As Christmas time approaches, we undeniably start to think about how we can rekindle our professional relationships alongside our personal ones and share the gift of kindness with those whom we cherish at work.
International and virtual teams are now the norm, and thanks to a good internet connection and fast international postage, we can share the joy of the holidays together. In fact, over 83% of senior managers believe that corporate gifts have a notable impact on a business’s success, improving job satisfaction and productivity.
Katy Baxter, Corporate Affairs Director at luxury gift hamper business, Baxters of Scotland says: “Gifting is a big part of our culture, especially when it comes to the festivities. Each country has its own gifting etiquette, and if we want to make our gestures even more personalised, we can tailor them to the receiver’s traditions. Both teammates and leadership can add a few tips and tricks to their international gifting repertoire for an extra magical (corporate) Christmas.”
Asia: a tapestry of gifting traditions
Asia, with its deep-rooted values, inherent respect, and a myriad of cultures, presents a tapestry of gifting etiquettes. If you want to chime in with the spirit of gratitude in Asia, here are a few country-specific gifting customs to honour.
In Japan, the act of gift-giving has become its own art form, where a heavy emphasis is placed on the presentation. Often, the presentation of the gift is considered more important than the gift itself. Meticulously wrapped presents convey the giver’s attention to detail and sophistication, symbolising the value placed on the relationship.
Whether you’re sending an individual gift to a dear colleague in Japan or surprising the whole team over there, make sure that each gift is wrapped artfully by focusing on refinement and a tasteful selection of textures and embellishments.
China, with its rich cultural history, places great emphasis on the symbolism of gifts. The number four, for instance, is associated with bad luck, so gifts in sets of four are best to be avoided. But the number eight is considered lucky, and symbolises prosperity, so customising your gift-giving around this number can make your receiver feel a bit more love.
“A great way to incorporate the number eight into your corporate gift and direct your wishes of abundance is by sending a luxury gift hamper, which is a quintessential Christmas gift, filled with a selection of eight high-quality and local items. To bring the gap between cultures and countries, and show unity, you can send a taste of your own gifting culture by choosing products which highlight both yours and the receiver’s respected heritages,” commented Katy Baxter, Corporate Affairs Director at Baxters of Scotland.
In India, gifts that reflect regional craftsmanship are often praised, such as sweets, beverages, and condiments. A hamper bag that celebrates the regional gastronomy traditions of the United Kingdom, such as a Highland-inspired assortment, will also be a great choice here. Choose flavours and combinations you think your receiver will love, or even something they might not have tried before, for an extra special touch.
South Korea places a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect within its social structure, and this extends to gift-giving in professional settings. When offering a gift, it is crucial to select an item that reflects the status of the recipient.
So, if you’re planning on getting your manager something to thank them for the year, choosing an item which suggests respect is important. This might include a bottle of their favourite drink or food. Depending on the person and the sector you’re working in, a great professional gift can include something practical, such as a high-quality fountain pen and gold foil or leather notebooks.
Whereas, if you’re buying something for a colleague you work closely with, you might want something a bit more personal and fun – a thoughtful gift which shares an inside joke is always a good option.
In Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, a blend of modernity and tradition is observed in gifting practices. Respect for elders, a common thread across these cultures, is often expressed through the act of gift-giving. Traditional items, local delicacies, or artisanal crafts are popular choices, reflecting the cultural richness of the region.
In that case, you can send to your international teams in Southeast Asia a variety of tartan blankets, Christmas crackers, and handcrafted British chocolates.
Europe: classic but chic
From the elegance of Western Europe to the traditions of Eastern Europe, and the minimalist charm of Scandinavia, understanding the nuanced gifting practices of Europe is important for enhancing your company culture and professional relationships during Christmas.
In Western Europe, encompassing countries such as France, Italy, and Germany, the art of gift-giving is marked by a sense of elegance and thoughtful gestures. The French, known for their appreciation of aesthetics, consider the presentation of a gift almost as important as the gift itself.
Italians, on the other hand, celebrate personal connections with customised gifts that reflect the recipient’s interests. The Germans, maintaining a sense of thoughtful practicality, value presents with a long-lasting value. And the United Kingdom is known for its appreciation for greeting cards, so make sure to include a special message when sending gifts to share this tradition, and your love, further.
