Chinese Business Etiquette & Culture : Gift – Giving Part-2!
Wrapping a Gift:
Chinese gifts can be wrapped with wrapping paper and bows, just like gifts in the West. However, some colors should be avoided. Red is lucky. Pink and Yellow symbolize happiness. Gold is for fortune and wealth. So wrapping paper, ribbon and bows in these colors are best. Avoid white, which is used in funerals and connotes death. Black and Blue also symbolize death and should not be used.
If you include a greeting card or gift tag, do not write in red ink as this signifies death. Never write a Chinese person’s name in red ink as this is considered bad luck.
If you are giving a red envelope, there are a few points to remember. Unlike a Western greeting card, red envelopes given at Chinese New Year are typically left unsigned. For birthdays or weddings, a short message, typically a four character expression, and signature is optional. Some four character expressions appropriate for a wedding red envelope are 天作之合 (tiānzuò zhīhé, marriage made in heaven) or 百年好合 (bǎinián hǎo hé, happy union for one hundred years).
The money inside a red envelope should always be new and crisp. Folding the money or giving dirty or wrinkled bills is in bad taste. Coins and cheques are avoided, the former because change is not worth much and the latter because cheques are not widely used in China.
Presenting the Gift:
It is best to exchange gifts in private or to an entire group. At business meetings, it is bad taste to offer only person a gift in front of everyone else. If you have only prepared one gift, you should give it to the most senior person. If you are concerned about whether giving a gift is appropriate, it is okay to say the gift is from your company rather than you. Always give gifts to the most senior person first.
Hold the gift with both your hands, as this is considered polite. One-handed gift shows a lack of respect. They notice everytime you use both your hands and appreciate that you understand something of their culture, of which they are proud.
Don’t be surprised if your gift is immediately reciprocated with a gift of equal value as this is the way Chinese people say thank you. If you are given a gift, you should also repay the gift with something of equal value. When giving the gift, the recipient may not immediately open it because it might embarrass him or her or he or she may appear greedy. If you receive a gift, you should not immediately open it.
Most recipients will first politely decline the gift. If he or she profusely refuses the gift more than once, take the hint and don’t push the issue.
When giving a gift, hand the gift to the person with both hands. The gift is considered an extension of the person and handing it over with both hands is a sign of respect. When receiving a gift, also accept it with both hands and say thank you.
Post-gift giving, it is customary to send an e-mail or better, a thank you card, to show your gratitude for the gift. A phone call is also acceptable.