Chinese gift-giving customs

The choice of gifts is important in any cultures but in addition, it is significant the occasions you bring presents, how you wrap them, and how you present them in Chinese culture. Chinese culture has unique etiquettes that you probably do not know. In this blog, we would like to explain Chinese gift-giving customs.

Chinese people give presents to others on weddings, birthdays, holidays, and parties. They even bring gifts when someone invites them at home. Chinese people often give gifts as a way to express friendship, hospitality, or appreciation. Gifts are sometimes given on business as well but it is essential to be sensitive. This is because they may consider gifts as bribes.

As general guidelines, it is important to bring a gift when you visit someone’s home as a way to thank for inviting. It is better to bring something that the family can share such as food or a present from your home country. The extra attention to wrapping is vital. Presents can be wrapped in the way people do in Western countries but certain colors of wrapping should be avoided. In Chinese culture, colors represent different meanings. Red represents luckiness. Gold is for fortune and wealth. Black and white are for funerals and blue symbolizes death. Therefore, it is better to avoid these colors for wrapping. In addition, when a greeting card is included, it is essential to avoid writing in red ink because it signifies death and bad luck.

When there are opportunities to present gifts on business, it is better that gifts are given after meetings in order to make sure they are not bribes. Moreover, the same type of gifts should be given to people who have the same business level in the company. Gifts are always given to the oldest person first. In addition, Chinese may not open presents immediately because they do not want others to think they are greedy. Therefore, it does not mean they did not like your presents.

On one of the biggest holidays for Chinese, Chinese New Year, red envelopes are given to children from adults. The allowance is enclosed in these envelopes and more money is given when they get older. The amount of money depends on relationships between children and adults but $7 is fine for little children on average. However, certain amount of money should be avoided in any occasions. For example, anything with a four should be definitely avoided because 四 (sì, four) sounds similar to 死 (sǐ, death). Also, even numbers (except four) are always better than odd. In addition, whenever you have opportunities to give money as gifts to Chinese, it is better to give new notes. It is rude and unacceptable to give old and winkled notes and coins.

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Valentine’s day is also a big holiday for Chinese to exchange presents with boyfriends and girlfriends. What they exchange are pretty much the same as Western people do but there are some gifts that should be avoided. Umbrellas should not be gifts for your love because the Chinese word for “umbrella” is 伞 (‘san’) and it sounds the same as 散 ('breaking up'). In addition, shoes should not be presents for your love because presenting shoes implies “packing off your love”.

 

These are basic guidelines for Chinese gift-giving manners. I hope this blog helped to understand Chinese gift-giving culture.