China Tip 16: The art of giving

Relation gifts are meant, by means of positive memories, to reinforce a relationship. This kind of association will increase trust and will cause the receiver to adopt a more flexible attitude in future business situations. 

Entrepreneurs operating internationally may experience difficulties finding the right presents for people with different cultural backgrounds. Aside from statutory regulations, there are also personal symbolical backgrounds that need to be taken into account. In China, for example, it is unconventional to bring a gift to the first meeting.   

People with experience in China are usually aware that presenting a clock, an umbrella or shoe may have an unfortunate undertone. Such presents usually give rise to a negative association. Even the colors of the wrapping paper can play a decisive role. Black and white are, for example, best avoided. 

Furthermore, relation gifts always have to be presented at the end of meetings and on behalf of the company. The most important gift is for the principal person, who, for that matter, is rarely ever the contact person(!) At Chinese meetings, there are usually more people involved than is customary in Europe. It is much appreciated when everybody is presented with, at least, a small trinket or when something is given that can be shared by everybody.

Finally, a present with a nice story is better than a nice present without a story. Local delicacies such as sweets and alcohol may, for example, make very successful presents. 

The only exception to this rule is exceptionally strange flavors such as Dutch liquorices. This might have a miserable effect as many Chinese find the flavor comparable to that of traditional Chinese medicine.