There are many different sources out there when trying to figure out how to send gifts to China, however none of them talk about sending a gift when you’re from Australia or America.
Whether it’s Chinese New Year, Christmas or sign of appreciation the online world has made it a lot easier to send gifts all over the world. The act of gift-giving in Chinese culture is important is it signifies respect, well wishes and sincerity. It’s crucial that you keep this in mind the next time you’re sending a gift overseas.
Courtesy demands reciprocity
In Western culture giving gifts can be a laid back gesture that isn’t too serious. However in China it is completely different. The Chinese keep a tally system in their head to make sure that every good deed is reciprocated. Courtesy demands reciprocity is the translation of the practice that aims to maintain healthy relationships. It’s said that having a balance of good deeds is what keeps a relationship strong and makes it last.
So if someone does a nice gesture such as paying for dinner or giving you a lift, it is expected that you repay the act of courtesy with a gift. Keep this in mind when sending gifts to China. If you give a large gift to someone who isn’t particularly wealthy, they may feel ashamed that they can’t reciprocate the favour accordingly.
Corporate gifts are expected
In China business relationships are strictly formal meaning that gifts are expected. Gifts are normally exchanged prior to the first meeting where constant gifts are expected as your business and relationship progresses. Common corporate gifts are wine, liquor, chocolates, stationery or personal products from your own country.
The gifts are expected to increase aligning with the increase of your relationship. For example it’s not a good idea to give the CEO a pen after working 5 years together.
Understand the culture
China is very big on culture especially with colours and symbolism. Red represents luck while pink and yellow symbolises happiness. On the other hand there are bad associations including death that are represented by the colours black, white and blue. Keep this in mind when thinking of a gift idea.
Colours aren’t the only form of symbolism; some items represent certain things as well. Clocks are never a good gift idea as they are a reminder of time running out, however watches are accepted.
Culture around holidays is important
Different holidays have different meanings and hence require different types of gifts. Do your research to see what holiday requires what before you send a gift. Some holidays promote actual gifts while others are more about food and celebration.
During the Chinese New Year a common gift is money inside a red envelope but in a corporate setting it is seen as a bribe. Money in a red envelope is also a common gift as a wedding present. The amount is normally equal to how much it would have cost for a person to attend the wedding.
Gift giving is an amazing practice that is universally accepted by all cultures but their importance can vastly differ. If you’re planning on sending gifts to China make sure that you follow these pointers to remember so that no feelings are hurt.