China Gift Giving Customs

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Flag of China Officially the People's Republic of China.

  1. Official Language: Standard Mandarin (Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese)
  2. Currency: Renminbi (RMB); also referred to by the unit yuan (CNY)
  3. National Holiday: National Day of the People's Republic of China - October 1
  4. Chinese Holidays and Celebrations

Other Public Holidays in China

  1. New Year's Day - January 1
  2. Chinese New Year - 1st day of 1st lunar month
  3. Labor Day - May 1
  4. Dragon Boat Festival - April 4th or April 5th
  5. Mid-Autumn Festival - 15th day of 8th lunar month

When scheduling your appointments, be sensitive to holidays. Some businesses may close from several days to up to a week for May Day or National Day.

Business Gift Giving Etiquette

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Gift giving used to be part of Chinese business protocol. Then, our research showed that for a period of time the sentiment shifted to viewing giving business gifts as a form bribery.

More recent evidence points toward a more relaxed attitude in giving an accepting business gifts in mainland China. Specifically, a recent survey has shown that one-third of luxury items were purchased as gifts for business partners. High end brands such as Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton are popular.[1]

  • If possible, do some indirect research ahead of time to see if business gifts are considered acceptable for that region, company, or individual.
  • Be prepared that your gift may not be accepted due to business practices, though, keep in mind that it is custom in China to decline a gift up to 3 times before accepting it.
  • Luxury items are becoming a popular choice for business gifts in China. Extra points for known luxury brands that are difficult to find in China. The Chinese are drawn to symbolism and hard to find high-end brands are well regarded.
  • Keep a detailed list of the gifts that you have presented and the names of recipients. Duplicating gifts shows a lack of thoughtfulness.
  • Keep a list of gifts you have received. This is very helpful when preparing thank you letters, and it is an excellent way to evaluate relationships.
  • Unless it's a symbolic event, don't photograph the event of giving a gift.
  • If negotiations are involved, gifts should be presented once they are finished.
  • The most acceptable gift is a banquet.

Chinese Business Card Etiquette

  • The Chinese are very enthusiastic about exchanging business cards, so be sure to bring a plentiful supply. Be sure that one side is in English and the other is in Chinese, preferably in the local dialect.
  • If your company has a prestigious distinction, such as the oldest or largest in your country, be sure that this is stated on your card.
  • Gold is the color of prestige and prosperity. It's an advantage to have your business cards printed in gold ink.
  • Use both hands when presenting business cards and be sure the writing faces the person to whom you are presenting your card. Cards should also be received with both hands.
  • When receiving a business card, make a show of examining it carefully for a few moments before putting it away. Never put the newly received card into your back pocket.

Chinese Business Culture

  • In Chinese business culture, a person's reputation and social standing rests on concept of "Saving Face". This is an important concept to understand, and refers to preserving one's dignity and honor.[2]
  • The Chinese typically will not directly say "no". Instead, non-committal answers such as "perhaps", "I'm not sure", "I'll think about it", or "We'll see" usually mean "no."
  • Be patient, show little emotion, and calmly accept that delays will occur. Do not mention deadlines.
  • Tipping is considered insulting, however the practice is becoming more common.

Personal Gift Giving Etiquette

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  • Gifts are customary at Chinese New Year, weddings, and births. Influences from marketing and other cultures are now beginning to extend gift giving to birthdays. Even though, the Chinese don't celebrate Christmas, gift giving for this holiday is becoming more common.
  • At Chinese New Year, money may be given in a red envelope. It must be an even amount, using an even number of new bills. [3] Traditionally, the red envelope should not be opened until Chinese New Year is over, or bad luck will follow.
  • The Chinese gift custom is to refuse a gift three times before it is accepted. It is customary to continue to insist that they accept the gift. If you are the recipient of a gift, you should also refuse the gift three times before accepting it.
  • Red is considered a lucky color in China. Plain red wrapping paper is considered one of the few safe choices. Gold, silver and pink are also suitable wrapping paper colors. Other colors have a variety of meanings in Chinese culture, many of which are negative. Specifically, white, blue or black paper should be avoided. Regional variations do exist.
  • Gifts are usually not opened in front of the gift giver.
  • Gifts should be given to the recipient with two hands.
  • You should avoid giving gifts of knives, scissors or other sharp objects. These can be seen as symbol of severing of the relationship.
  • Luxury gifts are becoming a popular choice for gifting between those in a romantic relationship.
  • Four is an unlucky number and you should avoid giving gifts in groups of four.
  • Eight is considered a lucky number, so giving gifts in groups of eight is said to bring luck to the recipient.
  • Six is considered a blessing for smoothness and problem free advances.
  • 88 and 168 are both Chinese lucky numbers, and good amounts for the total of money gifts.

Gifts to Avoid

  • A Green Hat. If a man wears a green hat it indicates his wife has been unfaithful to him.
  • Sharp objects like knives or scissors.

These gifts are associated with death and should not be given:

  • Clocks, straw sandals, a stork or crane, handkerchiefs.
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Anything white, blue or black.
  • The number 4 or four of anything.

Related Items


  1. USA Today: Luxury sales boom in China, where giving gifts is an art by Kathy Chu, Monday, January 16th, 2012
  2. Chinese Business Culture: Let's Make a Deal!
  3. International Gift Giving for Business