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17 Jan

Gifts giving in China

Chinese people are aware that you are a foreigner and do not expect that you know everything about the complex gift giving etiquette. However, it is recommended to immerse yourself into the Chinese culture. Your knowledge about the Chinese culture will be highly appreciated.

Receiving gifts

  • Always receive gifts with both hands. This shows you have respect for the person.
  • Appear modest and don’t be greedy when receiving gifts. It it common that the recipient may try to refuse the gift in a polite way until the giver insists the recipient to accept it.
  • Do not open your gift in front of the giver. It is common to put the gift to the side for later, unless the giver insists to open it immediately.

Giving gifts

  • Always present gifts with both hands. This shows you have respect for the person.
  • The wrapping of a gift is very important. The choice of wrapping paper colour should match the occasion. Red is the general colour for luck and happiness, gold and silver are mostly used for weddings, but black and white should only be used at funerals. That is why you should never give anybody over 50 years old a gift wrapped in black or white paper.
  • Bare in mind that each gift should have the same value when giving gifts to multiple persons.
  • When you give a present, it is common saying (小意思 – xiǎoyìsi), it means a mere trifle. This has nothing to do with the size or value of the gift but to express that the gift is nothing significant.

Appropriate gifts

  • Local products that are not available in China are always recommended.
  • Regional or good quality tea. Most people in China drinks tea.
  • Handmade gifts.
  • Vitamins or supplements, such as fish oil.
  • Wine or spirits generally are good gifts, unless you are aware that the recipient does not drink alcohol.

Gifts to avoid

  • Clocks and watches symbolise the time and time is associated with death. That is why you should never gift a clock or a watch.
  • Knives, scissors and other sharp products because they symbolise cutting a relationship.
  • The number 4 (四 – sì) sounds a lot like the Chinese character ‘death’ (死 – sǐ). Try to avoid this number.
  • Flowers generally make an appropriate gift. However, white flowers (especially chrysanthemums) are usually used at funerals.

Written by Wing Lam, Intern at China Plus

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