But one thing that most European cultures have in common is the love of food. With each location having its own specialities and luxuries, finding something to share with your colleagues across borders could include sharing a piece of your home – specifically your pantry. Try sharing the experience of flavour with one another for a personable, palatable gift. For Scotland, this might be shortbread or whisky, whereas other countries will have their own favourite food and drinks to share and celebrate together.
Eastern European countries, including Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, hold a deep appreciation for traditions and festive occasions. Christmas and religious celebrations are marked by the exchange of handcrafted items and carefully chosen gifts. The act of giving in these regions is often a reflection of cultural heritage, emphasising the sentimental value of the gifts exchanged.
Scandinavian countries, known for their minimalist design and quality craftsmanship, approach gift-giving with a focus on meaning. In Sweden, for example, the emphasis is on quality over quantity, and the act of opening gifts is a private and intimate affair.
Practical items with a touch of elegance align with the region’s minimalist aesthetic, reflecting a thoughtful approach to gifting. Luxury handmade chocolates wrapped in elegant packaging or natural handcrafted cosmetics made from British beeswax would be a great choice.
In Latin America, a region steeped in rich cultural diversity, the act of presenting gifts is accompanied by expressions of warmth and shared joy, creating bonds that extend beyond the material offerings. Christmas is marked by the exchange of thoughtful gifts, often representing a deep connection to cultural beliefs.
Before sending a gift to your Latin American colleagues, remember that gifting sharp objects such as knives, scissors or swords is considered a symbol of cutting ties instead of merging. Leather gifts should also be avoided as most of the world’s finest leathers come from South America.
In Latin American countries, the thoughtful selection of gifts holds significant importance, so carefully consider the tastes and interests of your colleagues to make a meaningful and respectful gesture.
Gift-giving during the holidays is a major part of business culture in the USA and Canada. But while Americans commonly unwrap gifts in private, Canadians are more open to expressing their reaction in front of the giver.
It’s also important to be mindful of corporate or government-imposed regulations regarding the exchange of gifts to avoid violations of certain policies.
Thoughtfulness behind the gift is paramount, reflecting the giver’s consideration of the recipient’s preferences. Therefore, it’s best to discuss this matter with the People and Culture team in order to select the most personalised gifts for your colleagues in North America.
In Arab culture where generosity and politeness are highly valued, the exchange of gifts plays a crucial role in fostering goodwill and strengthening professional ties.
When selecting gifts for colleagues in the Middle East, it’s essential to be aware of cultural sensitivities. Making sure you’re respecting other cultures when gift-giving is essential for good business partnerships.
Opt for gifts of the highest quality, that are both practical and comforting, such as Scottish sheepskin slippers or rugs, cashmere shawls, and quintessentially British tableware. Ensure that the chosen gifts reflect the respect and consideration necessary in Arab business culture.
In African countries such as Kenya and Ghana, the exchange of symbolic gifts is deeply rooted in cultural pride and significance. Heritage practices and craftsmanship take centre stage, with items such as beads and traditional fabrics serving as meaningful tokens. Each gift tells a story, representing not only the giver’s appreciation but also a profound connection to their heritage.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the concept of “Ubuntu” underscores the interconnectedness of humanity, and the act of gift-giving becomes a powerful extension of this philosophical ethos. Therefore, a gift that promotes inter-connectedness between the two cultures will be ideal, and a hamper bag with an assortment of gifts can be a great way to introduce your colleagues to traditional artisanship from the UK.
When it comes to gifting, it isn’t solely about where in the world you’re gifting from or to. In fact, there are other considerations to keep in mind such as allergies, preferences, and religion for example. If you’re sharing food or drink with someone, you’ll want to make sure they’re able to enjoy it just as much – so put some research into finding out whether your receiver drinks alcohol or needs to avoid any allergens.
You’ll also want to consider something a bit more personal if you work closely together. Nothing says “I’m thinking of you” more than remembering something special to someone. Reach out to colleagues who work in the same office or spend some time together on your next business trip to get an idea for what they like.
“Understanding the colourful array of gifting traditions and cultural intricacies amongst your international colleagues will guarantee you that your gift is received warmly and with appreciation,” said Katy Baxter, Corporate Affairs Director at Baxters of Scotland.
Gifting across countries during the Christmas season doesn’t have to be a difficult task. With some additional research, some insight into cultural sensitivities, and some insight into what your co-workers or business partners like, you can ensure that you’re getting something everyone enjoys – helping you strengthen those partnerships as you head into the New Year.