The Do’s and Dont’s of International Gifting by Country
September 2, 2022
Director of Merchandising & Operations
Building and enhancing business-critical relationships on a global scale has always been key to the growth of some of the most recognizable brands.
Aside from flying overseas to meet face-to-face with those who mean the world to your business (no pun intended), gifting is one of the best ways to nurture a new relationship. Showing this authenticity from afar tells your prospect, customer, or employee that they’re valued as a human and not another contact in your CRM or org chart.
In this article, I’ll be going in-depth to cover various cultural nuances when sending corporate gifts internationally, to ensure your offering delivers the intended message and shows genuine care.
The importance of navigating cultural customs by country for international gifting
When building a global offline engagement strategy, there are a number of obstacles you may run into which may hinder scalability, and ultimately you hitting your goals. Understanding international warehousing and knowing when it’s appropriate to store inventory close to your foreign customers and prospects is a crucial first step.
Customs vary by country and you always want to make the best impression. Postal works directly with small, local businesses in the countries you are sending gifts to, so you can ensure your offering hits home, wherever that may be for your recipient.
It’s important to consider that many organizations around the world prohibit their employees from accepting any form of external gift, especially those intended to incentivize a desired action. Be sure to research the account before launching an offline campaign. Additionally, not all the holidays I mention serve as appropriate times to offer gifts—do your due diligence to understand the detailed cultural customs before executing a campaign.
We analyzed the top 21 countries around the world that Postal customers have been sending items to and collected some best practices for you to help guide your global offline engagement strategy.
The landscape of professional culture in Canada originates from British, French, and American influences. As far as corporate gifting goes, it isn’t a well-established tradition outside of end-of-year holidays and major life events such as marriages or having a child. Employers of Canadians can celebrate these events with gift offerings that show gratitude and appreciation of the employee.
Unlike America, it isn’t a best practice to offer a gift in exchange for a meeting with someone unless you have a mutual connection in their network. However, once a relationship is established or an agreement is reached, that would be an appropriate business occasion to offer a gift.
Be aware of the cultural nuances for each Canadian province as well—for example, 85% of the population in Quebec speak French while less than 1% do in Newfoundland-and-Labrador. It’s wise to avoid sending anything that could be interpreted as strong Canadian affiliation such as the national flag or anything that has a maple leaf on it. Anything that is offered formally with thoughtful attention after building a relationship will resonate stronger with the recipient.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Canada
Gluten-Free Niagara Food Specialties Cured Meats Box - Channel your inner Italian with this savory set from a Truly Artisan Italian Charcuterie Maker – perfect for picnics, pizza night, pasta family dinners, gourmet sandwiches, and charcuterie platters.
Craft Beer Bundle - Enjoy this assortment from one of the leaders in producing barrel-aged, sour and mixed fermentation beer.
Keep it Cozy - Filled with the most luxurious and relaxing products to make any stressful day fade away. Designed with 100% pure cashmere socks, Hatch Coffee, a cream cable knit blanket to snuggle up in, and much more.
Loyalty and personal relationships are the foundation of the business culture in Mexico. Meaningful gift offerings upon establishing a relationship are often well received, however corporate gifting isn’t weaved into professional practices like it is in the U.S.
Similar to Canada, it’s common to offer personal gifts amidst life events and holidays—important dates unique to Mexico include Three King’s Day on January 6th and Dia De Los Muertos on November 2nd & 3rd.
Given that Hispanics are proud of their heritage and culture, it’s wise to avoid sending gifts that may have any relation to Mexican tourist attractions or items that have religious connotation. Instead, items such as flower bouquets, gourmet sweet treats, and gifts unique to your personal location or culture are all great alternatives.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Mexico
White Roses - There’s nothing more beautiful than a bouquet filled with crisp, pure white roses. Our florists expertly arrange two dozen blooms, plus verdant ruscus foliage in a classic glass vase.
Margarita Tequila Kit - Give the greatest gift of all to a Tequila lover—Patrón Silver 750ml, 30 ml syrup, chili powder, organic salt, and one shaker.
Gift-giving is a common practice for Brazilians, especially for occasions outside of life events and holidays. Everyday occasions such as meeting for dinner, visiting a new house, or even meeting for coffee are all opportunities that Brazilians may use to present a friendly gift offering.
Similarly, corporate gifting plays an essential role in building professional relationships. Important holidays unique to Brazil include Carnival celebrated the Friday before Ash Wednesday, Tiradentes Day on April 21st, and Independence Day on September 7th.
