Monday, October 18, 2010

Suitable Business Gifts for Malaysia

Following on from the recent signing of the Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and Malaysia, there is expected to be significantly increased business travel between the two countries. Learning about other countries, and their cultural practices can be both part of the charm and the challenge of international business relationships. There is no doubt that the better your understanding of the differences, the better your chances of success.

Business gifts are a common part of doing business with the Malaysian people, and are a little more complex than in some countries due to religious and other beliefs of the various ethnicities.

While the gift does not need to be lavish, a small gift at an initial meeting does indicate you are genuine and sincere in trying to build a relationship. However you must pay careful attention to the type of gift you choose, so as to not offend the recipient. There is a mix of Muslim, Asian and Indian ethnicities, each of which may be offended by various aspects of business gifts commonly given in New Zealand.

It is easier if you know the ethnicity of the people you are meeting, but if you do not, it is best to avoid the following products altogether:

·       Alcohol (offensive to Muslims)
·       All leather (pig leather is offensive to Muslims and cow leather is offensive to Indians)
·       Gifts which depict dogs (offensive to Muslims, considered unclean)
·       Gifts which are predominantly white or black or wrapped in white or black (signify mourning to Hindus)
·       Personal items
·       No sharp items (eg letter openers) which symbolize severing (of your relationship)
·       Artwork depicting the human form (especially if partially naked)
·       Avoid clocks, and sets of four (especially when giving to Asians)
·       Items which are overly personal


Make sure you have chosen New Zealand made gifts (many items which have a NZ or ‘Kiwiana’ theme will not be made in NZ). Some items which may be suitable include:

Remember also gift wrapping is significant, so ensure you avoid the ‘mourning’ colours of black, white or blue. Red is a good ‘happy’ colour to wrap in.

How you give the gift is also significant. The left hand is generally considered ‘unclean’ so use the right hand only, or both hands if it large. Do not expect your gift to opened in front of you.

While the cultural considerations of business gifts to Malaysia may require a little more thought in choosing your gift, your thoughtfulness will help to make the relationship a more successful one.

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