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Beware of Gift Giving Customs
in Foreign Lands

Compiled by Dick Oakes


Your best intentions can go badly awry if you give an inappropriate gift to a foreigner. It always pays to check local traditions first with someone who knows them. Otherwise, you could be in for some surprises.

The most common gaffe Americans make is to give Chrysanthemums to a European. You can give giant mums, or include a few in a spray, but otherwise the flower is used only on All Saints' Day, November 1, and at funerals.

Other blunders can result from giving flowers that suggest intimacy, flowers in colors that connote death, and items that carry negative associations, such as knives. Traditions vary greatly throughout the world, as the following random sampling of international gift taboos and preferences suggests.

One rule of thumb: Never give the same gift to people of unequal rank. And when travelers are told to bring "small" or "modest" gifts, the advice should be taken seriously.

In many countries, gifts are not opened in front of the giver so that nobody loses face in an uneven exchange. But there's another reason: paper and ribbons add mystery and suspense to the gift and signify the spirit of the gift-giving action. Pay attention to that small but exquisite interval when a gift is passed from one to another. Do it respectfully, make it look nice, and give it with two hands.

Following is a listing of some countries and their gift-giving preferences.


AFHGANISTAN

The first rule of gift giving is to never give alcohol. However, if you know from first hand experience that the receiver drinks you may do so but covertly to avoid shame. The first time you go to someone's home for tea, it is appropriate to bring a small gift. If you are invited to lunch or dinner, bring fruit, sweets, or pastries. Make sure the box is wrapped nicely. When bringing a gift, be subtle in how it is given. Do not immediately give the present but rather discreetly place it near the door or where you sit down. When it comes to wrapping gifts there is no special protocol. Green is good for weddings.


AFRICA

Red represents witchcraft and death in many African countries.


ALBANIA

Despite their poverty, Albanians are exceptionally generous and hospitable. A person invited to dinner will be given enough to "feed an army," even though the host may go hungry the next day. It is not unusual for an Albanian family to spend a month's salary to feed a visitor. Gifts are very important for Albanians and mandatory for special guests. You are expected to give a gift in return if you have been given something. Money is never a good gift as it presumes you want a bribe or something illegal from the receiving party. Flowers generally are not given as gifts. If you are aware that your host has children, a very good idea is to bring gifts for the children.


ARGENTINA

Don't give leather products in Argentina, a country known for its leather. Showing up for a dinner party empty-handed is a no-no. In a pinch, bring flowers. High import taxes make iPods a popular gift so personalize them with your choice of music and videos.


AUSTRALIA

If you are invited to a home for dinner, it is permissible to bring a token gift of flowers, chocolates, or a craft from your home region. A good quality wine is always appreciated. An illustrated book from your home region can be another welcome gift. A preserved food product unique to your home region can also be a good choice; preserves must be canned or bottled, however, or they will be confiscated by Australian customs. Bear in mind that your thoughtful choice is considered more important than the actual cost of the gift. Gifts are opened when received. Do not give expensive gifts, as they could be perceived as 'boasting'. Your thoughtful choice is considered more important than the actual cost of the gift.


AUSTRIA

Good gifts include books, quality pens, calculators, nice pictorial coasters, quality chocolates, an uneven number of flowers (other than roses), quality wine, or a good liquor. If you receive an invitation to an Austrian home, consider it an honor. Arrive on time and take a gift for the host, hostess, and children. Your gift will be opened in front of you.


BAHRAIN

If you are invited to a Bahraini's home, bring a houseplant, box of imported chocolates, or a small gift from your home country. Always say that the gift is for your host, never the hostess, who you may not meet. Flowers do not make good gifts from a man, although a woman could give them to her hostess. Do not give alcohol. Gifts are given with two hands. Gifts are not opened when received.


BANGLADESH

When visiting a Bangladeshi's home, it is more common to bring pastries, sweets, or good quality chocolates. If bringing flowers, avoid frangipanis as they are used at funerals. Similarly white flowers indicate mourning. The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. Never give money. In cities, it is becoming more common for gifts to be given on birthdays. The importance of gifts is in the thought rather than the value. Part of the reason lies in the fact that gifts should be generally reciprocated and it would be considered rude to offer someone a gift that is difficult to reciprocate. Gifts are given with two hands. It is considered bad form to open gifts in front of the giver.


BELGIUM

Avoid sending chrysanthemums (especially white) in Belgium since they are mainly used for funerals. When you are visiting a home, quality chocolates and flowers are appreciated. However, avoid giving chrysanthemums, as these flowers are associated with mourning. When you are presented a gift, be sure to open it in front of the person rather than in private.


BELIZ

If invited to a Belizean’s home, bring a gift such as flowers or sweets. Chocolates or wine are often more popular and appropriate to bring than flowers. Do not give red flowers as they have a negative connotation. White flowers are a good gift as they are considered uplifting. When given a gift in Belize they are opened immediately.


BELARUS

When invited to a Russian home, bring a gift of chocolates, dessert items, good wine, or other alcohol (try to select something other than vodka, which is widely available). If you are visiting a family home, it is quite customary to bring along a bouquet of flowers for a wife, sister or mother. These female relatives are likely to be present at the time of your visit. Make sure you have an odd number of flowers. Even numbers usually are for funerals. Pink, cream-coloured, orange, and blue flowers are rarely awarded any special meaning and, thus, are quite acceptable selections. Avoid yellow flowers (unless you picked them up yourself on a trip to the countryside). Some white flowers should also be approached with caution. Avoid yellow flowers [unless you picked them up yourself on a trip to the countryside]. Some white flowers should also be approached with caution. As in many other countries, flowers are an essentially romantic gift. Red flowers, especially in rich and dark shades, will be perceived as a display of love or strong affection. Cheaper gifts do not have to be wrapped, while more expensive ones should be. Russians spend a lot of money on gifts. Gifts are expected for social events, especially as "thank-yous" for private dinner parties or overnight stays in someone's home. Thank-you notes and holiday cards are not considered appropriate because they have no practical use. If there are children in the family, it is thoughtful acknowledge them with a small gift, such as a toy or candy. In business relationships, gifts can mean corruption. In Russia, flowers are a gift given almost exclusively for women. The only few exceptions would be male teachers, doctors and visiting celebrities. wine or other alcohol (try to select something other than vodka) fine chocolates (when invited to a home), a food item that is scarce, towels, cameras, watches, perfume, cologne (as a thank-you for an overnight stay), clothing (as a thank-you for an overnight stay). Gifts for children are usually opened in private, while gifts for adults are generally opened in the presence of others.


BENIN

The number 7 has magical connotations in Benin.


BOLIVIA

Gifts are usually given at birthdays, Christmas and New Year. The general rule is by good quality but price is not too important. Take flowers, spirits, pastries, sweets/chocolates if invited to a home. Do not give yellow or purple flowers as they have negative connotations. Do not give scissors or knives as they indicate a desire to sever the relationship. Gifts are not generally opened when received.


BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

If giving flowers, make sure there is an odd number and don't give chrysanthemums (used at funerals). Avoid giving alcohol, anything containing pork or pig skin. Gifts are generally opened when received.


BRAZIL

Purple is a death color, and such purple flowers as the "saudades," a Brazilian sweet-william, are for funerals, as are black flowers. The color brown is deemed as mourning for a death in Brazil. Liquor is expensive and thus well-received; Scotch is far more popular than bourbon. Always bring a gift such as flowers for the hostess – orchids are recommended. Good choices for gift giving are flowers, chocolate, good wine, whiskey, or books. Avoid giving handkerchiefs because they are associated with mourning. Also avoid giving anything sharp, such as a knife, letter opener, or scissors – they are considered as severing a bond. Key chains, perfume, and jewelry are considered too personal to give to someone you don't know extremely well. Gifts are usually opened when given.


