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International Corporate Gift Etiquette – Avoiding cultural business gifting faux pas


In China, corporate gift giving used to be an important part of business culture. Today, however, a gift can be seen as bribery and get you in trouble with the local authorities. If you do decide to give a gift, be sure it’s done privately, that the gift is nothing lavish or expensive, and express that the gift is a gift of friendship, not just business.

  • Communism brought scepticism in gift-giving, and gifts to government officials become illegal. However, the importance of gift-giving in China is slowly returning,
  • Present group gifts. This is seen as a “company presenting a gift to a company,” and not as a bribe to one individual from that company. If you are presenting a gift to the company, it must be stated that you are presenting it from your company to their company. It should be given to whoever is the “head negotiator” for the business team, and it shouldn’t be very expensive. When you present the corporate gift, if possible, say a few words about what the gift is and what significance or meaning it has.
  • Display your company logo on the gift.
  • Chinese will refuse a gift, sometimes repeatedly. It is expected, however, that the giver will persist and the recipient’s acceptance will eventually follow.
  • Present gifts with two hands.
  • Give gifts in pairs; this implies good luck.
  • Avoid giving clocks or sharp objects (e.g., knives, letter openers) as gifts, as the word for “clock” in Chinese is similar to the word for “death” and sharp objects imply the cutting of a relationship.
  • Avoid wrapping gifts in white, blue or black, which are colours associated with funerals, and avoid writing in red ink, which symbolizes the end of a relationship. Red, yellow and pink are seen as joyful colors and are acceptable for gift wrap.
  • If you plan on wrapping your gift, red wrapping paper is best. The Chinese have many superstitions surrounding colour, and red is considered to be a relatively safe gift wrap colour choice. As in Japan, expect for your gift to be denied at least three times before being accepted.