Giving presents in China

From early on, the Chinese people have strongly cared about etiquettes. They are all familiar with the old Chinese saying: ‘When you are given something it is not polite to give nothing in return.’ When Chinese family and friends visit each other during Chinese new year or other festivities, many presents are being exchanged. Giving presents represents beautiful and friendly feelings towards each other. However, in China few taboos exist around giving presents. It is good to be aware of these taboos in order to prevent misunderstandings.

What kind of important taboos actually exist around giving presents?

In general, it is not a good idea to buy a clock as a present because ‘giving a clock’ sounds like the words for ‘paying your last respects’ in Chinese. That is why giving a clock resembles bad luck. Furthermore, you shouldn’t give a green hat to a man because it communicates his wife is unfaithful. Chrysanthemums are considered funeral flowers. For that reason, a chrysanthemum is not suitable to choose as a present. In many places it is also taboo to give pears or umbrellas as presents because the word ‘pear’ sounds like ‘leaving’ and the word ‘umbrella’ sounds like ‘departing from each other’, which Chinese people obviously dislike. Another example of an unsuitable present in China are shoes. The saying ‘wearing shoes that are too tight’ means ‘taking revenge’. If the shoes you give are too small, you might embarrass the other person.

Have you already figured out what kind of present you want to give your Chinese friends or business partners?

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