BULGARIA

When visiting a home, take a bottle of wine for the host and a box of candy or unwrapped flowers for the person's spouse. However, do not take lilies or gladiolas because they are given for formal functions. Appropriate gifts include whiskey and desk items. Cologne and perfume are considered acceptable gifts and will be appreciated by the Bulgarians.


BHUTAN

Though you will find Bhutan to be rich in spirit and culture, in an economic sense it is quite otherwise. The indiscreet or excessive handing out of gifts is discouraged as this form of giving can be very detrimental to the recipients. For example, candy contributes to tooth decay in areas that saw virtually no cavities decade ago, and which have no dentists even today. Responding to child's playful request creates a begging psychology where none existed before. This is regretted by the local adults and perpetuates a shallow and stereotypical relationship between local people and foreign visitors. Some times small gifts are appropriate, such as a box of crayons to a local grade-school or a postcard of your city to someone that you have spent some time talking with. Some other suggestions are: postcards or picture books of your city or unique areas of your state, classic and contemporary American paperbacks, small pins commemorating special events or places, felt tip or ballpoint pens, perfume samples, scarves, handkerchiefs. Also, for children: small coloring books, crayons and specially children’s books.


BRUNEI

If invited to someone's home for dinner bring good quality chocolates or fruit. Do not give toy dogs to children. Do not give anything made of pigskin. If giving foodstuffs ensure there is no gelatine in it. Avoid white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning. Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large. Gifts are generally not opened when received.


CAMBODIA

Birthdays are not big events like in the West and people of the older generation may not even know their date of birth. Unlike most other cultures, Cambodians do not celebrate birthdays. In fact, many older people may not know the exact date of their birth.If invited to a home, take nicely presented fruit, sweets, pastries or flowers. A small gift can also be taken if invited to someone's home for food. Avoid giving knives. Gifts are usually wrapped in colorful paper but do not use white wrapping paper, as it is the color of mourning. When giving gifts use both hands. Gifts are not opened when received.


CANADA

White lilies are for funerals. French and California wines are greatly appreciated, and Eskimo and Indian crafts, such as stone sculpture and wood carvings, are highly prized. Brazilian kids like T-shirts depicting American icons, but no flags. For the grown-ups, a good gift is something for the home. Goof gifts are chocolates, a good bottle of wine, or any good liquor. If you're bringing flowers, avoid red roses (which symbolize romantic love) and white lilies or chrysanthemums (which are used for funerals). Don't give money as a gift. Gifts are usually opened when they are given.


CHILE

Never go empty-handed to anyone's home. Always bring a host and hostess gift. Suitable gifts are candy, wine, or bread. A gift of flowers should be sent in advance. Birds of paradise are the preferred flower for a hostess gift. If there will be children present, bring them a gift also. Good quality chocolates are a good dinner party gift.


COLOMBIA

Gifts made in America are well-received. Give personal gifts, like clothing and perfume, only when you know people well. Bring your hostess fruit, flowers, or chocolates. Send flowers ahead of time, if possible. Roses are a favorite. In Colombia a girl's 15th birthday is considered an important milestone. When going to a Colombian's home, bring fruit, a potted plant, or quality chocolates for the hostess. Flowers should be sent in advance. Do not give lilies or marigolds as they are used at funerals. Roses are liked. If you are going to a girl's 15th birthday, gold is the usual gift. Imported alcohol (especially spirits) are very expensive and make excellent gifts. Wrapped gifts are not opened when received.


CUBA

Tourists invading schools with pencils or throwing candy at children from tour busses is a real problem. Teaching children at an age where they are learning how the world revolves, that it's way better business to stand by the road waiting for the tourist bus than getting an education. One can only imagine the consequences when these children turn young adults having been raised thinking of all foreigners as a quick way to gifts and money. Those tourists that spend their time in Cuba off resort do not have to imagine, the consequences of two decades of thoughtless gifting is all too real. There are now schools in Cuba (located near resorts) that have guards posted by the entrance to stop tourists from entering and disturbing the children. Basic learn to speak english books are really appreciated. Cubans love magazines. Everybody will want your baseball hats, and t-shirts with anything in english on them. Also Toys for kids, samples of perfume or after shave fragrances, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, chewing gum, sweets, toothbrushes, hair accessories, multivitamins, and vitamins with added Calcium since milk is in short supply and the state only supplies milk to children under age seven. Also give aspirins and general drugs are welcomed.


CZECH REPUBLIC

Don't give a bouquet of flowers if you are unsure of how they will be perceived (flowers have highly romantic overtones for many Czechs). Be sure to arrive on time and bring a small gift, such as wine, flowers, or chocolates for the hostess. If children are part of the family, toys would be appropriate. The number 7 is considered good luck in the Czech Republic.


CHILE

Always bring a gift when invited to someone's home. It is rude to come to a dinner party empty-handed. Good ideas include flowers, wine, or chocolate. Birds of paradise are the preferred flower, but don't give yellow roses, which can symbolize contempt. Avoid purple and black (signs of mourning) and sharp objects (severed relationship). Gifts are expected to be nicely wrapped. Wrapping paper and an enclosed card are mandatory. A bottle of fine whiskey makes an excellent gift. Birds of paradise are the preferred bloom. Gifts are likely to be opened right away.


CHINA

When a Chinese New Year's guest presents his host with two Mandarin oranges, he receives two different Mandarin oranges when he leaves. If you're bringing wine to a dinner party, two bottles are better than one. If you're invited to a wedding (a common practice among business associates, whether you know the wedding couple or not), give crisp new bills tucked in a red envelope bearing your name. About $30 is standard for a new acquaintance; more will be expected if you already have an established friendship with the couple. Avoid denominations or anything in groups of four (eight, however, is lucky). Even simple gifts should be nicely wrapped in plain red, pink, yellow, or gold paper (black, white, gray, and blue carry mournful connotations). Present a gift to your host on arrival, using both hands, and say something about "a modest token of my appreciation." Never give a gift unwrapped as it is considered very rude. Odd numbers are ominous, and so is the number four, which is associated with death. Also funereal are cut flowers, straw sandals, and white objects. The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. Fans, handkerchiefs, and umbrellas denote sorrow and tears. Green hats are for cuckolds. The word for clock (zhong) is a homonym for "the end," which makes any timepiece a bad idea. Also, do not give shoes or umbrellas. Handkerchiefs and straw sandals are linked with funerals and death. In general, avoid giving anything beyond the receiver's means to reciprocate, thus causing him to lose face. The Chinese are huge into stamp collecting. Oranges (symbols of wealth) and strawberries (newly popular in China and easily shared) are good gifts. Fruit should be nicely wrapped and not given in sets of four. It is customary for a gift to be refused several times before it is accepted – be persistent. Gifts are given (and received) with both hands. Gifts are not expected to be opened right away.


COSTA RICA

Gift giving in Costa Rica is customary. The price range for your gift should fall somewhere between $10 and $50, and it is very important to always have the gift wrapped in nice paper. Keep in mind that the thank-you note holds high importance here, and should never be overlooked. There are few gifts that would be inappropriate in Costa Rica. A country renowned for its fruit and coffee, giving gifts in Costa Rica such as this would not be wise, and may even be offensive. Gifts should never be wrapped in black or purple wrapping paper due to the two colors' significance during Holy Week.


