Gift Giving Traditions from Around the World
August 21, 2014
There’s more behind gift giving than finding the perfect present for an individual. According to the NY Times, specialists in the field of psychology, anthropology, and economics all agree that gifts play an important part in human behavior.
Experts say that “giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends.” It’s an evolutionary trait that even the earliest humans participated in. While the tradition of gift giving is universal, there are some specific cultural rituals. Here are some international, gift giving traditions that may surprise you:
- Know your colors. Most cultures have certain colors that they avoid in gift giving. In Brazil, it’s best to avoid giving purple items as a gift since this color represents mourning. In Morocco, the colors pink and yellow are associated with death.
- Luck in odd numbers. In India, it is back luck to give gifts wrapped in white or black paper. And if you give a monetary gift it’s best to give an odd number value like $101 for good luck.
- Polite rituals that bring good fortune. Like in India, it’s a Chinese custom to add a monetary contribution if you give someone a wallet, even if it’s a penny. It’s a way of wishing them good fortune. Gifts associated with the number 8 are considered lucky. And in China, it’s also polite to refuse a gift before accepting it.
- Avoid a faux-pas. Japanese culture also dictates that one should refuse a gift a few times before finally accepting it. It is also important to receive a gift with both hands to show gratefulness. Lastly, giving a potted plant is considered taboo because it is thought to represent sickness.
- Remember to think twice. Think again before sending flowers. In Egypt, giving flowers is reserved for weddings or if someone is sick. It is also traditional for gifts to be wrapped twice with two different colors.
- Handle with caution. If you travel to Thailand remember to handle gifts gently. It’s considered rude to rip the wrapping paper when opening a present. It’s always best to unfold the paper.