Being open and friendly sum up the best practices for corporate gifting in Brazil—keep your offerings modest and genuine. Popular items to send include gourmet Brazilian brigadeiros, local coffee beans, anything ‘football’ related, and any item that a parent could re-gift to their kid or family.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Brazil
Fruit, Cake, and Tea Snack Box - There is no better combination than a tasty drink and a delicious snack. Your recipient will receive a jar of fruit spread, a small cake, tea, cookies, plus more.
Gratitude Gift - Let someone know you appreciate them with decadent butter cookies paired beautifully with a bottle of Prosecco.
EMEA - Europe, Middle East, and Africa
The United Kingdom
The business culture in the U.K. is founded on punctuality, formality, and discipline. Like the U.S, Christmas is among the most popular gift-giving holiday, yet personal and professional milestones also serve as common gifting occasions. Gifts that are given in-person are often expected to be opened in front of the giver—when gifting to someone in the U.K. from another country, think of how your offering could be unboxed on camera when a meeting starts or concludes.
Token items such as sweet treats, flowers, drink making kits, and even small branded merchandise (hats, pens, cups, etc) are all great options to give a recipient in the U.K. Many people don’t expect to receive gifts that have a high monetary value, especially on the professional level, so ensure your gesture is authentic and meaningful.
Corporate Gift Ideas for the U.K.
The Happy Hour - Celebrate happy hour in style with this carefully curated selection of goodies.
Ultimate Wellbeing Letterbox Gift - The Sweet Reason collection is perfect for all occasions, from thinking of you gifts to new home gifts, it’s a blank canvas.
Mini Afternoon Tea Gift - Have a delicious treat & cup of tea delivered straight to their door for any occasion, it's so much more thoughtful than a card...and much more delicious!
The German business culture is based on perfection, organization, and planning. Most companies have a very rigid hierarchy where most to all of the decision made at the highest level by executives. In the midst of sales negotiations, you should always bring up pricing as one of the final topics of discussion with German businesses—they find it rude when pricing is one of the first value points one may resort to in a pitch. As far as corporate gifting goes, it’s nearly always received as polite when a small item is offered upon introduction.
St. Nicholas Day on December 6th as well as Christmas are popular gifting holidays, and items such as baked goods, top-shelf alcohol, beer mugs, chocolates, and sustainable products are all great options to consider.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Germany
Beer Starter For Two - When there's a dynamic duo who deserves a fine treat, our gift experts have created the perfect pick-me-up for them. Two bottles of European beer are accompanied by dark chocolate caramels, crunchy mixed nuts, and more - enough to share.
Chocoholic Box - The Chocoholic Box includes a large variety of everyone's favorite chocolate. 20 different chocolate bars to feast on. Perfect as a gift or to munch on yourself!
English Garden Bouquet - Sweep someone off their feet with this dream of a bouquet. A magnificent mixture of flowers in romantic and feminine colors.
The Portuguese are highly relationship-oriented on both personal and professional fronts. Therefore, to make an unforgettable first impression, thoughtfully presented gifts can be an easy way to get in touch with those who you need to build relationships within target accounts. Gifts are generally viewed as a personal gesture to earn a mark of respect with someone and not a bribe.
Unique holidays include Carnival on February 16th, Freedom Day on April 25th, Corpus Christi on June 3rd, and Portugal National Day on June 10th. Items from your personal region in the world will be well received as well as liquor, useful branded gifts, books, flowers, or chocolates. Avoid sending wine as Portuguese are keen that their wine is better than everyone else’s in the world.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Portugal
Vegan Treats Gift Box - Spoil them with one of our vegan treat boxes. Let them indulge in the decadence of dark chocolate while empowering local cacao farmers; or support education in tea-growing regions by sipping on a warming cup of Earl Grey.
Florist's Choice Bouquet - Our bouquets are individually crafted by our skilled florists, ensuring that each one is unique and features the very freshest flowers available. Carefully and lovingly arranged to your specified value, our Florist Choice bouquet makes any room bright.
Professional culture in Spain consists of etiquette and communication. Similar to German organizations, they are hierarchical in that the decision making is made at the top level by c-suite roles and executives. It’s a tradition for HR and people ops teams to distribute gift baskets to employees and colleagues around Christmas—other business holidays relevant to corporate gifting include Epiphany on January 6th, Day of the Assumption on August 15th, National Holiday of Spain on October 12th, and All Saints Day on November 1st.
As far as items go, you never want to give gifts that come off as too extravagant to Spanish professionals as it may be interpreted as a bribe. It’s common that gifts are given once a deal closes or a new partnership is made, and popular items include wine, useful branded goods, sports team attire, gifts for your recipient’s children, and books.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Spain
Wine Tasting Gift Box - Gift a wine tasting experience with Vineway’s Wine Tasting Gift Box, consisting of wines that come from the unexplored wine regions of Central and Eastern Europe.
