Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture

This is a fun topic! What is gift-giving etiquette in Chinese culture? Let’s start with the “Chinese New Year.”

Chinese New Year

  • The older generations will give money to the younger generations. For instance, the grandparents to the grandchild, the uncles, and aunts to nephews and nieces, the parents to children.  
  • When choosing envelopes, be careful to get the red ones. You may find also white and blue envelopes for sale in the stores, but those are for the funerals. 
  • When giving money, ensure it is crisp and new. Also, be careful of the amount of money you put in the envelope, an “even number” is better and avoid any “number 4.”
  • Always start by presenting a gift to the oldest (or most senior) member if giving gifts to a large group or whole family.
  • When giving or receiving a gift always use two hands.
  • Giving gifts when visiting friends and relatives during Chinese New Year is common. It is a good idea to wrap your gifts in red or gold. Avoid wrapping them in white, black or blue.  
  • It is considered bad form to receive a gift and open it immediately in front of the giver. The person receiving the gift will likely express their thanks before putting the gift aside to open in private later.

Wedding

  • In traditional Chinese culture, we usually give red envelopes to the newly-wedded couple. The amount of money you put in the envelope depends on the wedding dinner cost and also the relationship between you and the bride or/and groom. But be sure at least to cover the cost of the wedding dinner.
  • Giving gifts to a newly-wedded couple is more common now in Chinese culture. Household items are welcome but are sure to avoid those listed as taboo below. 

Birthdays

In Chinese culture, we celebrate birthdays, but not as much as celebrating Chinese New Year. 

  • Good gifts for elder people include china,  tea or supplement.
  • Age-appropriate toys and books are good gift ideas for kids. 
  • For those in between, it is similar to the culture here. You can observe and know what the gift receiver may need or like. But be sure to avoid those listed as taboo below.  

 

Now, we will talk about Chinese taboo gift ideas…

  • Number 4: Four of any item would be taboo because number 4 is “sì” and “death (sǐ)”  in Chinese. Their pronunciation is similar. So the Chinese consider number 4 to be unlucky.
  • Clock: The phrase “gifting a clock” is “送钟  (sòng zhōng)” which sounds the same as “送终  (sòng zhōng)”, which carries a connotation of death. It means finishing all affairs of a burial ceremony.
  • Shoes: Chinese people believe that gifting shoes equip a person to “walk away” from a relationship.
  • Green hat: The phrase “to wear a green hat” or “戴绿帽  (dài lǜ mào),” means that the man’s wife is cheating on him. So no green hat as a gift to a Chinese man.
  • Pear: “Sharing a pear” (分梨) is a homophone of “separate,” both pronounced “fēnlí” in Chinese. By giving/sharing pears with someone, you are suggesting that you separate from them.
  • Umbrella, fan: The words for an umbrella, “伞  (sǎn)” and fan (shàn)” sounds like “散  (sàn)” which means to separate.” By giving someone an umbrella or a fan, you are suggesting that you want the relationship to end.

 

Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture Simplified Chinese Version

Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture simplified infographic

 

Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture Traditional Chinese Version

Traditional Chinese Version

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