Not every culture celebrates Valentine’s Day, but every culture celebrates love. Throughout my professional life, I have worked with over ninety seven nationalities which allowed me to discover, understand, and appreciate how they celebrate special moments in their lives or cultures.
This article covers some important cross tips to consider when giving or exchanging gifts during this special occasion and/or during any other holiday. One lesson learned is that cultural differences can turn a terrific gift at home into a terrible no-no elsewhere.
- Symbolism is important: with Asian colleagues, friends, and customers clocks are not good gifts for Chinese no matter if they are in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan or San Francisco. The reason behind this is that the meaning of the word is similar to death. The culture also does not welcome certain gifts given in set of numbers such as a set of four. If in Korea, avoid fine linen handkerchiefs as they’re a symbol of Sadness. Don’t give out pens with red ink. It is a symbol of bad luck.
- Consider the country’s traditions: In India for Example, the Hindu traditions hold the cow sacred. Therefore, staying away from leather goods whether it is a wallet, leather picture frame, or attaché cases is a good idea.
- Style matter as much as substance: This means that wrapping is as important as the gift itself. Color, style, and design carry different meanings in different cultures. For example, in Asia, the color white and black are often associated with funerals, while red means health and happiness. Gold signifies wealth and happiness. A gift presented in a white box is not appreciated in East Asia. Red or gold Wrapping is much preferred. In East Asia, no gift, no matter how small it is should never be presented unwrapped. In some countries, gifts should reflect the status of the recipient.
- How you present the gift is also important: In Asia for example, one does not typically open the gift in front of the giver. In Europe and Latin America, if you are presenting flowers as a gift, be sure to unwrap the flowers before presenting them to the hostess. Additionally, if you are sending flowers in Europe, try to keep them odd numbered, (avoid chrysanthemums as they’re used for funerals) and remember, red roses are far too personal.
When presenting flowers to a Moroccan, refrain from the color yellow as it symbolizes bad luck. I learned the lesson of my life when I took Yellow roses to a client showing love for her sick son. She immediately felt uncomfortable and asked me to leave them outside.
By Mona L Cherkaoui
An international Real Estate Advisor- expert in Cross-cultural differences