CROATIA

Gift giving is a big deal in Croatia. Come back from a trip: bring gifts. Go to a dinner at someone's home: bring gifts. See someone you haven't seen in a while: bring a gift. Just look at someone: give a gift. You never know when you are going to need to give a gift to someone, so, it's always important to have an extra box of chocolates, and extra packet of coffee, another necklace, some wine or "rakija" stowed safely away. However, most gifts end up in the secret gift closet and are then given again as gifts. When invited to a local household, bring flowers to the hostess and make sure there are an odd number of stems. Do not use chrysanthemums, as they are reserved for funerals and gravestones. If in doubt, give a bottle of good wine or a box of chocolates. Gifts are generally opened when received.


CYPRUS

If a Cypriot invites you to their home for a meal, you should bring a small gift such pastries or flowers, but avoid white lilies, which are typically associated with funerals. Gift giving is not an elaborate event. Gifts are generally not opened when they are received.


DENMARK

Because Danes enjoy alcoholic beverages, wine, whiskey, or the like make good gifts. Gifts should be opened when received. Roses or wild flowers are acceptable gifts. Avoid white roses, as they are associated with mourning. If giving flowers to your hostess, it is best to send them ahead of time so they do not have to take care of them when you arrive. Flowers should be wrapped if given as a gift. Red is a good color for wrapping gifts. Wine, whiskey, or alcoholic beverages make good gifts for the Danes. Avoid giving extravagant gifts. Gifts should be opened when received.


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

If invited to dinner at a Dominican's home bring a gift such as chocolates or pastries. Avoid gifts that are black or purple. They are considered mourning colours. Gifts are opened when received.


ECUADOR

Ecuadorians give gifts for birthdays, Christmas or New Year, as well as religious events in a person’s life. A young girl's 15th birthday is considered a special date and is much celebrated. If invited to an Ecuadorian home, bring flowers, good quality spirits, pastries, or imported sweets for the hosts. A bouquet of roses is always well received. Do not give lilies or marigolds as they are used at funerals. Do not give scissors or knives as they indicate you want to sever the relationship. If you know the person well, perfume is an excellent gift. Gifts are generally opened when received.


EGYPT

In Egypt, gifts are set aside, still wrapped, with a polite thank-you. Egypt is roughly 90 percent Muslim. Most etiquette guides recommend sweets, such as chocolates or local pastries, for a hostess. Gift wrapping, though often elaborate, is not mandatory; wrapping paper can be hard to come by in Egypt. The latest fashion is to wrap a present in a lovely cotton or linen towel, with a bow. Often, gifts are wrapped twice: a layer of ordinary paper with a bright and decorative paper on top. Wide ribbon is better than narrow. Social norms against handing over a gift with the left hand have relaxed considerably. Small electronic gadgets are popular gifts, as are compasses and quality pens. Don't give flowers as they're traditionally for funerals and weddings only. In a pinch, pick up a box of Egyptian sweets (typically made with lots of honey and nuts). The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. Always present gifts with the right hand or both hands if the gift is heavy. Gifts are opened in private, not when received.


EL SALVIDOR

Salvadorians give gifts for birthdays, Christmas or New Year, as well as religious events in a person’s life. A young girl’s 15th birthday is considered a special date and is much celebrated. If invited to an Ecuadorian home, bring flowers, good quality spirits, pastries, or imported sweets for the hosts. A bouquet of roses is always well received. Do not give lilies or marigolds as they are used at funerals. Do not give scissors or knives as they indicate you want to sever the relationship. If you know the person well, perfume is an excellent gift. Gifts are generally opened when received.


ENGLAND

Apparel is not commonly given, being a bit too personal. Ditto for soap. While white lilies or chrysanthemums suggest death, other flowers are popular gifts (except red roses). Potted plants are often sent after dinner parties. Scotch is popular but bourbon is not. An American sports souvenir, a round of drinks or a meal, or an invitation to a sports or cultural event (theater, a concert) are all acceptable ways to express gratitude to your British hosts. Buying a round of drinks at a pub is the most common way of celebrating someone's birthday. For a dinner party, flowers, chocolates, a good wine, or champagne make good gifts. A gift in England is usually opened when received.


ESTONIA

When invited to an Estonian home, acceptable gifts are chocolates as well as an odd number of flowers. Gifts are usually opened when received.


ETHIOPIA

If you are invited to an Ethiopian’s home, bring pastries, fruit, or flowers to the host. A small gift for the children is always appreciated. Gifts may be given to celebrate events of significance or religious occasions. Since Ethiopia is an extremely poor country, expensive gifts are not the norm. In fact, giving a gift that is too expensive may be viewed negatively. It may be seen as an attempt to garner influence or it may embarrass the recipient as they will not be able to match it in kind. Do not bring alcohol unless you know that your host drinks. Most Muslims and Amharic people do not. Gifts are given with two hands or the right hand only; never the left hand. Gifts are not opened when received.


FIGI

A complex system of gift giving and receiving has existed in Figi for centuries. Sperm whale teeth, called "tabua," are the most precious items of exchange and are given at marriages, funerals, and other important ritual occasions. Formal and lengthy speeches accompany the presentation of a whale's tooth. When visiting a village it is customary to present a gift of "yaqona," which is also known as "kava." The gift, called a "sevusevu," is not expensive; it is half-a-kilo (which is appropriate) and costs approximately ten dollars.


FINLAND

When invited to a private home in Finland, it is polite to bring a small gift with you. Do not wear shoes into people's homes. It is considered an insult to touch someone's head. Some safe options for gifts are chocolates, wine, and flowers but avoid giving white and yellow flowers as they are common at funerals and as potted plants. Flowers should not be given in even numbers. Do not give potted plants. Gifts are opened when received.


FRANCE

If you are invited to a French home, consider it a rare honor. Bring flowers, quality chocolates, or liqueur to the host. Don't bring wine, as the host usually prefers to make the evening's selection. Walnuts are the symbol of bad luck. Give no cutlery. Odd numbers of flowers are given as gifts, but not 12, and not an unlucky 13. French luxury items go well, such as champagne, cognac, perfume, foie gras, and candied chestnuts. White chrysanthemums (they're for funerals), yellow flowers (they imply infidelity), and anything with a company logo are bad. White flowers are reserved for weddings. If you have been guest at a dinner party or similar social gathering in a home, ensure that you send a thank-you note to your hosts the next day. Preferably, your note should be handwritten and delivered by messenger. Sending flowers or a basket of fruit is another thoughtful gesture. High-quality wine and chocolate are good gift choices. Gifts are usually opened when given.


GEORGIA

If invited to a Georgian home, bring flowers, imported sweets or chocolates to the hosts. Give an odd number of flowers. Even numbers are given for funerals. As with most European nations, gifts are usually given at birthdays and at Christmas. However in Georgia they also have "name days" – these are the birth dates of Saints whom people are named after. Gifts do not need to be expensive and it is more about the thought and intent behind the gift. Gifts do not need to be elaborately wrapped. A small gift for the children is always appreciated. Gifts are not necessarily opened when received.


GERMANY

Red roses as gifts to women mean strong feelings in Germany. If you give cutlery, ask for a coin in payment so the gift won't cut your friendship. Top-quality items are preferred, even when the gift is small. Bourbon is far mor popular than Scotch. Don't give German wine as it is considered insulting. Opt instead for fine chocolates or imported liquor. Other things to avoid are red roses (they're for romance), carnations (mourning), and lilies, chrysanthemums and carnations (which are all for funerals). Yellow flowers are a good bet. Germans are crazy about cowboys and love books about the American Old West. Small gifts are fine, but expensive items are not a general practice. Gifts should be nicely wrapped and will likely be opened right away.


