When working with clients and partners around the world, business meetings may be paired with a gift – sometimes quite an extravagant one. Before heading to an international business meeting, know what to expect and what’s expected of you when it comes to gift giving.
International Gift Giving Etiquette
Depending on your destination, giving a gift may be an incredibly important part of your meeting. In Japan, giving a gift at the end of a meeting is a sign of respect. The value of the gift is not especially important; the ritual of gift-giving is what matters. More senior members of the team you speak with should receive a more valuable gift than junior team members.
Gift-giving in business is also expected in other Asian cultures as well as in the Middle East. For clients and partners in these regions, consider culture and religious beliefs before choosing a gift. For example, clocks are taboo in China and Muslim men cannot wear silk or gold.
In the Americas, Australia and Europe, business meeting gifts are not as important.
Regardless of where you are, bring a gift for each person you are meeting with. A group gift may also be appropriate if each team member will appreciate the item. Consider not only the business meetings you will need gifts for, but a hostess gift for any homes you are invited into.
Research the gift-giving procedure for the country you are visiting. Proper etiquette may include presenting the gift with a single hand or two hands, direct eye contact, a polite refusal of the gift and/or waiting to unwrap the gift. Always reciprocate the gifts given to you.
The Ethics of Gift Giving in Business
While many cultures hold corporate gift-giving in high regard, Western countries are more likely to consider them bribes. Stay within your company’s guidelines on giving and receiving gifts and speak with a protocol expert if you have any questions on the matter.
In general, you should avoid gifts that may be interpreted as bribes. Before accepting a gift, ensure it is within your company’s limits. Consider whether or not you would be able to reciprocate with a gift of a similar value. If the answer is no, the gift is likely to extravagant to accept.
To remain on the right side of business ethics, refrain from gift-giving until it can be seen as a “thank you” rather than sweetening a deal.
Business Meeting Gift Ideas
In most countries, your gift need not be expensive. Try to bring a personal, thoughtful and generous gift that is hard to find in the country you’re visiting. A unique item from your hometown is especially considerate. Be sure to avoid gifts that were manufactured in the country you are visiting. This will be particularly important for business meetings in China, Taiwan and some Latin American countries.
High-quality pens and other office supplies are almost always good business meeting gift ideas. However, items with your company’s logo are not acceptable. In most cases, alcohol is also a considerate option, but be sure to research local customs and religious restrictions.