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Business and Social Etiquette In China


Home -Information Centre - Business and Social Etiquette In China - Gifts

Official policy in Chinese business culture forbids giving gifts; this gesture is considered bribery, which is illegal in China. Consequently, your gift may be declined. In many organisations, however, attitudes surrounding gifts are beginning to relax. In any case, you will have to approach giving gifts with discretion, as outlined in the following points.

If you wish to give a gift to an individual, you must do it privately, in the context of friendship, not business.

The Chinese will decline a gift three times before finally accepting, so as not to appear greedy. You will have to continue to insist. Once the gift is accepted, express gratitude. You will be expected to go through the same routine if you are offered a gift.

In the presence of other people, never present a valuable gift to one person. This gesture will cause only embarrassment, and possibly even problems for the recipient, given the strict rules against bribery in Chinese business culture.

Giving a gift to the entire company, rather than an individual, can be acceptable in Chinese business culture as long as you adhere to the following rules:

  • All business negotiations should be concluded before gifts are exchanged.
  • Specify that the gift is from the company you represent.
  • Present the gift to the leader of the Chinese team.
  • Do not give anything that is obviously expensive, so that the company will not feel obliged to reciprocate.

Do not wrap a gift before arriving in China, as it may be unwrapped in customs. If possible, have your gifts wrapped in red paper, which is considered a lucky colour. Plain red paper is one of the few "safe" choices since a variety of meanings, many of which are negative, are attributed to colours in Chinese culture. Pink and yellow are also acceptable colours for gift wrap. White, black and blue wrapping should not be used. Because colours have so many different meanings in this culture, your safest option is to entrust the task of gift-wrapping to a store or hotel that offers this service.

Appreciated gifts

A good cognac, or other fine liqueur; a fine pen; solar calculators; kitchen gadgets; stamps, if the recipient is interested in them (stamp collecting is very popular); a cigarette lighter, assuming the recipient is a smoker.

Acceptable gifts for a company include items from your country or city.

banquet is usually a welcome gift; since it's likely you will be invited to one, you will have to follow Chinese business protocol and reciprocate.

Gifts of food are acceptable, but not at dinner parties or other occasions where appetizers and meals will be served. Fruit baskets, however, are acceptable as thank you gifts sent after these events.

Eight is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture. If you receive eight of any item, consider it a gesture of good will.

Gifts to avoid

Scissors, knives, or other sharp objects can be interpreted as the severing of a friendship or other bond. Straw sandals, clocks and hankerchiefs should also be avoided as they are associated with funerals. You should also avoid giving four of any item (the Cantonese word for "four" sounds similar, in the same language, to "death").



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