Gift Etiquette Around the World

Gift Etiquette

The giving and receiving of gifts is one of life’s pleasures. The main intention of the gift is to please the recipient. Believe it or not, giving gifts can make us feel just as good as receiving them. When we are invited to a special event or birthday party, it is good manners to bring a gift.

Remember if the invitation says not to bring gifts, a handmade card would show that you care and do not ignore the wish.  Gifts are usually meant for special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holidays, etc. But you can also bring a gift for the host if you are invited to dinner or a sleepover. (Some flowers, a box of chocolates, or a candle are good options.)

Sincere Affection

The gifts should always be given out of sincere affection  for the other person. When we have chosen the gift, it should be nicely wrapped, presentation is as important as content, and a card tapped to the top.

The Rules of Giving

The perfect gift requires very special consideration and attention. Ask for suggestions and consider the person’s interests and preferences. Limp gifts are embarrassing.  When you select  the gift for someone, think carefully about the person’s tastes, passions and hobbies.

Never buy something that you really want for yourself, and that you intend to use or borrow. Try to remember what you have given in the past, a repeat gift suggests that you are not thoughtful and you take the recipient lightly.

Never use a gift to influence someone or make it all about you. Present-giving is not a competition, so there is no need to go over the budget. When giving gifts, you should aim to spend an amount that you are comfortable with, not one that you assume another person is spending. Some feel compelled to give a gift equal in value to a gift received.It is not right. A very expensive gift might embarrass the recipient and also makes the other person feel obliged  to you.

Not all cultures celebrate the holiday season in the same way. Make sure you understand the traditions and norms of anyone to whom you plan to give a gift so that you do not offend or embarrass them.

In Chinese culture, giving someone an umbrella as a gift suggests that you want the friendship to end.

In Russia, it is inappropriate to gift flowers bundles in even numbers, yellow flowers, lilies or carnations are associated with funerals.

In Kenya, the Maasai people actually spit on gifts before giving them as a sign of blessing. It is not just gifts that get blessed. They will also spit on their hands before they shake hands and as a sign of greeting or farewell.

Do not give self-improvement gifts (focusing on the weak aspects of a recipient) and do not expect anything in return. Give the gifts generously with open heart.

Do not apologise for your gift. You should not be ashamed of the size or cost of the gift.

If you cannot attend the grand event (like a wedding), you are still supposed to give a gift. Birthday gifts should be non-optional. Birthdays should be honoured, while Christmas and house-warmings are mostly for those who are close to you.

Gift Etiquette
Gift Etiquette


In the world of waste and excess, it became acceptable to re-gift, but strictly speaking, it is bad manners. It shows lack of thoughtfulness and appreciation for the giver. Most people do it, but deep down, we know that it is quite cheap to do so. If it happened that you are re-gifting, make sure no one ever knows not the original giver nor the next-in-line receiver. Re-gifting should only be resorted to if it is the perfect thing for the recipient. Multi-gifting (giving the same present to several people) is not the best thing to do.

Rules of Receiving

If you receive a gift, even if you don’t give one in return, always show your appreciation, regardless of whether you like the gift or not.

Do not open the gift immediately (if you are having a party, pile the gifts in one place until you are ready to open them).

In the UK it is rude to open a gift straight away unless the giver asks to do so though it is a cultural norm in North America to publicly unwrap a gift when it is received. However, in many cultures such as some in Asia or South America, the proper etiquette is for the receiver to wait until they are in private to open a gift.

If you do not like a gift, respect the giver, smile and say thank you. Whatever the item, react with enthusiasm and thanks. Disappointment or any other negative emotion must be hidden at all cost.


If you receive a gift by mail, call the gift giver as soon as you can to inform them that the gift has arrived.

Read the card first, look at the giver, smile and say thank you while maintaining eye contact.

What we give as gifts and how we receive them says a lot about us as individuals. Bear in mind that many people simply give gifts to show appreciation, and a simple thank you in return is all that is required.  You should also send hand-written thank-you notes whenever possible

A joint gift can certainly come from a couple or a family. It is generally expected that friends would give gifts separately. A rule of thumb is to go by the invitation. If the invitation is to a couple then one gift from the couple, to a family – one gift from the family.


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