Delicious Assortment of Cupcakes - Not everyone has the same taste buds, so finding a cake for your next shindig can be a hassle. Our experts have taken the worry out of your selection with an assortment of goodies sure to delight.
The business culture in France is similar to that of Spain with an emphasis on courtesy and formality. Gifting isn’t a widespread strategy for organizations and they’re often not expected—that being said, gifts are given on formal occasions such as major holidays and after securing a new partnership or deal.
Appropriate gifting occasions include between March 22nd and April 25th leading up to Easter, Assumption on August 15th, and Remembrance Day on November 11. Avoid sending small corporate branded items to French professionals or offering gifts to book a meeting. Instead, consider gourmet chocolates, liqueur, wines, or items that resemble your location to build long-term relationships.
Corporate Gift Ideas for France
Charles Heidsieck Luxury French Champagne - Send one of the most awarded champagnes in the world to your customers, employees or prospects.
Nutella + Coffee Gift Set - A hearty jar of Nutella Spread, essential ground coffee, delicious chocolate with raisins, and cookies are tucked inside a gift box. Whether a big project, tax season, or getting a deal across the finish line, make it enjoyable with this gift set.
The Dutch business culture revolves around meetings, both in-person and remote, and doesn’t require the formality that you may encounter in Spain or France. Unlike the hierarchical organizational structure of German businesses, Dutch businesses encourage everyone to share their own opinion. In fact, Forbes named The Netherlands the third best country for business in the world in 2017.
As far as corporate gifting goes, it’s best practice to wait until having established a strong relationship with a Dutch professional before offering a gift. Small gifts are often well-received whereas expensive ones sometimes make the recipient feel like it’s a bribe. Unique holidays include King’s Day on April 27th, Liberation Day on May 5th, Ascension Day (40 days after Easter), and Pentecost (7 weeks after Easter). Popular items are gift sets similar to the ones listed below, flower bouquets, toys for children of the recipient, office accessories, Belgian chocolate, and wine.
Corporate Gift Ideas for The Netherlands
Champagne and Chocolates Gift Set - Pop the cork with award-winning champagne by Bernard Remy accompanied by the finest Irish chocolates by the renowned Butlers. A gift of distinction for loved ones and colleagues.
Pick Me Up Gift Box - Sip on a cup of refreshing Earl Grey tea while supporting education in tea-growing regions - or support cocoa farmers by indulging in sea salt & caramel dark chocolate.
Business in Ireland is all about integrity. That being said, it’s important to establish trust with your connection before offering a gift. Once you’ve reached an agreement or secured a partnership, offering a modest gift is a great way to elevate that relationship. Major Irish holidays include Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th, and the first Mondays of May, June and August.
Popular items to offer to Irish professionals include anything golf related, high quality liquor, wine, cheeses, tea gift baskets, or an item from your home region. Your gift offering may be rejected out of courtesy initially, yet a soft insistence will often encourage your recipient to accept the item.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Ireland
Wine and Cheese For You - The perfect gift for wine and cheese lovers. This classic combination takes scrumptious Irish farmhouse cheeses and award-winning oatcakes by Ditty's home bakery and puts them together with fine wines to create a gift of true distinction.
The Ultimate Irish Afternoon Tea Hamper - The tea comes from the iconic Bewleys of Dublin as well as melt in the mouth biscuits by Grahams and award-winning whiskey cake by the Foods of Athenry.
Similar to The Netherlands, Danish businesses don’t have the rigid corporate hierarchy where decisions are made by executives. Business culture is rather informal and laid back, and gifts are generally not associated with developing relationships with prospects and customers. However, they are still well-appreciated and fair game to offer after reaching an agreement.
Unique holidays include Maundy Thursday on April 14th, Great Prayer Day on May 13th, and Constitution Day on June 5th. Corporate gift ideas that would resonate well with a Danish professional include a high quality pen and notebook, alcoholic beverages (wine, liquor, cocktail kits), a book that you want to pass on, or a sweet treat such as gourmet baked goods.
Corporate Gift Idea for Denmark
Humanity Wine Co. Wine & Cheese Tasting for 4-6 People - This is more than a cheese tasting, it is a direct journey to Italy, where you will receive 3 different varieties of their finest cheeses and three beautifully paired wines!
Italian corporations have a rigid hierarchy of leadership and management. While age and role play important factors in your status within an organization, lower-level positions are still encouraged to speak at meetings and share insights. Corporate gifts aren’t expected to be given until a relationship is established or your recipient has offered you one, making it clear that they’re open to receiving a gift.
