Gift Giving

Chinese do not usually accept a gift, invitation or favor when it is first presented. Politely refusing two or three times is thought to reflect modesty and humility. Accepting something in haste makes a person look aggressive and greedy, as does opening it in front of the giver. Traditionally the monetary value of a gift indicated the importance of a relationship, but due to increasing contact with foreigners in recent years, the symbolic nature of gifts has taken foot.
Bringing a gift for your friend, relative, business partner, or host is a good idea. Depending on the nature of your visit, your gift may vary. Gifts are an important way to build relationships in China. Chinese are fond of items that are not accessible in China. For example, items that are hand-made, from your country, or both, are highly valued. The Chinese do not usually open gifts when they receive them. You should not open a gift given to you unless they insist. A proper way to show appreciation for a gift is another gift in return, as opposed to thank you cards.
Present your gifts with both hands. And when wrapping, be aware that the Chinese ascribe much importance to color. Red is lucky, pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity; white, grey and black are funeral colors.
Do not give knives, scissors as they symbolize breaking a relationship. Also avoid clocks, or anything in sets of four (four is an unlucky number as it sounds like “death”). Six, eight and nine are a lucky numbers.
The popular items include cigarette lighters, stamps (stamp collecting is a popular hobby), T-shirt, the exotic coins make a good gift to Chinese.
And the following gifts should be avoided:
1. Clocks of any kind. The word clock in Chinese sound like the expression the end of life.
2. White or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums), which are used for funerals.
3. Red ink for writing cards or letters. It symbolizes the end of a relationship.
4. Pears. The word for Pear in Chinese sounds the same as separate and is considered bad luck.
If someone opens a store or starts a business, give the bamboo flower or “shui zhu” as a gift. By giving this gift, as represented by the many rings in the bamboo stem, you are wishing them continual growth and income.
Gifts can be wrapped or presented in a gift bag, but do not choose the color white. Red and gold are the best colors for gift paper, bags, or boxes.
If you know that your contact likes chocolate, consider bringing some high-end chocolate, as Chinese chocolate is waxy and lacks flavor. Anything you can get at a Western market or grocery story will suffice, but specialty chocolate will be sure to leave a lasting impression.
Chinese avoid giving each other clocks as gifts are because the phrase “give a clock as a gift” is “song zhong”, which in Chinese sounds like you are “wishing someone death.” This does not apply to watches, just clocks.
Never slice a pear in two and offer a half to someone (especially if you like them). This is symbolic of breaking up, because the phrase is “li kai”, which has the double meaning of “cut a pear” and “break up”.

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