Business Etiquette in China—Gift Giving

15455359.thbGift giving is a common Chinese custom that business visitors to China should prepare for and use to their advantage。 Many Western businessmen new to China are advised for the importance of gift giving to Chinese culture, business or otherwise. But why is this so important to Chinese people? Not only the choices of gift are important in Chinese culture, but how much you spend on it, how you wrap it, and how you present it are equally important.

Chinese culture is a gift culture. Every important meeting is made favorable by the exchange of gifts. To be empty-handed when receiving a gift from your Chinese host is not only somewhat rude, but will put you into a position of debt in the mind of the Chinese person—this is obviously not an optimal situation in negotiation between you and them.


What to give: Gifts should not be too expensive. Choose a gift that represents your company, country, region or town. The gifts you receive will often have strong local associations that are a matter of real meaning (local identity) and therefore pride to the giver. The gift should be wrapped in an appropriate color. Red is considered by the Chinese people as lucky so this is the safest color. Otherwise, you can ask the hotel or a local to wrap the gift. The Chinese culture gives different meanings for every color.

When to give: Gifts are usually given at the end of an introductory meeting or at a banquet. If negotiations are involved, gifts should be presented once they are finished.

How to give: Always give and receive gifts or anything of value with two hands. Note that it is common in China for the recipient to refuse the offer of a gift at first. The giver should persist, and the recipient will eventually accept.

What not to give:

  • Scissors, knives, or other sharp objects can be interpreted as the severing of a friendship or other bond. As a gesture of friendship, if you do want to give these items as a gift, ask your friend to give you a very small amount of money, such as 10 cents or 1 RMB in return for this gift. By doing so, you would have ‘sold’ it to him rather than give it to him.
  • The following items are be avoided as they associated with funerals: Straw sandals, clocks, handkerchiefs, four of any item [the Cantonese word for “four” sounds similar, in the same language, to “death”], gifts or wrapping paper in white, black, or blue.



Submit by: Ran Wang



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