GREECE

Gifts are generally exchanged with family and friends on Christmas and "namedays". Namedays are the birth date of the saint you were named after. Gifts should not be expensive. In Greece, gifts are usually given in return and the recipient would feel obligated to give a gift of equal value. Gifts should be wrapped. A small gift should be taken when invited to someone's home. Gifts should be opened immediately. As in many countries, gifts of knives or scissors should be avoided as they signify the severance of a relationship. Men generally prefer to pick their own ties, cuff links, and other adornments. Flowers, preferably roses, are for girl friends. Coffee-table books, Virginia hams, desk sets, and table lighters make good gifts. Gifts should not be expensive. In Greece, gifts are usually given in return and the recipient would feel obligated to give a gift of equal value. Gifts should be wrapped. A small gift should be taken when invited to someone's home. As in many countries, gifts of knives or scissors should be avoided as they signify the severance of a relationship. Gifts should be opened immediately.

GREENLAND

If you are invited to an Inuit home, there is no need to wrap gifts, they are offered as they are. The usual gifts are food. If you are a guest to an Inuit home, you can make your wishes known by making indirect hints. It is considered rude and aggressive to make a direct request. Refusing a gift from your host is also rude and would insult the host. If you received a gift, it is expected that you reciprocate with a gift also. Otherwise, people will think you are taking advantage of a person;s generosity and they will gossip about you.


GUATAMALA

In Guatamala the giving of gifts is one of the ways people maintain good interpersonal relationships. For example, if visiting someone's home for dinner, it is important to bring something small, such as wine of a bunch of flowers. Be sure to ask the florist which flowers would be appropriate, to avoid giving those specifically used for funerals –: these are generally white. If you are invited for lunch, your hostes will be delighted if you bring a desert.


HAITI

When you gift someone it's important to leave a good impression. Here are some guidelines to help you avoid gifts that are inappropriate. Never give items like a coupon book or toothbrush. They are lacking in thought. Don't give items such as handkerchiefs, underwear, and socks because they are too personal. Don't embarrass the recipient or other gift-givers at a party, maybe a baby shower, by spending too much money on a gift. Never gift a pet to someone until you've gotten approval from a responsible adult. Don't give gifts that are crass and embarrassing, like a whoopee cushion. Alcoholic beverages are a no-no for someone who avoids liquor. Avoid gifting personal items to casual acquaintances. Never gift anyone with items like adult toys, videos, or joke cards. Avoid perfumes or any scent product as your gift until you know their tastes. Don't buy anything of cheap quality. It's insulting. Avoid gifting items that are contraband, stolen, or fenced.


HAWAII

When visiting a home, it is considered good manners to bring a small gift for one's host, generally in the form of a dessert or other food item. As such, parties are usually in the form of potlucks. It is extremely common for guests to take their shoes off before entering a home. A shoe rack on the porch or footwear left outside a doorway of a residence indicate that shoes should be removed. If someone has given you gift items or has done a service for you without asking for repayment, it is always wise and of good upbringing to at least give them something in return or offer them money. While it is common for people to play "hot potato" and refuse to accept the money, the important idea is that the offer was made.


HONDURAS

Gift giving is common in social situations. If invited to a home, an appropriate gift is a quality bottle of wine or candy. An invitation to lunch means that the person who extended the invitation will be paying for the meal. Avoid giving gifts at initial business meetings because it may be considered a bribe.


HONG KONG

Feel your way about gifts, since anticorruption has been an issue lately. White is for funerals, red flowers are preferred as gifts here and in other Chinese-speaking areas. The Chinese generally like warmish drinks – one reason cognac is such a big favorite in Hong Kong. Exotic potted plants, such as kumquats in blossom, also go well here. Avoid using triangular shapes in Hong Kong, as the triangle is considered a negative shape.


HUNGARY

If you are invited to someone's home while traveling in Hungary, it is the custom is to bring a host or hostess a gift such as chocolates, flowers, or liquor. When giving a gift of flowers they should be given in odd numbers, but not 13, which is considered an unlucky number. When choosing a gift of flowers, do not give lilies, chrysanthemums, or red roses. When receiving a gift, you should open it immediately and in front of the gift giver. Typically birthday celebrations (name day celebrations) in Hungary are with family, but name days are large celebrations and people bring gifts, candy, or flowers.


ICELAND

Send flowers to the hostess in advance if being entertained in an Icelander's home. Bring chocolates, wine, pastries, or liquor as a gift. Icelanders often invite visitors to their homes and one should take a small gift. Avoid giving knives, as they represent the severing of ties.


INDIA

White is the mourning color. Electronic gadgets are appreciated, but if you bring them in, you pay 100% duty going out when the items are missing. Liquor is costly and therefore a popular gift. While predominantly Hindu, India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, so you'll need to guard against offending either culture. In general, gifts tend to be modest. Bring a gift when invited to someone's home but not to a first business meeting. Gifts are not opened in front of the giver. Observe both Hindu and Muslim food restrictions, avoid leather, and give alcohol only if you know for sure that it will be appreciated. Avoid animal motifs – especially pigs and dogs, which are considered unclean. An exotic American sweet, such as maple candy, may be regarded with suspicion as it may contain eggs. American-made designer chocolate is a good choice. Also appropriate are brightly colored flowers, such as red or yellow roses (but not frangipani, which is reserved for funerals). The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. A comb is not a good option. Don't give gifts of leather to Hindus or alcohol or pigskin products to Muslims, and avoid anything with animal decorations, especially pigs and dogs because they are considered unclean. Wrap presents in green, yellow, or red, but not black and white. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver.


INDONESIA

Gifts of food are always appreciated by Indonesian Chinese, but avoid bringing food gifts with you to a dinner party [unless it has been agreed upon beforehand]. To bring food may imply that your host cannot provide enough. Instead, send food as a thank-you gift afterwards. Candy or fruit baskets are good choices. Indonesian Chinese will customarily refuse a gift three times before accepting, since they believe that following this ritual prevents them from appearing greedy. In turn, continue to insist; when the recipients finally accept, say that you are pleased that they have done so. When you receive a gift, you will also be expected to follow the same routine. Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a part of Indonesian culture. This action implies that the recipient is greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice, “loss of face” will result. Instead, the recipient will briefly say "thank you," set aside the gift, and then open it only after your departure. You will also be expected to follow this ritual when you receive a gift. Western advertising has popularized flowers as gifts. Make sure you give an even number of flowers because an odd number is considered an omen of bad luck. At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a gift of money in a red envelope to children. Refrain from giving gifts of knives, scissors, or other cutting tools to the Chinese, since they suggest the severing of a friendship or other close bond. The following items are associated with funerals and should be avoided: straw sandals, clocks, handkerchiefs, gifts or wrapping paper in white, black, or blue. If the recipient of your gift is an observant Muslim, do not give alcohol, perfumes containing alcohol, pork, pigskin products, personal items such as underwear, knives, toy dogs or gifts that picture dogs, images of nude or partially clad women [even in paintings or sculptures with artistic merit]. If the recipient of your gift is an observant Hindu, be sensitive that observant Hindus do not eat beef or use cattle products. Consequently, leather items of any kind should not be considered as gifts.


IRAQ

Blue is considered the color of love in Iraq. Gifts of the highest quality leather (but not pigskin), silver, precious stones, cashmere, crystal, or porcelain make good gifts.


IRAN

Gifts with a touch of Western elegance are prized. Costly items, such as European antiques, can be appropriate. Devout Moslems, however, want no chocolates or other delicacies during Ramadan, the fasting period that falls in September. Gifts of the highest quality leather (but not pigskin), silver, precious stones, cashmere, crystal, or porcelain make good gifts.


