The DO’s and DON’Ts of Gift Giving in China

Happy New Year! It’s getting close to time to celebrate; and, if you haven’t already, to start thinking about gifts.

As you no doubt know, when you’re participating in another culture’s celebrations things are rarely that simple. To keep things easy, here are a couple of tips on the DO’S and DON’TS of gift giving in China.

To give…

Hongbao

Envelopes Of Luck And Prosperity

This is the big one, and the one that seems to almost fall out of the sky at any given moment during Chinese New Year. Red envelopes filled with anything from tiny to huge amounts of cash are the standard gift in China, not just at this time of year but also at birthdays and weddings. Hey, at least you avoid all that difficult decision making.

Wine

IMG_2019

Wine is big right now in the Middle Kingdom too! It’s getting more and more popular and tastes are getting more and more sophisticated; while big, bold and prestigious names from France still dominate in some sense, now is a good time to start getting a little more creative with gifting if you’re going for wine.

Regional favorites

Chocolates background. Chocolate. Assortment of fine chocolates in white, dark, and milk chocolate.

Everyone appreciates a gift some someone’s home town, or something tied closely to the giver’s culture; in a country as huge and diverse as China, that appreciation runs even deeper. You’re from Belgium? Chocolates, maybe beer. France? Some of that aforementioned wine. You get the idea.

Peaches

Ripe peaches in basket on wooden background

This is where things start to get a little more esoteric and abstract. Peaches are tasty and fuzzy enough to make a decent gift any time of year. In Chinese tradition, though, they are thought to symbolise a long life, which is never a bad thing.

And not to give…

First of all, try not to give any gifts that relate to the number four at all. That translates in Chinese to si, which sounds exactly like the word for death. Not nice. Other than that…

Pears

Some Pears In A Basket Over A Wooden Surface

That same sound-a-like issue raises problems elsewhere too. Like, while peaches are fine, be careful if you’re thinking of giving away other fruit; the word for “pear” in Chinese is pronounced li, as is the verb “to part from”. You might just be sending the wrong message there…

Sharp Objects

Multipurpose knife on wooden background

Finally, try to avoid anything sharp. Kitchen knives or swiss army knives mightbe useful and/or cool, but they won’t make a good gift here. There is a Chinese idiom that says “one slash and it’s in two parts”, which refers to personal relationships. Unless you want to not-so-subtley tel this person that you want to cut them off, sharp gifts are something you’ll want to avoid.

A green hat

Hats

Yes, really. While a green hat was probably pretty low on your list of potential gifts anyway, if you were thinking about it, it might be best to reconsider. A green hat has long been seen as a sign that someone is being cheated on. Don’t believe us? Apparently it goes back to the Ming Dynasty, when the Emperor decreed that all men involved in… nighttime trade were made to wear them. So, yeah, probably not the best idea for a present.

And there you have it; a useful (if not totally comphrensive) guide to what to do and what to avoid when giving gifts in China!

Of course, noone is ever going to be disappointed by a bottle of wine or beer as a gift either. We’ve put together some Chinese New Year gifts that will be perfect for gifting any wine lover friends, family members or coworkers – or simply treating yourself.

They are all available for instant delivery NOW on the BottlesXO app; find out more about them here. 

Download the BottlesXO app here