Gift-Giving in China

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If you’re new to China, some of the cultural differences may take some getting used to. Gift-giving, for example, plays a large role in everyday life and isn’t something many expats and transplants give thought to right away. To help your transition go as smooth as possible, here are a few quick tips regarding the culture of giving gifts in China.

Chinese culture is rich with traditions of showing gratitude and graciousness towards others. Guanxi, roughly translated as building relationships, is extremely important in every aspect of life. Relationships in China are made stronger through thoughtful expressions like taking a friend to dinner or presenting a friend with a gift for hosting a dinner party. It’s common to give gifts for occasions of all scale, from weddings and birthdays to informal get-togethers.

Gift-giving in China is more formal than in Western countries, where a thank-you card is usually enough. In China, the exchanging of gifts is the preferred form to show gratitude, and it is expected to return the gesture with a gift of equal value.

Culture and Taboos

Because symbolism and superstition are so prevalent in Chinese culture, you should keep in mind the taboos and beliefs based in Confucianism. You should wrap gifts in the colors red, pink, yellow or gold. The color red is considered extremely lucky except when it comes to red ink. Red ink is considered unlucky because it’s usually reserved for obituaries. Anything with the numbers four or nine should be avoided as these numbers are associated with death. Also avoid anything sharp like knives or scissors because they are a symbol of severing the relationship.

The ritual of gift-giving is almost as important as the gift itself, so keep in mind the accepted mannerisms. Always present the gift with both hands and never give someone a gift that is more expensive than they can reciprocate because it will cause them to have a loss of face. Because the Chinese place such an emphasis on the concept of “saving face” gifts are not opened at the time they are given, but instead opened in private later.

Giving-Gift ChinaSending Gifts to China

If someone you know is moving to China, embrace the culture and send a traditional welcoming basket of fruits, chocolates, and flowers. If you’re out of the country and want send gifts to China it’s worth it to look into an international gifting service.  The main difference between using a gifting service and sending it yourself is that you can not only send perishable items like fruit and flowers, but you can be sure it is wrapped beautifully and delivered on time.

If you do decide to send a gift yourself, keep in mind that it isn’t uncommon for small packages to get lost in the mail, so make sure to package your gift in a larger box weighing at least 1kg.

The act of giving gifts in China is one that builds relationship and signifies friendship and appreciation. Don’t let the cultural taboos daunt you in your gift-giving endeavors, but always check with a local to make sure you’re giving something appropriate, especially when it comes to business. What used to be a common practice may now be construed as bribery, so make sure your intentions are clear.  There are tons of amazing aspects of Chinese culture that you will come to love, and the rich tradition of exchanging gifts is one that will always put a smile on your face.

Sources:

http://chineseculture.about.com/od/chinesefestivals/a/Chinese-Culture-Chinese-Gift-Giving-Etiquette.htm

http://www.uschinabiz.com/TopTens/GiftGivinginChina.aspx

 

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I am living in China since 2007. I am sharing my experiences for other expatriates to make their stay in Beijing more enjoyable. As I am writing this blog for SCOUT Real Estate agency, I am also computing updates about the Real Estate market in Beijing, not only on residential properties, but as well on commercial locals and offices. Hope you enjoy your reading!