IRELAND

If you are invited to someone's home, do take a gift. Flowers, chocolate, cheese, and wine are good choices. The gift need not be expensive. Giving something personal and the choice of the gift is more important. When giving flowers, don't give lilies as they are for religious occasions only. White flowers symbolize death and are used for funerals. When receiving a gift it is customary to politely refuse a gift when it is first offered. When giving a gift to someone, expect him or her to do the same. The same is true when offered a gift of hospitality: refuse it once and maybe twice. The third time it is offered, you should accept. This custom may have come from the days of the Potato Famine. Although people had nothing to offer, they could offer the hospitality of a cup of tea or other without embarrassment. By offering a third time, the recipient was assured that accepting the gift would not cause the giver hardship. Gifts are usually opened in front of the giver.


ISRAEL

Government employees may not accept gifts that are worth more than $10.00. Religious gifts are inappropriate in the Holy Land. Oranges are too common to make good gifts. But you are safe with roses, whiskey, and Swiss or Dutch chocolates, despite the high quality of Israeli chocolates. If you are familiar with the recipient's interests, a book can be a good choice for a gift. Instead, people will take each other out for a show or a sports event. If you are invited to an Israeli home, good choices include a simple arrangement of flowers or box of candy. If you know that children will be present, bringing them with a small gift will be appreciated. If a holiday is being celebrated, familiarize yourself with the practices and traditions of the Jewish home. For instance, honeycakes are a traditional gift during Yom Kippur. For a dinner party, bring flowers or sweets. Don't bring a non-kosher gift to a kosher household or invite a group to a non-kosher restaurant without checking first to make sure it is okay.


ITALY

If you are invited to someone's home, a gift of wine, chocolates, pastries, or flowers are appropriate. If you prefer to send flowers, have them delivered earlier in the day. Red roses express tender feelings toward a woman. There is an association of chrysanthemums with funerals. Handkerchiefs ir brooches are not given (they are associated with funerals), nor generally are silk and linen. Gifts should have a joyous connotation, such as a silver ice bucket full of chocolates. Or give something of refinement, such as bound classic books or artwork. Note that you need a government certificate authorizing possession of ancient artifacts. Select a gift of wine with caution – unless its vintage is superior, give whiskey instead. Imported liquor and Belgian chocolate are prized. Avoid chrysanthemums (used at funerals), red flowers (indicate secrecy), and yellow flowers (jealousy). Homemade food gifts are considered a thoughtful labor of love. Gifts should always be gift-wrapped. Gifts are usually opened at the time they are given and received.


JAMAICA

If you befriend or encounter one of the many wonderful Jamaican people and you wish to give a friendly gift, that is perfectly acceptable and welcome. Just exercise common sense when it comes to money.


JAPAN

The Japanese are prolific gift-givers, to a degree that overwhelms Westerners and even the Japanese themselves. Because Japanese houses are small, you should bring something consumable, like chocolates or alcohol. Never give four or nine of anything or an item with 'four' or 'nine' in the name; the word sounds like the one for death. Give odd numbers of flowers, but not white ones, such as lilies, camellias, lotus blossums (death again). Roses are fine; but don't give potted plants for the ill (the illness could take root) although a bonsai tree is always suitable. The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. The chrysanthemum is used only by Japan royalty. Scotch is popular as a gift, and in some Japanese households, a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label is practically an icon. When visiting, bring small gifts, such as flowers, candies, cakes, or liquor. In Japan, etiquette requires that you modestly reject a gift up to three times. In Japan, the variety of handmade paper used, the color of the cord, and even the way the paper is folded has meaning – the standard advice is to let the experts do it – the store or your hotel will oblige. Cognac, whiskey, and wine are reliable gifts and well-known luxury brands are preferred. Also good are expensive-label scarves for women and ties for men. Gifts are presented and received with both hands. Gifts are opened later in private.


JORDAN

It is a moral requisite for the rich to give gifts to the poor. This is a double-edged sword. Giving a gift can be either seen as a mark of good character or a statement that I am a better person than you. Consequently, it is often best to give a gift quietly or even in secret. Some times a personal gift is better given 'to the kids' than directly to the adults. Among equals and partners, gift giving should ideally be reciprocal. At the very least, the significance of the gifts exchanged should be commensurate with the relative economic and social standing of the partners. In formal settings, the giving of a gift is a powerful way of honoring. In formal settings, the giving of a gift is a powerful way of honoring. For farewell gatherings give a souvenir, for anniversary celebrations give sweets, when visiting the sick or when making a first visit to a home bring sweets or a plant, for the birth of a child give baby clothes or cash, for a marriage give house wares or cash, and for graduation of a family member give clothing for the graduate. In these settings, the gifts are of token value. In all cases, avoid giving gifts to a business partner's spouse. Also, avoid giving gifts that are of a large enough value to be considered as economic aid.


KAZAKHSTAN

There is not a great deal of protocol in gift giving. When invited to someone’s house for dinner, it is polite to bring something for the hostess such as pastries. Practicing Muslims do not touch alcohol, so do not give alcoholic beverages unless you know your host drinks. Gifts are usually opened when received.


KUWAIT

Extended family or very close friends may exchange gifts for birthdays, Ramadan, Eid, Hajj, and other celebratory occasions. Crafts or picture books from your home region is always appreciated and liked. Gold pens and business card holders are good gifts. If a man must give a gift to a woman, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other female relative.


LAOS

It is not customary to bring a gift when visiting. Please do not distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging, but give to an established organization or village elders instead. When giving an object to someone you should use two hands or the right hand. Never use the left hand (sometimes associated with toilet duties).


LATVIA

If you are invited to a Latvian's home, take a box of chocolates, a bottle of imported liquor, fruit, or flowers for the hostess. Gifts need not be expensive; it is more important to buy something that shows you have thought about the recipient. Flowers should be given in odd numbers – even numbers of flowers are given when someone is in mourning. Do not give red roses as they are used at funerals. Gifts are usually opened when received.


LEBANON

Gifts are part and parcel of the culture and are not only for birthdays and special occasions. Gifts may be given to someone who has provided a favour, to someone returning from a trip overseas, or simply out of want. The cost of the gift is not nearly as important as what it represents – friendship. If you are invited to a Lebanese home, it is customary to bring flowers. If invited for a meal, you may bring sweets or pastries. If visiting a Muslim family, it is a good idea to say that the gift is for the host rather than the hostess. Gifts of alcohol are welcome in many circles. Muslims though generally do not drink alcohol. A small gift such a sweet for the children is always a nice touch. Gifts may be given with the right hand or both hands. It is best not to offer a gift with the left hand.


LEBANON

Gifts should be modest. If invited to a Lebanese home, bring sweets or flowers for the family, never for an individual. Wrapping doesn't have to be formal but is expected. Gifts for your host should be given as you come in the door. Coffee-table books, mugs, and calendars are all good choices. If it involves crossing gender lines, beware: A man should always say the gift is from a female colleague or family member. A gift that says "Made in Israel" will not go over well. Flowers are a good idea, and so are crystal or silver plates for holding candy or nuts. If the family has children, bring them something.


LITHUANIA

If invited to a Lithuanian's home, bring wine, flowers, or sweets to the hostess. Give an odd number of flowers. Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used in funerals. Do not give white flowers as they are reserved for weddings. Gifts are generally opened when received.


LUXEMBOURG

If you are invited to someone's home, bring flowers, quality chocolates, or liqueur for the host, and present your gift upon arrival. Invitations to tea are formal and require the same gift as a dinner party. Just as importantly, you must send a hand-written thank-you letter to your hosts to reach them on the next day. You might also send a basket of fruit, as a token of gratitude and appreciation. In accordance with the old European tradition, if you are giving flowers, they should be given in odd numbers, except for the number thirteen, which is considered unlucky. Do not give chrysanthemums, as they are used at funerals in Luxembourg. Good gift selections can also include coffee table books about your home country, or anything that reflects the interests of your hosts and is representative of your country. A small gift for the children is always appreciated, and should be appropriate to the importance of family. Gifts are not usually opened when received, if there are other guests present.


