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gift giving traditions

Gift Giving Traditions Around the World

Mother’s day is here and if you haven’t crafted a card or gift yet, you may be experiencing gift-anxiety. Maybe, you experience it year-round with all the birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that call for gifts. Even during travel abroad, gift-giving is becoming a tradition, especially when visiting someone’s house overseas for dinner or parties. But it might ease your worries to know that there’s no exactly one right way to gift something. Take a look at the various gift-giving traditions around the world such as handing presents with a certain hand or giving gifts to the host of a house.

Countries and their traditions:

In America, we simply hand our gifts in whatever manner is convenient or natural for us, but in Japan, it’s customary to hand a gift with both hands. Gift-giving isn’t just for holidays in Japan, when you visit someone’s house for the first time you may give them a gift. The souvenir business is also booming, and souvenirs from different cities and prefectures are popular gifts too. High-quality gifts, such as expensive fruits (such as melon), are also popular.

Hong Kong:
Like Japan, gifts are passed with both hands and when visiting someone’s home a small gift should be offered to the host. Gifts are may be refused several times out of courtesy and politeness, regardless of whether or not the receiver wants the gift or not. Several items are considered taboo gifts such as sharp objects, clocks, mirrors, and flowers that are yellow, red, or white.

Like many other countries, in Russia, gifts are rejected initially the first time out of politeness. When visiting someone’s house, flowers are given to the host. Carnations are avoided as gifts because they’re associated with funerals and Soviet holidays.

When giving a gift in Iran, it’s important to be humble and you may apologize for its short-falling. The wrapping of the gift is important and the more elegant, the better.

Like Hong Kong, in Samoa, a gift may be rejected out of courtesy and humbleness. Expensive and high-quality gifts are not a necessity; it’s the intention behind the gift that comes first and foremost.

In Ethiopia, it’s considered rude to pass a gift with the left hand. Customarily, gifts are passed with either both hands or the right hand. Like some of the few countries listed previously, you can bring a gift for the host of a house you are visiting. Gifts aren’t restricted to celebrations only; when someone is mourning you can give them a “firag”, or a mourning gift.

South Africa:
In South Africa, gift-giving often occurs during religious holidays like Christmas. As opposed to what we might consider fun and quirky gifts in America, gifts in South Africa are often “practical and conservative” [1]. While in other countries it’s customary to wait until you open a gift, in South Africa receivers may open them right away.

Still anxious?
If you’re still anxious after reading this article, just know that no matter how you give a gift, it’s probably the customary way of gifting in some location. Your gift is sure to bring a smile to your loved one’s face. If you’re having trouble thinking of a gift for a loved one, consider giving the gift of experience and personal growth by enrolling them in one of our programs. If you’re already enrolled in our programs, then remember to bring some gifts along with you to give to any host of the houses if you visit!

Special thanks to Cultural Atlas for providing the information in this blog.

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