The Secret of sending gifts in China

The Secret of sending gifts in China

Specific circumstances should be considered when giving gifts. Generally speaking, when going to a private dinner, the guest should bring some small gifts, such as flowers, fruits, local specialties and products for the hostess and some toys and candy for the children. When attending weddings, artworks can be great gifts, bouquet and practical items are also appropriate for the occasion. For New Year and Christmas, one can send gifts such as calendar, wine, tea, candy, and tobacco, etc.

1. The Timing and Manner of Gift-Giving

In general, gifts should be present in person. But sometimes when attending a wedding, the gifts can be sent in advance. The gifts for festivals and for the New Year can be sent or mail to the house of the receiver.  Attached on top of the gift packaging is the gift giver’s card or hand-written message in an envelope, on which the gift receiver’s name shall be written. It is inappropriate to give gift only to one person out of a group, for it will not only give the person the impression of being bribed or fooled, but also make the rest of the group feel being neglected or looked down upon. Besides, it is also inappropriate to give gifts in pubic to people who are close to you, for others may therefore regard your close friendship as something shallow, something propped up solely by materials. Only gifts of not a high price yet a very profound significance, for example a souvenir with special meanings, can be presented to the receiver in public, when the public will bear witness to the true friendship between the two parties.

2. Be Friendly and Be Discreet with What You Say

One needs to mend his or her attitude, behavior and language when giving gifts. Calm and friendly manners accompanied by polite words are the key to make the receiver at ease. Whereas the behavior of secretly placing the gift under the receiver’s desk or in certain corner of the house would not be appreciated, and sometimes it even seems to have had the opposite effect. Generally in China when giving gifts to others, one displays an excess amount of modesty by saying “this is a really, really humble gift. It is nothing…”this approach should better be avoided. Of course, it is also not appropriate to say in an almost proud tone that “it is a very precious/expensive gift!” when present the gift, one should stress the goodwill and brotherhood conveyed by this gift rather than the actual value of the gift. Otherwise, it will make the receiver feel being bribed.

3. Take the Etiquette and Local Customs into Account

One norm of social etiquette is to conduct the courtesy according to the status of the person, the nature of the event and the circumstances. The same is true for choosing gifts. One should choose different gift for different people. Generally speaking, practical gifts should be given to poor families and refined delicacies are more suited to the rich. Souvenirs are best gifts for lovers and curious and fun items are popular gift among friends. Practical gifts are for the elder people, toys for the children and local specialty for the foreign friend—one should always avoid the taboos in gift-giving.

For example, the Chinese generally believe that good things often come in pairs. Therefore on Red-Letter Days in China, the gift items should always be in pairs—never in odd numbers. But for Cantonese, the number 4 is extremely ominous because in Cantonese it sounds like “death”. Another example is the color white. Although it symbolizes purity and brightness, in China it is a color of mourning and poverty. The same is true with the color black. But the color red, being a symbol of happiness, peace and good luck, is widely loved by the people. Besides, Chinese people are particular cautious about not giving old people clocks as gifts for in Chinese “giving clock” is of the similar sound of “arranging for the burial of a deceased relative”. And couples should never give pears to each other because “pear” in Chinese is the homophone of “leave”. Also, one should not give medicines to healthy persons and should never give personal items to friends of opposite sex.

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