China is a country that is famous for ancient culture largely based on respect, gratitude, friendship, love or hospitality, which makes their gift-giving culture a little different compared to other countries.
The gift-giving etiquette of Chinese culture has been passed down to many generations. Gifts allow them to show their respect for elders and superiors, their commitment to maintaining close relationships with family and friends and to build new relationship networks with business people.
Occasions to give a gift
Chines usually give gifts during birthdays, weddings, and holidays like Chinese New Year, and the Mid-Autumn Festival, and sometimes during Western holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day. They usually give because marking an important meeting and making a great first impression are important for them.
Gifts to avoid
Sharp objects are used to cut things and therefore may mean that you want to cut ties with the recipient.
Black or White Objects
Presents, wrappers or envelopes that are largely black or white should be avoided because these colors are usually used for funerals.
The giver should also not give a mirror as a present. Mirrors, for the Chinese culture, attracts ghosts and can be a sign of bad omen since it is fragile.
Antiques or Ornamental stones with unknown source
Antiques and other ornamental stones should not be given as a gift if the source is unknown. Chinese believes that evil spirits may easily attach to these things.
Chinese people belives that dolls are from evil and they consider this unlucky.
Sets of four
Four sounds like death in the Chinese language, “four” (四, sì) and “death” (死, sǐ). Gifts in pairs or eights are much better since 2 and 8 are lucky numbers for them.
Good gifts to give
The money inside a red envelope should always be new and crisp. Dirty or wrinkled bills should not be put inside the envelope, as well as coins and checks, since coins usually don’t worth much, and checks are not widely used in Asia.
Another good gift to give based on Chinese culture are cooking pots, frying pans, set of ceramic plates. Just make sure to be careful in choosing the colors!
Vitamins and Health Supplements
Chinese are very health-conscious and they are into all sorts of traditional medicines and remedies. Vitamins and health supplements are good gift ideas if your recipient is elder Chinese.
A fruit basket is a good gift to give. Just make sure that there are no pears included in the basket since “sharing a pear” in Mandarin sounds like separation or parting ways.
A good-quality toy is a great gift for Chinese kids, but make sure to avoid buying dolls and toys with smells, because most toys smells are associated with kids’ health implications.
Chinese gift-giving etiquette
Give the present with both hands
Presenting and receiving a gift with both hands is considered polite, making it a sign of respect for the other person.
The receiver should not open the gift in front of the giver
Chinese do not open gifts in front of the giver, but this may be done under some circumstances like when the giver insists more than once.
Right timing in gift-giving
Chinese usually present gifts at the beginning of the meeting or before a meal for friends and family, while organizational gifts are given during a toast or at the end of a meeting, before departure.
Wrap the gift properly
The giver should present their gifts in wrapping paper and bows because it is not suitable to give gifts in market bags. On the other hand, you should also be cautious in choosing the color for the gift wrap. Red is lucky, pink and yellow symbolize happiness. Gold is for fortune and wealth. Death symbolizes the color white, blue or black, which are colors that also needs to be avoided. If you include a greeting card or gift tag, do not write in red ink as this signifies death. Do not write a Chinese person’s name in red ink as this is considered bad luck.
The recipient should show appreciation for the gift received
The receiver is expected to repay kindness with an appropriate gift of equal value. You may choose to send an e-mail or better, a thank you card or a phone call, thus, if you don’t return a gift eventually, it may mean that you’re not very invested in maintaining the relationship with the giver.