International Corporate Gift Giving
In the United States, we take for granted that a gift of appreciation is always welcome. If you’re planning to send gifts internationally, however, it’s important to carefully evaluate traditions and customs and plan your gift accordingly. Gift-giving protocols differ widely by culture, sending different messages in different contexts.
A thank you gift is called an O-kaeshi in Japan and is a very important part of the business world. A long standing cultural tradition, gift-giving may not only be a social nicety but an obligation. Emphasis is placed on the act and manner of giving rather than on the gift itself.
Occasions for gift giving often fall on major life events such as births, weddings, anniversaries, or even housewarming gifts. Childhood achievements are commemorated, but birthdays and Christmas are not customary gift opportunities. Souvenirs given to friends, family, or coworkers are expected gifts when returning from a trip. Business trips from the USA should include gifts offered at the first meeting in Japan. Gifts should be wrapped well and should not be extravagant, though expensive gifts are common.
Your gift should not be “made in Japan.” Individual gifts should be given in private. Group gifts should be given only when all appropriate members are present. Present and receive with both hands, communicating full attention and appreciation. Before accepting gifts, it is polite to refuse at least once or twice.
Chinese gift-giving is similar to Japan. Gifts are given and received with both hands and are not opened in the presence of the giver. Emphasis is placed on presentation rather than the item. Avoid the colors white, black, or blue as these culturally signify death. Red, pink, and yellow signify luck, happiness, and prosperity.
Gifts are not common in the business contexts of Australia. In case you are presented with a gift, come prepared with a couple of small gifts of your own. Immediate response sends a good message.
In Australia, gifts are generally opened while the giver is present. Gifts should not be extravagant but should be a souvenir from your country, a traditional product produced by your hometown, or a book about your country.
Gifts are generally given during holidays or after accomplishments, including successful business deals. Presents should be of high quality and should be a product uncommon in Australia.
Africa is comprised of many countries. Even so, Africans tend to exhibit a common gift-giving culture. Gifts are generally given in homes upon invitation of hospitality. Their contents are often of homemade cooking. Electronic gadgets are often enjoyed.
Gifts are usually delayed until a personal relationship has been established. Make sure food gifts are kosher if the recipient adheres to Judaism. Gifts are given and received with the right hand.
Countries in the Middle East vary widely, but homemade goods or pictures of your home country are appropriate. Avoid pictures of people as Islam prohibits them.
With so many potential business partners from different cultures, it is impossible to list every custom or country. Take these tips as a starting point for future gift-giving considerations.