With one of the biggest holidays in China – The Chinese New Year – approaching fast, this is the right time to consider the right gift to show respect to your Chinese business partners.
And this holiday is the ideal occasion to improve ties with your clients and customers.
However, Chinese traditions may differ slightly from those in your country.
That's why we gathered all the essential information to understand the Chinese gift-giving culture, advice on appropriate presents, and what to avoid.
It may seem like there are too many rules to follow when presenting gifts. Still, we should keep this from frightening us because leaving a good first impression is always beneficial.
The Chinese are very proud of their culture. Still, they tolerate outsiders who make cultural mistakes, especially those who don't speak Chinese.
However, a well-thought-out gift will be received with admiration and respect.
Guanxi is the most important cultural idea for Westerners to understand if they wish to conduct business with Chinese business partners.
Guanxi, which translates as "connection," is crucial in China for getting things done.
People with high guanxi are strongly connected to the business sector's top corporate and political leaders. They are, therefore, in a stronger position to close deals.
The general rules for presenting gifts for Chinese business partners are the following:
Now, let’s see some popular gifts for Chinese business partners that they will surely appreciate.
Chinese toasting and alcohol consumption traditions play a significant role in business culture.
Therefore, your Chinese business partners will be happy if you provide them with imported wine or alcoholic beverages, for example, from France, Chile, or Spain.
Or, you could present baijiu as an alternative to show your passion for Chinese culture. Numerous variants of "baijiu," a potent grain-based alcohol, are available.
Just keep in mind to choose a reputable brand.
In the 2022 World's Top 50 Spirits Ranking, three Chinese baijiu brands – Moutai, Wuliangye, and Yanghe – took the top three positions.
If your business partner wants to make a toast, it is customary to toast your glass rim lower than theirs.
This is an illustrative method to respect their authority or demonstrate humility.
Tea is another premium gift you might consider giving, as the Chinese are great tea drinkers.
Green tea is the most consumed beverage in China, second only to water.
And because China was the birthplace of tea over 4000 years ago, why not gift some premium tea, like:
Since the Chinese like to prepare a drinking ceremony for their guests, it is also an excellent idea to present a tea set along with a nicely wrapped tea box.
Gifts from your home country or region (like a coffee table book on significant events in your nation's history or one about wildlife, scenery, or culture) or local specialties (cigars, wine, chocolate, etc.), are almost always well received.
That is especially convenient if they are the kind of presents that are difficult to find in China or are expensive due to import taxes.
Still, if you opt for a book gift, be sure it is not during the negotiation period!
If you choose to give an engraved pen, make sure it is not with red ink.
Writing people's names in red should be avoided, but generally using red is totally fine, and in the context of the Chinese new year red definitely means happiness.
Quality cigarettes or cigars and cigarette lighter are excellent options if the intended recipient smokes.
Also, a well-made leather wallet, or card holder, especially if handcrafted in your country, can be a well-thought gift for your Chinese business partner.
Gift baskets, particularly those filled with treats for the holidays and other special occasions, are an additional choice you might consider giving to your Chinese business partners.
You can mix local products with imported ones. But most importantly – ensure it doesn't contain pears.
It is because the Mandarin phrase for "sharing a pear" (分梨 fēn lí) is a homophone of 分离 (fēnlí).
So the phrase means to separate or part ways, which is not a message you want to convey to your business partners.
Depending on the year's season, you can include Mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn festival. The practice of presenting gifts at work is far more common in China than in the West.
Buying expensive gift boxes of mooncakes to win over clients and superiors became so out of control that the Chinese government was forced to regulate the practice in 2014.
But, as long as you stay moderate, you are safe.
And, if you wish to give flower bouquets – white flowers, especially chrysanthemums, are reserved for funerals, so it is best to stay away from them.
Note: And, finally, it is considered impolite to give the present in the original bag. So you should pay particular attention when choosing the wrapping color, too.
Avoid wrapping your gifts in white or black paper because it is linked to the wrapping used at funerals. The best colors you can use are red, gold, silver, and pink.
Gift-giving superstitions exist in every culture, and China is no different.
But if you follow these few simple rules, you'll have no problem choosing the right gifts for Chinese business partners.
Chinese believe a friendship or other relationship can be broken if you gift scissors, knives, or other pointed items.
It is only a good choice for a gift if you are handing someone an umbrella on a rainy day.
Similar to the meaning behind the unwanted pears, Mandarin and Cantonese words for a fan (扇 shàn) or an umbrella (伞 sǎn) sound like the word 散 (sǎn/sàn), which means to scatter, or to part ways.
If you don't want to share the fate of the British Prime minister, who caused a diplomatic incident when gifting a watch to a mayor of Taipei, stay away from it.
Due to the similar pronunciation of "giving a clock" and "attending an elderly person's funeral," giving someone a clock or watch as a gift is customarily frowned upon in Chinese society.
Many Chinese people prefer to give red envelopes stuffed with cash for the Spring Festival and weddings.
It's usual for parents, grandparents, elderly relatives, and even close neighbors or family friends to give youngsters red envelopes during the Spring Festival.
Depending on how close you are to the recipient(s), the amount of money inside varies.
But, you should avoid giving such a gift, as it is mainly reserved for close family and friends.
When we think about the small gift of courtesy for female colleagues, we’ll grab a candle or a cute necklace. However, in China, candles are only used when memorizing the dead, thus not appropriate for gifts.
Additionally, mirrors and any jewelry with stones are believed to attract evil spirits, so it is best to stir away from these when choosing gifts.
the last thing to remember is the Chinese saying, "courtesy demands reciprocity."
It means you are expected to return the favor with a suitable present of the same value later.
Suppose you don't do it. In that case, it suggests that you aren't very interested in upholding the relationship, and the recipient can feel slighted.
But now that you are more familiar with gift-giving customs choosing gifts for Chinese business partners should be easy!
And your partnership can prosper from these relationship-building activities.
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