MACEDONIA

In private situations gift giving is considered normal when visiting someone's house. The size and value of the gift is not important. It is rude not to accept gifts or food from others.


MADAGASCAR

Gifts are not innocent gestures, but can sometimes have a condescending, contemptuous or misplaced connotation (for example, throwing coins or candies to children in order to make them go away). Giving presents and over-tipping relative to the local level of affluence can destabilize the local economy. A camera or even just a pair of shoes may represent the equivalent of several months or years worth of income for many local people. Showing such things off or treating them carelessly can be shocking to locals and can cause serious misunderstandings.


MALAYSIA

Pay special attention to the Muslim culture by avoiding giving pork, knives, alcohol, and highly personal gifts. Present gifts with the right hand only. In Indian section of Malaysia, avoid black and white colors – instead, opt for yellow, red, or green which symbolize happiness.


MALDIVES

While gifts are by no means expected, they are always gratefully received, especially if you bring an item from your home country or something that is unavailable in the Maldives.


MEXICO

Yellow flowers, such as marigolds, connote death and there is an association of chrysanthemums with funerals. Red flowers are thought by the superstitious to cast spells. Highly prized gifts include good liquor, coffee-table books, crystal, and Mexican (only) silver work. For flowers, the safest is an all-white bouquet, sent by a very good florist (have your hotel recommend one) in advance of a dinner party or the day after. Avoid purple, yellow, and particularly red, which has a reputation for casting spells. Scissors mean the end of friendship and a handkerchief is considered sadness. Gifts are opened when given.


MOLDOVA

When invited to a Moldovan home, most people give flowers or maybe some type of home décor item, such as a clock, a set of dishes, or a picture frame. Generally if you are giving a gift as opposed to flowers you probably know the person better. Giving wine is also acceptable. Gifts generally aren't wrapped.


MONGOLIA

Cigarettes as gifts must be accompanied by matches. Always accept gifts. If someone has gone out of their way to be helpful, a gift is an appropriate and common way for Mongolians to thank each other; nice food items or decorative things are acceptable choices. There is no rigid expectation of reciprocity in invitations and gift-giving (like there is in East Asia), but it is nice to reciprocate.


MONTENEGRO

When visiting a home, it is customary to take a gift. Imported things are especially welcome. Women love to receive hand cream, perfume, or anything from your own country, but not chocolate or sweets.


MYANMAR

If presenting or receiving a gift, always do so with both hands. This is even true of giving or receiving business cards, a custom the Myanmar people have enthusiastically absorbed. Do not be surprised if your gift is not immediately opened, but is just placed aside. It is somewhat rude to open it immediately as this can be interpreted as being rather greedy.


NEPAL

Gift giving in Nepal is very simple. They don't usually give gifts unless it is the holidays or a special occasions. Some of the most common gifts to give in Nepal is jewelry. They like to receive watches, clothing from other places, and anything electronic. They don’t have much access to these types of articles so they really appreciate those types of gifts. If you are invited to Nepalese home you might like to bring a small gift. This can be something as simple as some fruit or vegetables. Nothing too extravagant. Giving money or sealed food to street children is also not recommended as they will often sell back the food and use the money to buy drugs.


NETHERLANDS

The Dutch do not like to feel obligated. Moreover, as an aspect of their even-handed approach to most things in life, they do not expect to give or receive anything other than the due reward for services rendered. As a result, gift giving is not a common aspect of business relationships in the Netherlands. If you have the honor of being invited into a Dutch home, by all means take a gift for the hostess such as flowers, a houseplant, wine (especially if the host is a male), chocolates, or sweets. Bring toys for the children. The rules on flowers are the same as for most other European countries: no chrysanthemums or carnations. A handwritten note of appreciation the following day will also always be welcome. A book about your home country or city makes a good gift. Also imported liquor is good. Dont give anything sharp. Blue is considered the color of love in the Netherlands. If you are offered a gift, open it immediately and show your appreciation.


NEW ZEALAND

If invited to someone's home it is polite to bring a small gift such as chocolate, wine, or pastries. Gifts should not be lavish. Gifts should be opened when received.


NICARAGUA

Avoid purple and black wrapping paper. Appropriate gifts are umbrellas, something unique from your hometown or area. Gifts to avoid include anything sharp, coffee, or cocoa (can be offensive).


NORTH KOREA

Four of anything is considered unlucky. Avoid using triangular shapes in North Korea, as the triangle is considered a negative shape.


NORWAY

Blue is considered the color of love in Norway. Avoid giving wreaths – even at Christmas time. Like carnations, lilies and white flowers, wreaths are reserved only for funerals. Instead give a houseplant or a bouquet of wildflowers. Make sure to give an odd number of flowers. Other good choices are chocolates, pastries, wine, or imported spirits. Gifts are usually opened when presented.


OMAN

Gifts are not necessary, but appreciated. Gifts should not be opened in public. When giving the gift, present it with both hands. Appropriate gifts are perfumes without alcohol, books, or art work. Gifts to avoid are alcohol, perfumes with alcohol, pork or pigskin items, personal items, knives, art of women, and cigars.


PAKISTAN

If invited to a Pakistani's home, bring the hostess a small gift such as flowers or good quality chocolates. Men should avoid giving flowers to women. Do not give white flowers as they are used at weddings. If a man must give a gift to a woman, he should say that it is from his wife, mother, sister, or some other female relative. Do not give alcohol. Yellow is considered offensive in Pakistan. Gifts are given with two hands. Gifts are not opened when received.


PANAMA

Gift giving is not regarded as highly as is the attention to the culture and customs of the country. If invited to dinner at a Panamanian home, bring chocolates, champagne, or a container of fresh strawberries. Avoid purple flowers, which are associated with funerals.


PARAGUAY

If invited to a Paraguayan home, it is appropriate to bring flowers, wine, good quality liquor, or chocolates. Gifts for children are appreciated. Barbie dolls and Power Rangers are popular with young children, and older children will appreciate t-shirts and baseball caps (Hard Rock Cafe, Nike, NBA, Major League Baseball). Giving a knife suggests "cutting" the relationship. Including a coin with the knife can blunt the "cutting." This is an old tradition. Make sure that gifts are nicely wrapped. Expect that gifts may be opened right away.


PERU

Appreciated gifts include wine (a costly item in Peru), something with a significant connection to your home region, ties, scarves, or other accessories in natural fabrics. Gifts to avoid include 13 of anything, purple or black objects (which have connotations of religious ceremonies), handkerchiefs (which are equated with mourning), knives (which can signify cutting off a relationship), letter openers or any item with a sharp edge (these items are associated with severing ties).


PHILIPPINES

Giving gifts, particularly flowers and food, is especially popular in Filipino culture. When selecting wrapping paper for a Filipino recipient, you may use any color you wish, which makes the Philippines somewhat of an anomaly among other Asian countries. When invited to a Filipino home, bring a gift of flowers, candy, or chocolates. Another option is to arrange to have these items sent before your arrival. Avoid bringing alcohol or heavier foods as these gifts may imply that the hospitality is inadequate. Allowances are made, however, for a specialty dish or food that is unique to your home region. Be sure to send a thank-you note afterwards; another small "thank-you gift" is also a thoughtful gesture. During certain family events, particularly baptisms, it is customary to toss a handful of small coins to any children present. At weddings, guests will sometimes use pins to attach money – typically bills in small denominations – to the clothing of the bride and groom. Appreciated gifts include an item related to the country or city you inhabit, whiskey (for men only), and perfume. When you receive a gift, follow the Asian custom by not opening it in front of the giver and instead, wait until you are alone.


