Week by week, 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 minefield of potential social and cultural faux pas. Stick with us and we'll help you avoid such frustrations (and embarrassments)... this week, in Japan.
Gift giving in Japan is deeply rooted in tradition. The emphasis is on the act of giving rather than the gift itself, therefore the value of the gift is of less importance than the presentation and thoughtfulness in which it is presented.
In Japan, gifts are given not only for social occasions but also as social obligations -- when indebted to others (both family and business). After receiving a gift, the Japanese send a "thank you" gift called an O-kaeshi. These "thank you" gifts are common for funerals, weddings, and births. The value of this gift usually equals half the value of the original gift.
Personal Gift Giving:
- For weddings, it is customary to give money to the newlyweds. Money should be given in an envelope. Both the bills and the quantity should be an odd number (but not 13). Don't be surprised when you get a gift in return! Upon returning from their honeymoon, the couple brings back souvenirs to give to their wedding guests.
- For young people and children's celebrations, electronics are a recommended gift choice.
- When a friend is sick, flowers are the customary gift in Japan. Avoid chrysanthemums, potted plants, large bouquets, vivid colors, or anything with a strong fragrance.
- Never give gifts in the quantities of 4, 9 or 13. Those numbers are considered bad luck.
Business Gift Giving:
Business gift giving in Japan is often extravagant and prestigious with companies spending large sums of money on gifts to their clients and customers, but the sense of competition develops around giving, not the most expensive, but the most original or thoughtful gift.
When doing business in Japan, there's an expectation a gift will be offered at the first meeting, and gifts will continue to be part of your business dealings. Be prepared at that first meeting with a beautifully wrapped, quality gift that's not extravagant.
- If you're bringing a gift from your home country, make sure it's not "made in Japan".
- Don't select items with your company logo. It's considered tacky.
- Local food specialties from your home country or region are appreciated.
- Expensive gifts are common. An expensive gift will not be perceived as a bribe.
- It is customary to comment as you present a gift (even if it is extravagant) "Tsumaranai mono desu ga, " meaning, "This is a trifling thing, but please accept it." This statement is meant to convey humility.
- If you are giving a gift to an individual, present it in private. Conversely, If you are presenting a gift to a group of people, make sure they are all present.
- Present and receive your gifts with both hands.
- When receiving a gift it is polite to refuse at least once or twice before accepting.
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 Malaysia!