Unique Italian holidays include Liberation Day on April 25th, Republic Day on June 2nd, Assumption Day on August 15th, and All Saints Day on November 1st. Corporate gifts to consider aside from the ones below include wrapped gourmet chocolates, flowers, quality wine or liquor, toys for children, or useful office items from a reputable brand. It’s often advised not to send branded items with your company’s logo to Italian professionals without establishing a relationship as it can be interpreted as superficial or not meaningful.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Italy
Sicily Olive Oil Gift Set - Gerbino olive oil is a medium intensity finishing oil, pale green in color. It’s distinct olive scent is complemented by complex aromas that hint of grasses, flowers, tomato leaf and artichoke. It has a pleasant taste, elegant and balanced with mild, peppery accents.
Wine and Chocolate Journey - Specialty chocolates and candies are the focal point of this upscale gift set. Highlighting and accentuating the richness of the sweets is a savory red wine sure to please even the most savvy recipient.
The Swedish business culture is rooted in meetings and communication. Corporate gifting is not a popular business practice and it’s not advised to send gifts to a Swede who you haven’t established a strong relationship with yet. That being said, handwritten cards around the holidays are well appreciated and can be a good customer retention strategy.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Sweden
Debut Your Brew - A Dutch brew beer-making set containing all the necessities including but not limited to: siphon, fermentation tube, an illustrated manual, and a recipe set of yeast, hops, and barley. Make your gift more memorable and let them Debut Your Brew.
Di-giovanna Tasting Kit - Send a winery trio gift set from Italy. This collection combines Vurria Grillo DOC Sicilia 2020, Vurria Rosè Nerello Mascalese IGP 2020 and Vurria Nerello Mascalese Rosso IGP 2019.
In Switzerland, the business culture is formal and conservative. Polite and direct communication styles are common, and like many European countries, it’s wise to build a relationship with a Swiss professional before offering them a gift. However, customers, newly won deals, and partnership agreements are all occasions that would be appropriate for offering a gift.
Unique holidays include Ascension Day on May 26th, Whit Monday on June 6th, and National Day on August 1st. Gift ideas for your Swiss business connections include a book or item that represents your location or interests, whiskey or brandy, Belgian chocolates, or flowers. Avoid sending sharp objects as that can be associated with cutting a bond, and refrain from sending items with a high perceived value as they may come off as a bribe for being overly expensive.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Switzerland
Bubbles and Bubbly - With the colder months comes the desire to bundle up and hunker down, and there's no better way to accomplish that than with a nice, hot bath. Enjoy a bottle of sumptuous Sparkling Wine (750 ml), and an array of premium Spa Products that promise intense relaxation.
Belgian Breakfast Bonanza - Start your day the Belgian way, with rich coffee, buttery biscuits (cookies, actually), hazelnut spread, rhubarb jam, and delicious Belgian chocolate. The Belgian breakfast bonanza will have your recipient excited to rise and shine.
Like neighboring countries, Polish workplaces and businesses have a strong hierarchical culture and management style. Unlike other countries, it’s quite typical to offer a gift upon introduction or first meeting someone. Some items aren’t readily available in Poland, so sometimes you can communicate with your recipient to see what they need before offering an item.
Unique holidays include State Holiday on May 1st, Constitution Day on May 3rd, Corpus Christi on June 16th, and Assumption on August 15th. Corporate gifts that would be well received include wine or liquor, items from your location that don’t have a logo, baked goods, gourmet candies, and self care products.
APAC - Asia-Pacific
Chinese business culture is founded on Confucian values in that having a strong relationship network is one of the most important aspects to being viewed as respected and successful. While corporate gifting was at one point outlawed in China, it’s still viewed as a forbidden practice by many organizations. However, many organizations are also beginning to show a much more relaxed attitude towards the concept. It’s best practice to give your item to the recipient with the context that you’re a friend and not trying to bribe or incentivize them in any way.
Unique business holidays that serve as gift giving occasions include Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) from January 31st - February 6th, Qingming Festival from April 3rd - 5th, Dragon Boat Festival from June 3rd - June 5th, Mid-Autumn Festival from September 10th-12th, and National Day on October 1st.
To circumnavigate your offering coming off as a bribe, it’s best practice to avoid valuable gifts unless it’s for a customer that you’d consider a friend. Appreciated gifts include fine liqueur, gift baskets with snacks, office supplies, or an item symbolic of your culture or location.