POLAND

If you are invited to a Pole's home for dinner, the Polish gift giving custom is to bring a small host/hostess gift, such as flowers, pastries, or sweets. A bottle of wine or liquor, but not vodka, is a good choice but choose a high quality brand and something that is not readily available in Poland. When giving a gift of flowers make sure to give an odd number of flowers, and they should be unwrapped before being given to the recipient. The orchid is a passion flower in Poland. When purchasing a gift avoid buying excessively priced gifts as they may embarrass the recipient. Avoid giving red or white flowers, especially carnations and lilies, or yellow chrysanthemums, as they are associated with funerals. When choosing a gift keep in mind that some items are in short supply such as coffee, perfume or cigarettes, but make it special by selecting an item that is from your country. When receiving a gift, it should be opened immediately.


PORTUGAL

To reject a gift is seen as offensive. If you receive a wrapped gift, it is polite to open it immediately and express gratitude. It is not polite to give a gift in return at the same time. Spirits, such as whisky, cognac, or Port wine make good gifts. Coffee-table books, personal items, such as ties or scarves, are also acceptable gifts. Flowers are unacceptable. If you are invited to a family's home, apart from the almost compulsory flowers or a box of chocolates for the spouse, it is advisable to bring along some gifts, such as toys, for the children. Giving wine in Portugal is best avoided, stick to spirits. When giving a bouquet, it is considered unlucky to give 13 flowers and avoid giving lilies or chrysanthemums as these flowers are only used at funerals. Red flowers should also be avoided as red is the symbol of the revolution.


PUERTO RICO

A bottle of wine, flowers, or chocolates are appropriate gifts for a host when invited to a Puerto Rican home. Before guests accept a gift or an invitation to dinner, they will often politely decline the offer a few times before accepting. Avoid excessive admiration of a specific item in someone's home. The host may feel obliged to offer it to you as a gift. Gifts in Puerto Rico are freely given, and unwrapped immediately. Gifts in Puerto Rico are never opened in front of a group of people in order to avoid the comparison of the merits of the different gifts. It is considered very rude to open gifts in public.


QATAR

Gifts should generally of high quality. Traditional perfume is highly valued as a gift by Arabic men. You should avoid giving anything containing alcohol or made of pigskin.


ROMANIA

If you are invited to a Romanian's home, bring flowers, chocolates, or imported liquor to the hosts. Give an odd number of flowers. Even numbers are used for funerals. Roses and carnations are always well received. A gift for the children is always appreciated. Gifts are generally opened when received.


RUSSIA

Gifts are given in the original wrapping from the store; Russians say it's because they like their trees. A painting or other artwork makes a good gift. For a male colleague, cologne, a designer tie, or a high-end mobile phone is good. For ladies, it's always flowers and perfume. If it's a momentous occasion and they're a close colleague, even jewelry would be given (brand names are king). Give no baby gifts until the baby is born (it's very bad luck). Don't give yellow or white flowers, or an even number of stems. Books are always a good gift, and so is a silver picture frame. Yellow flowers can be a sign of disrespect to a woman. Knives and forks are friendship-cutters. Articles of clothing may be regarded as a bribe. The absence of a gift at major holidays can be conspicuous, but gifts can be too large or too small for such occasions. Good small gifts include lighters, bracelets, scarves, and makeup for women. Chocolates, and a bottle (not a case) of whiskey or French cognac are appropriate, but vodka is not. Gifts are often consumable and food- or drink-related. Birthdays are huge – bigger than Christmas, bigger than anything. Russians may protest when offered a gift, but will generally accepted when it's offered again.


SAUDI ARABIA

Give nothing alcoholic and nothing to wives. Flowers are not normally used as gifts. Horse-riding and hunting paraphernalia go well in Saudi Arabia and in the Persian Gulf emirates. Gifts of the highest quality leather (but not pigskin), silver, precious stones, cashmere, crystal, or porcelain make good gifts. Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends. For a Saudi to receive a present from a lesser acquaintance is so embarrassing as to be offensive. Never buy gold jewelry or silk garments for men, as both are deemed effeminate in Islam. Platinum is more acceptable but, as it can be confused with white gold, silver is safer. The recipient is likely to open and minutely examine the gift in the presence of the giver as well as any others who happen to be present. Gifts are opened in front of the giver and examined carefully to show proper appreciation.


SCOTLAND

If you're invited to a Scot's home for dinner, you should show your gratitude by buying a modest gift, such as a bouquet of flowers, for the hostess. Wine and chocolates are also appreciated.


SERBIA

Gift giving is common when visiting someone for the first time. It is common to give chocolates, high quality liquor, or a local speciality. Gifts are generally opened when received.


SINGAPORE

Singapore represents a mix of ethnicities, primarily Chinese, Malay (most of whom are Muslim), and Indian. Adapt your behavior accordingly. Because of anti-corruption laws, business gifts should be modest and given in company-to-company exchanges. Never present them to government officials.


SLOVAKIA

If you are invited to a Slovak’s home, take wine, flowers, or good quality chocolates for the hostess. If giving flowers, do so in odd numbers, except for 13, which is considered unlucky. Do not give chrysanthemums or calla lilies and do not wrap flowers in purple ribbon, as these are traditions reserved for funerals. Gifts are usually opened when received.


SLOVENIA

If invited to dinner at a Slovene's home, it is considered good manners to bring flowers to the hostess and a bottle of wine to the host. Gifts should be nicely wrapped; there are no color preferences. This is a culture where it is the thought that counts so the cost of the gift is unimportant. Gifts are usually opened when received.


SOUTH AFRICA

As one of the most multi-cultural nations on the globe, gift giving in South Africa can be as widely diverse as it's people. Typically, gifts are reserved for birthdays and Christmas.The 21st and 40th birthdays are celebrated with large parties, and lavish gifts are given to mark these milestones. If gifts are exchanged in poorer communities, they are typically items such as school books, soap, cloth, candles or other practical goods. If you're invited to a South African's home for a meal, it is common courtesy to bring flowers, good quality chocolates or a bottle of South African wine to your host or hostess. Take care in the wrapping of any gift. Be certain that it will make a nice presentation. Gifts are opened when received.


SOUTH KOREA

Always bring a small gift for the hostess when invited to someone's home, such as candy, cakes, cookies, flowers, or fruit. Do not give liquor to a woman. Gift giving is very common in South Korea. Reciprocate with a gift of similar value when receiving a gift from your South Korean colleague. South Koreans like regional United States gifts and Indian/Western artifacts. Avoid using triangular shapes in South Korea, as the triangle is considered a negative shape. Wrap your gift nicely. Bright colors are preferred for wrapping gifts. Yellow and red or green stripes are a traditional Korean wrapping paper design. Avoid wrapping gifts in dark colors or red. Do not give expensive gifts (South Koreans will feel obligated to reciprocate with a gift of equal value), knives, or scissors (they signify "cutting off" a relationship), green headwear, gifts with red writing (denotes death), or gifts in a set of four (denotes death). Offer and receive a gift with both hands. Wrapped gifts are never opened in the presence of the giver.


SPAIN

Custom is to bring a host and hostess a gift such as chocolates, dessert items such as pastries, or a bottle of high quality wine. Aside from the European association of chrysanthemums with funerals, the Spanish have no particular flower taboos. However, flowers should be given in odd numbers, except for thirteen which is considered unlucky. Electronic items, such as radios, pocket calculators, tape recorders, are costly and well prized. Make sure that gifts are beautifully wrapped. Do not give dahlias, chrysanthemums, white lilies, or red roses. When receiving a gift, you should open it immediately and in front of the gift giver.


