Today, official policy in China dictates that giving business gifts is bribery, so take special care. Wait until all negotiations are concluded before offering a gift. It should be clear that the gift is offered from company to company, and the gift must be presented to the Chinese team leader.
Since taboos and superstitions run strongly in Chinese culture, take care in observing local customs as this also shows respect to your hosts, particularly toward the elderly. When in doubt, ask.
Avoid the following gifts:
- Gifts given in numbers of four
- The numeral nine
- Other sharp objects
- Clocks (the Cantonese term for gift giving, sung, and the word for clock, chung, put together mean paying last respects at someone’s death)
- Handkerchiefs (represent funerals)
- Umbrellas (symbolize closing)
- Green hats (symbolize infidelity)
- White or yellow flowers (particularly chrysanthemums) or other white objects (represent funerals)
- A stork or crane or images thereof
- Straw sandals
- Pears (a homophone for separation)
- White, gray, or black colors in gifts or wrappings
- Pens with red ink
- Anything written with red ink
Be careful out there!