We're working our way around the globe!
In our previous Friday blogs about cross-cultural gifting, we've established why finding a gift for your friends from other lands can be a more complex task than it seems on the surface. That's especially the case in a place like Egypt where customs, religions, and politics differ from those generally held in the U.S. It's wise to understand certain social protocols before you select a gift and plan its presentation.
Personal Gift Giving
- It is customary to take a gift if you are invited to an Egyptian's home for dinner: good quality fruit, pastries, cookies, sweets or practical gifts for the family.
- If you have been staying with a family, an appropriate thank you gift would be a high-quality item from your won country – something that would be rare or difficult to obtain in Egypt. Also, small gifts for the children are always well-received.
- Present your gifts with the right hand. (Both hands may be used if the gift is heavy.)
- Always present a gift, wrapped. Gifts are typically wrapped twice – first in ordinary paper and then again in brightly colored paper, although white paper is acceptable.
- For a man to give a woman a gift, it must be presented as if from his mother, wife or sister. Otherwise, it might be considered an overly-intimate gesture.
- Generally, gifts are opened later, unless the gift is to be enjoyed right away (such as dessert for dinner). In this case, the gift may be opened in front of the giver.
Things to Avoid:
- Do not give flowers. These are reserved for weddings or the sick.
- Compliment your host's abode, but do not admire something in your friend's home too directly. Egyptians may feel the obligation to give it to you. In return, you would be expected to reciprocate with a gift of similar value.
- Never give the Qu'ran as a gift.
Business gifts are not common in Egypt, except as a gesture of thanks. If you have business in Egypt, expect a farewell gift on your last meeting.
If you wish to present a gift, it is a good idea to personalize your item by having it engraved to add a personal touch. Remember to give or receive gifts humbly, with the right hand, not with the left. (Using both hands is acceptable.)
Things to Avoid:
- Anything that's extremely expensive or elaborate. It may be perceived as a bribe.
- Gifts with political connotations from the US. (Many Arabs disagree with US politics.)
- Alcohol or items made from alcohol, such as cologne or perfume. Devout Muslims don't drink alcohol.
- Photographs and art that depict natural scenes. It is Islamic belief that man should not reproduce what God has made.
- Cutlery, scissors and other sharp objects, as this represents a severed relationship.
- Anything that could be construed as too personal -- as gifts symbolically show the relationship between the giver and the receiver.
- Don't give gifts to anyone other than your key contact person, usually the decision maker.
There are lots of other #funfacts to learn as our blog treks around the globe. Join us here next Friday as we discuss gift giving in England!