Holiday Gifting: Do’s & Don’ts in International Business

The world of international business can be tricky due to all the customs involved. What’s appropriate in one country may not be in another. What is okay and acceptable to give as a holiday gift or new year gift around the world?


Gift giving forms the heart and soul of many businesses in Japan. If you go on a vacation and come back to the office, it’s customary to bring a small gift for all to enjoy. While gifts are traditionally expensive in general, it’s considered rude to present someone with a gift in front of others. Instead, wait until you are in private. When giving the gift, use both hands for respect. If you are the recipient, refuse any gifts offered to you a couple of times before graciously accepting. This shows good manners. Superstition comes into play a lot, even with gifts. Don’t give gifts or money that feature the numbers four or nine – it’s bad luck.

Saudi Arabia

Gifts here, even in business, are reserved for the closest of friends. Therefore, don’t give gifts at the office, even if you happen to be very good friends with the recipient. Gift giving should take place out of the office setting. Expect to pay a lot for any gifts you give. Cheap is considered rude. Gifts for male business associates and friends should not contain gold or silk, but silver instead. Give gifts using your right hand and open them immediately in front of the giver.

France and Britain

When attending a holiday party at a business associate’s home in France, it’s traditional to bring a gift of flowers, candy or a personalized item. In Britain, though, a bottle of wine is perfectly acceptable as a gift. As a side note, don’t give alcohol as gifts in India, as many Indians do not consume alcohol.


Many gifts in international business are acceptable in Italy, but you should keep one thing in mind: if you decide to bring flowers don’t bring chrysanthemums, as they are associated with funerals, and don’t give an even number of flowers.


Gifts are given freely in China, with pretty much any occasion calling for an appropriate gift. In business, be sure not to spend too much or the recipient may take it as a bribe. Also, don’t give a personal gift for a business associate that could be used in the recipient’s home. Instead, make it work related – preferably with your logo on it – and an item that is relevant to the business you’re in.

Knowing the local language and customs of the country in which you’re conducting business will help immensely when considering gifts. BRIC Language Systems features an online, face-to-face language training and travel service that will help you achieve global success – even when it comes to international business gift giving.