Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giving Corporate Gifts overseas without giving offence


Corporate gifts can help maintain and build a business relationship, but the choice of the wrong gift, or even wrapping your gift in the wrong way can work in reverse. Giving gifts in our own country is not so complicated, but international gift giving can be a minefield, in which the wrong gift becomes a gaffe. There are five key considerations when choosing an appropriate gift:


Is it appropriate to give a gift at all?

In some countries your corporate gifts may be perceived as bribes, when this is far from your intention. In other countries business gifts are virtually mandatory, and it would be rude not to give a gift. You need to do some research on the customs and practices of your destination country. Likewise many companies or corporations may have policies which prevent individuals receiving a gift at all, or perhaps receiving one above a certain value.


Take a gift from your own country.

This may seem obvious, but if for example you are travelling from New Zealand or representing the New Zealand government, or a New ZealandNew Zealand gifts. company, make sure you take Do not be fooled by misleading labels such as “Designed in New Zealand”; double check that your NZ Gifts are in fact made in New Zealand, or which ever county you wish to represent. (You might be surprised at the sophisticated level of replication of ‘local’ arts and crafts, which are actually manufactured in countries such China). A reputable gift outlet should be able to give advice on the source of their products.


One size does not fit all

In many countries, company hierarchy is extremely significant, and you will be expected to reflect this hierarchy in the perceived value of the corporate gifts you are giving. This may mean taking a range of gifts of different values, and one or two spare gifts can be useful too. It may be important that the gift is given “from your company” to “their company” and not to an individual.


Cultural Considerations

This is truly a minefield, where a well intentioned gift can easily cause embarrassment or offence. For example in China sets of four (eg Coasters), clocks, green hats or caps, and sharp objects such as letter openers are all inappropriate. Alcohol is not a good choice for India, but it is for Japan, (so long as it is not wrapped in white). Give generously in Japan, but modestly in Thailand, (but make sure you don’t rip the wrapping paper of any gifts you open in Thailand). Not only is there potential to offend with your choice of gift, but the way you give or receive gifts, the colour of the wrapping, when and how to open gifts, the colour of writing in the card and other factors are all highly significant in some countries. The key point is not to make any assumptions as to suitability of your gift. Do some research first on what gifts are appropriate in your destination country, and how to wrap them, how to give them and when to give etc.


Practical Considerations

Make yourself aware of customs regulations (for example those bringing food or honey based items as potential New Zealand corporate gifts may find their gifts confiscated due to NZ border controls.) Consider the impact of temperature fluctuations, and expect rough baggage handling. Ideal gifts are robust, and light. Make life easy by having gifts wrapped at home, but with labelled outer packaging, so you can quickly identify the items. Once again a knowledgeable gift retailer should be able to assist with all these considerations.


When there is so much to consider while planning an overseas work trip, taking corporate gifts may seem inconsequential. In many countries the reverse is true, with corporate gifting presenting the opportunity to unwittingly cause offence. Take time to research appropriate gifts, or contact a specialist gift company. For more information, on a country by country basis, please go to the “Corporate Gifting” section of our website.

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