SRI LANKA

In Sri Lanka gifts are usually given at birthdays and religions holidays. As a rule gifts are not usually lavish or expensive but symbolic. White or black are the colours of funerals and mourning. Avoid flowers as they are used in mourning. Only give alcohol if you are sure the recipient drinks. If the recipient is Muslim avoid pig products, alcohol, or any foodstuffs that contain meat. Hindus should not be given gifts made of leather. Give and receive gifts with two hands. To demonstrate graciousness, some Sri Lankans will touch their right forearm with their left hand while offering the gift with their right hand. Any gift received should be reciprocated. Gifts are generally not opened when received.


SWEDEN

Business-giving is currently a political issue. White lilies are funeral flowers. Some gifts can be thought too lavish for the occasion. Keep floral gifts simple. Red roses and tulips are fine. Sailing-gadgets also are popular. Liquor is very expensive and thus much appreciated. If you mail a gift to Sweden, write "unsolicited gift" on the package to prevent duties and a 17% sales tax. Don't give another country's crystal; the Swedes have their own.


SWITZERLAND

If you are invited to a Swiss home for dinner or a party, a gift of flowers and/or chocolates are suitable gifts. lowers should always be given in odd numbers. It is also considered polite to send flowers and/or a hand written thank you note to your host after a visit to a Swiss home. Blue is considered the color of love in Switzerland. When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for the hostess and small gifts for children. Give candy (good quality), pralines, flowers (unwrap before presenting, odd number), pastries. Do not bring large or expensive gifts. This is considered vulgar and makes receiver uncomfortable. Don't give red roses or carnations (these imply romance). White chrysanthemums and white asters are for funerals only.


SYRIA

Gift giving is a normal practice between Syrians. Expensive gifts are mostly appreciated by Syrians. Alcohol gifts are generally appreciated, excluding for Muslims as they don’t drink alcohol. Gifts are usually given with right hand or both the hands are used but shouldn't be given with left hand. Yellow is considered offensive and blue is considered the color of love in Syria. Gifts are usually not opened by the recipient.


TAIWAN

White and yellow flowers are for funerals. Knives may wound a friendship. A green hat signifies an unfaithful wife. No clocks as the word for clock sounds like the one for 'terminate'. Chinese everywhere give money in red envelopes at weddings and on special occasions to employees and children. Apples, peaches, and other fruit rivals flowers as popular gifts. Avoid using triangular shapes in Taiwan, as the triangle is considered a negative shape. Be very careful to not give a gift originally made in Taiwan.


THAILAND

In Thailand, a Buddhist country, gifts are typically modest–flowers, for example, or a memento from home, such as a book of photographs. Three is a lucky number; six is unlucky. Thai's love bright colors (especially yellow and gold) and ribbons; avoid green, black, and blue. Because Buddhists consider the foot the least sacred part of the body, do not give shoes, slippers, or socks. The lotus is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, and not used in a memorial ceremony. Marigolds and carnations are for funerals. Fruit, flowers, or candy are foolproof gifts. Do not rip open the wrapping paper of a gift – it is offensive.


TURKEY

Unlike their European neighbors, Turks do not open gifts in the giver's presence and neither should you. Flowers are not typically given as a hostess gift. Orchids are considered very posh. A box of baklava, chocolates, or something for the house like a candle or decorative item when invited to dinner. The traditional hostess gift is "badem ezmesi," a delicacy made with crushed walnuts, or an ornamental object for the home, such as a vase. At the end of Ramadan, bring sweets for the children. Tulips are seen as a symbol of love.


TURKMENISTAN

Gifts should be wrapped and should not be too expensive, so as not to be viewed as a bribe. Items from your region and culture make good gifts as do good quality chocolates. Avoid giving liquor, perfume, products or food from scavenger animals, or leather goods from pigs. Gifts will most likely be opened in private.


UKRAINE

If invited to a Ukrainian home, the Ukrainian gift giving custom is to bring flowers, a bottle of imported liquor, chocolates, or pastries. Gifts do not have to be expensive – it is the act of giving the gift that is important to Ukrainians because it is a symbol of friendship. When giving a gift of flowers, only give in odd numbers; and avoid yellow flowers, along with white lilies, as they are for funerals. Make sure that gifts are nicely wrapped and do not expect them to be opened right away. Gifts are generally not opened when received.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Traditional gifts to friends include an elegant tray filled with chocolates or a fully stuffed and cooked lamb. For special occasions–weddings and newborns, UAE nationals give lavishly, including diamonds, gold, and jewelry to the bride or newborn girl. For birthdays, newborns, marriages, and when a service is rendered. Wrapping isn't terribly important. Present a gift in person if you can; otherwise, send it to the recipient with a card. Be very careful not to suggest the gift is meant as a bribe. Chocolates, a home accessory, or flowers are common. If children are at the home, it is customary to bring toys or sweets.


URUGUAY

Everyone likes North American jeans. Women love flowers, especially roses. A rare, salmon-colored tea rose is a favorite. It is polite and common for guests to send candy or flowers to a hostess before the occasion. Give scotch (Black Label or Chivas Regal) and gifts made in the United States, especially from your region.


UZBEKISTAN

If you are presented with a gift, plan on giving something in return in the near future. It is usually appropriate to give a gift when you visit someone's home. Gifts from your city or country will be treasured. Postcards or other small cultural items would be appropriate, or small toys for children. Local people often give chocolates, fruit, or flowers as gifts. Avoid giving alcohol and products made from pig.


VENEZUELA

Venezuela has no special flower taboos. The national flower, a whit and purple orchid, is given. But handkerchiefs are unlucky. Good-quality items are liked. Use discretion in giving.


VIETNAM

If invited to a Vietnamese home, a gift of whiskey is appropriate for the man. Small gifts for the hostess, children, or elders of the home are a sign of respect. Usable items, such as soaps, cosmetics or picture frames are appreciated, and should be wrapped in colorful paper. Avoid black wrapping. Gifts are rarely exchanged outside the home environment. A profuse expression of thanks is always expected. Giving gifts in Vietnam during the Tet holiday should focus on the Vietnamese symbols of good luck. Welcome items would include new clothes, peach branches, rice wine in a gourd, or anything red. Watermelon is a popular choice. Several gifts are considered taboo, including watches, clocks or knives. Giving gifts in Vietnam during the Mid-Autumn Festival (known as "Tet-Trung Thu") is a welcome part of the festivities. Mooncakes, an Asian delicacy filled with sweet pastes or nuts, are always given. Other suggestions include seasonal fruit, sausages or cash, which should always come in a red envelope, suggesting "luck." Gifts that symbolize cutting such as scissors, knives, and other sharp objects should be avoided because they mean the cutting of the relationship. Vietnamese may or may not open these gifts when they are received; leave the option to them.


WALES

The tradition of giving gifts and money on New Year's Day is an ancient custom that survives even in modern-day Wales, though nowadays it is now customary to give bread and cheese. Many people give gifts on New Years morning, with children having skewered apples stuck with raisins and fruit.


YEMEN

Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends. To receive a present from a lesser acquaintance is so embarrassing as to be offensive. Even worse is expressing admiration for something belonging to another because it makes him feel obliged to make a gift of it. If one is confident enough and determined to give a gift, it must be the best affordable. Never, however, buy gold jewelry or silk garments for men, as both are deemed effeminate in Islam. Platinum is acceptable but, as it can be confused with white gold, silver is safer. Owing to the extremely personal nature of giving gifts other than as bribes, traditional perfume is usually the most appreciated. Just as in Europe a man displays his status by his tailoring, so in Arabia he does so by his scent.


Used with permission of the author.