbers, espcially a set of 4
  • White, which is associated with death
  • Metal chopsticks
  • Give same gift to two or more Japanese men/women of unequal rank
  • Give jewelry or cash
  • Be surprised by modesty or extravagancy of gifts; gifts are meant to be about the ceremony
  • Quality pens and pencil sets
  • Crystal vases, bowls, paperweights, boxes
  • Cufflinks
  • Watches and Clocks
  • Picture Frames
  • Sterling silver bowls
  • Items from a prestigious brand like Tiffany & Co

Mongolia

  • Khadags are excellent gifts
  • Belts for men are considered good luck
  • Horses and wolf images are considered lucky
  • Silk for women
  • Offer gifts with the left hand
  • Give a gift between your fingers

 

Singapore

  • Gifts should be wrapped, presented with two hands, and opened after presenter leaves
  • Small business-related items such as pen with company logo would be sufficient
  • Knives or anything with connotation of severance or cutting, with the exception of letter openers
  • Clocks
  • Pens
  • Letter Openers
  • Desk accessories
  • Crystal Boxes

South Korea

  • Give with both hands
  • Impersonal gifts with company logo
  • Office items
  • Good quality
  • Give more valuable gifts to more senior persons
  • Liquor for men
  • Give a gift manufactured in Korea or Japan
  • Open in presence of giver
  • Give liquor to a woman
  • Quality Pens
  • Business/desk accessories
  • Crystal barware or paperweights

Taiwan

  • Items featuring your company logo
  • Pens, perfume, and imported liquor
  • Anything related to baseball
  • Gifts that take into account the receiver's economic means
  • A gift made in Taiwan
  • Knives, siccors, cutting tools, clocks, towels, hats, straw sandals.
  • Gift wrap: white, black, blue (Tiffany blue is OK)
  • Quality Pens
  • Tiffany Fragrance

Vietnam

  • Usable items
  • Gift wrap: colorful
  • Your company logo
  • Something from your own country
  • Knives, scissors, cutting tools
  • Gift wrap: black paper
  • Quality Pens
  • Crystal Bud Vases
  • Keyrings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe

Country  Do Don't Recommended Gifts

France

  • Give quality gifts
  • Give a gift at first encounter
  • Be too lavish or too skimpy
  • Give gifts with company logos
  • Picture frames
  • Cufflinks - men
  • Crystal

Germany

  • Modest Gifts
  • Gifts reflecting your home country
  • Gifts for entire family (including children)
  • Even number of flowers
  • Number 13 is bad luck
  • Red roses - signifies romance
  • Use first names unless invited

 

Russia

  • Most Consumer Goods (e.g. cigarettes, food, t-shirts, baseball caps, etc.)
  • Give flowers to a man
  • Yellow flowers

 

United Kingdom

  • Smaller items
  • Very similar to US
  • Knives
  • Quality Pens
  • Crystal Bud Vases
  • Keyrings
 

 

 

 

Oceania

 

Country Do Don't Recommended Gifts

Malaysia

  • Give gifts with right hand only
  • Practical gifts for home/family
  • Alcohol, pork, personal items, dog images
  • Quality Pens
  • Crystal vases or bowls
  • Business/desk accessories (no leather)

South & Central America

 

Country Do Dont Recommended Gifts

Brazil

  • Give name brands
  • Gadgets
  • Anything black or purple, the colors of mourning
  • Knives or handkerchiefs
  • Quality Pens

Chile

  •  Open any received gifts promptly in the presence of the giver and express thanks
  • Local crafts from your home country 
  • Give gifts, especially for children
  • Knives or  scissors
  • Refuse a gift
  • Leather appointment books
  • Quality pens
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Perfume

Mexico

  • Gifts with company logo
  • Gifts of sterling silver, since silver is associated with trinkets sold to tourists
  • Knives
  • Desk clocks
  • Quality Pens
  • Gold cigarette lighters
  • Crystal

Peru

  • Present gifts in relaxed social setting, usually after a formal meal
  • Gifts with significant connection to your home
  • Represent the company
  • Send thirteen of anything
  • Purple or black
  • Knives or handkercheifs
  • Small electronic gadgets, especially with your company's initials/logo
  • Quality pens
  • Ties and scarves in natural fabrics