In this first part of this 2-part series, we looked at When Is Gift Giving Bribery In China Business? In this part, we look at the kind of gifts that are appropriate to give in a Chinese setting.
The Chinese do not usually accept a gift, invitation or favour when it is first presented, but will politely refuse two or three times to reflect modesty and humility. Accepting something in haste makes a person look aggressive and greedy, as does opening it in front of the giver.
When or if a gift is given, it should be offered with two hands. Any gift offered with two hands should always be received with two hands. It’s traditional to bring a gift when invited to someone’s home. Fresh flowers or fruit are recommended, and it is a good idea to bring eight, rather than the typical Western dozen. Eight is a lucky number.
The more expensive the gift, the more respectful, but don’t go over the top or you will embarrass your hosts, who may feel the need to go out of their way to return your generosity.
RECIPROCITY AND GIFTS
Reciprocity, showing respect and ‘face’ saving are very important in Chinese (and Asian) culture. It is likely that your gift will not be opened in front of you as your hosts do not want to appear greedy or ungrateful.
Be sure to be fair with your gift giving: don’t give something better to the secretary in the office than to the wife of your Chinese partner, and don’t give gifts to one group of employees and not another – they will soon know!
Often, it’s better to give something that can be shared, like cookies or chocolate. Never give a clock as a gift. Traditional superstitions regard this as counting the seconds to the recipient’s death.
Also avoid giving fans. The word for fan in Chinese is related to the expression for splitting up. Never give a man a green hat. The Chinese expression ‘wearing a green hat’ means that someone’s wife is unfaithful.
Gifts from your own country are always welcome and very much appreciated. Don’t wrap any gifts from home before arriving in China, as they may be unwrapped in Customs.
COLOURS AND WRAPPINGS
If possible, have your gifts wrapped in red paper, which is considered a lucky colour. Pink, gold and silver are also acceptable colours for gift-wrap. Gifts wrapped in yellow paper with black writing are given only to the dead.
Also, check on the regional variations of colour meanings – a safe colour in Beijing could get you in trouble in Shenzhen. Your safest option is to entrust the task of gift-wrapping to a store or hotel that offers this service.
Most Chinese I have dealt with are kind and sensitive with a great desire to learn and better themselves. They also generally show great respect to foreigners.
Return that respect by working with them and never treat them as less than equals. Help them to achieve your mutually beneficial goals. Show integrity in your dealings and it is more often than not reciprocated.
The ability to form strong friendships despite difficulties is a very satisfying aspect of cross-cultural business dealings, and it is these relationships that will ultimately form the strongest future ethical platform for your business.
Have you ever had a problem with giving a gift to a Chinese person, or simply couldn’t think of the right gift to give? Please feel free to share in the comments box below.
If you want to know more about the kind of gifts to give, and also to not give, as well as the etiquette of gift giving in China, see How to Give Business Gifts in Asia and When Is Gift Giving Bribery in China Business? at DavidClivePrice.com.