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Gift giving is a significant and meaningful practice that can convey a number of different messages and emotions. They can be a token of gratitude or signs of love and caring. In some places it is seen as customary to present gifts in certain situations. Some cultures only see gift giving during holidays or birthdays, while it may be common to exchange gifts frequently in others. Here are some gift-giving traditions from a few different countries.
Finding the Perfect Gift in China
China’s culture is one based on respect and relationships, and gift giving is an important way to maintain and strengthen those connections. Along with meals, trips, and compliments, physical gifts can be an important part of building relationships, whether at work or when meeting new friends.
When giving gifts in China, it is important to put considerable thought into the perfect present. Regional specific presents are appreciated almost always — whether it be something that can only be found in a certain part of China or a foreign find from overseas — an intriguing gift that can’t be found in a local store is sure to please!
Chinese businessmen also enjoy cigars and wine. Considered to be classy pastimes, giving the gift of a tasteful bottle of wine or an aged box of cigars is sure to please. However, it is better to buy a name brand with a heftier price tag in order to assure those receiving the gift that this is meant to be a meaningful gesture.
The traditions and social quirks must also be taken into account when looking for a gift. For example, green hats are given to husbands who are unfaithful, and clocks should be avoided because the Chinese word for clock is closely associated with the word for death.
It’s the Thought that Counts in Italy
Italians appreciate a personal touch when giving social gifts. Children are taught early on to put much thought and consideration when they decide to give someone a gift.
In some cases, gifts are expected to show thanks to a social invitation. For example, wine, chocolates or pastries are acceptable when visiting somebody’s home. Making a homemade pastry or meal is considered to be a thoughtful gift because it is a labor of love. Price is also never discussed or considered, the thought and energy behind a gift is considered to be more valuable.
Networking and building relationships are important parts of the Italian business world. Therefore, when meeting for meals to discuss business, gifts are sometimes exchanged to solidify work friendships or business relations. Food and liquor are acceptable, though wine vintages are important to keep in mind — Italians are wine connoisseurs!
A Piñata Party in Mexico
Gift giving in Mexico is seen as a gesture of appreciation and affection, a “labor of love” for friends and family.
When visiting someone’s house, small gifts are usually the best route. Flowers are best, especially white flowers as they are seen to be uplifting. Other potential gifts are a bottle of either wine or some small sweets.
Mexican birthday gifts feature piñatas, a paper decoration filled with toys and candy. The piñata is strung up, and the birthday child is blindfolded and attempts to break open the piñata with a stick, sharing the insides with party guests once it has been broken.
Businesses in Mexico also have gift giving traditions, usually there is an exchange of company merchandise. For the longer or closer relationships within a company, gifts of wine or scotch are more acceptable.
A World of Giving
These traditions may seem strange or complicated, but they represent the cultures from which they originate. Even the United states has unique gift-giving practices! All it takes is some understanding to appreciate cultures and their customs, each special in their own way. At the end of the day, gift-giving is still a heartfelt practice that brings people and groups closer together.