Corporate Gift Ideas for China
Sake and Chocolate Gift - If you have a friend that loves anime (yes, adults watch anime) then it's a safe bet that they're at least curious about the foods they see on the shows—surprise them with a liquor hamper that will help them get just a bit closer to the goodies they see on screen.
Soothing Green Gift Basket - Part of celebrating the Chinese New Year is letting go of last year's stressors. A lot of people do that symbolically, and we have collected some tasty treats to help you focus on positivity and luck.
Similarly, the Japanese business culture is relationship-oriented and formal. Trust is one of the most important pieces of business relationships and corporate gifting is a more prevalent part of protocol. The way you present your gift is more important than the gift itself in most instances when gifting to a Japanese professional; expensive gifts aren’t necessarily received as bribes, and you should always present your offering discreetly so your recipient is surprised.
Business holidays in Japan include New Years on January 1st, Foundation Day on February 11th, Showa Day on April 29th, and Autumn Equinox around September 23rd. Appreciated items include gourmet gift baskets, self care items, handwritten notes, and any foreign item with a prestigious brand name. If your recipient doesn’t initially act surprised or happy, don’t be discouraged—Japanese people will often decline gifts multiple times to not come off as greedy and show that it’s the relationship they value over the item you present.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Japan
Vitamin A Basket - In a non-stop, fast-paced world it's hard to make sure to eat right, without some serious double checking. Plan a picnic, send a tasty care package, or surprise a friend with natural vitamin.
Dark Beer and Savory Snacks Assortment - For those recipients you know that prefer a good stiff brew, send them this beer basket. Say thank you, send your love, or wow your friends with a Dark Beer & Savory Snacks Assortment.
Indian businesses are structured and managed hierarchically, and the foundation of the culture is guided by religious beliefs and shared values. It’s customary to show respect to executives in organizations and not present a gift offering until a relationship is established on a personal level. Hold off on presenting your gift at the onset of negotiations or meetings and wait until an agreement or partnership is reached before extending the offer.
Holidays unique to India include Republic Day on January 26th, Independence Day on August 15th, and Gandhi Jayanti on October 2nd. Corporate gift ideas for professionals in India include unique food baskets, electronic gadgets, flowers, or gourmet chocolates. Avoid alcohol, meat (beef especially), and other animal based products to avoid a conflict with the religious beliefs of your recipient.
Corporate Gift Ideas for India
Conscious Collection - Packed with products that have a huge social impact, the Conscious Collection was designed to make ethical gifting effortless. The perfect sustainable gift for yourself or for sharing - spread joy to friends, family, employees, and clients.
Native Tongue Ice Cream Toppings - Beat the heat with some cool ice cream toppings. Putting the spotlight on India’s delicious indigenous produce, Native Tongue was born out of love for everything homemade and natural, interwoven with the tastes of their childhood and memories of a time gone by.
Filipino business culture is hierarchical in that the final decision-making is done by the upper level executives, yet everyone still has a voice in reaching this consensus. Professionals in the Philippines exhibit empathy, humility, and curiosity. They also love receiving corporate gifts, especially flowers and food items. Offering an item at the onset or amid negotiations is a strategy that establishes immediate trust and often influences the deal or partnership to close sooner.
Unique holidays include Maundy Thursday around April 1st, Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on April 9th, Eid'l Fitr on May 13th, and Independence Day on June 12th. Items that resonate well with Filipino professionals include fine whiskey for men, perfume for women, gourmet foods, chocolates, and branded items that are useful (notebooks and mugs).
Singapore has an extremely competitive business environment and a competitive culture. The core values are emphasized on respect and authority. As far as gifting goes, most organizations have strict regulations against bribery and accepting expensive items. Similar to the Chinese gifting culture, professionals in Singapore often deny a gift out of courtesy to show they value your relationship over the item.
Unique holidays are similar to China in that they celebrate Chinese New Year at the beginning of February, Vesak Day on May 15th, Hari Raya Haji on July 10th, and Deepavali on October 24th. Appropriate items to give to professionals in Singapore include imported wines, chocolates, a souvenir from your country, or smaller items with your company branding.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Singapore
A Token of Appreciation - When words just aren't enough to thank them, our experts have put together a gift that speaks volumes. Your recipient will receive a bottle of Imported White Wine (750 ml), and a bar of gourmet bitter chocolate (100 gr.), gift wrapped with a greeting card.
Pampered Gift Basket - Give her the perfect night in, restock your guest bath, or thank a friend with a complete set that will make sure their bathroom is always stocked.
Australia is among the most relaxed business cultures of the APAC countries I listed, as it’s customary to act casual despite intense situations. Anyone’s opinion is valid at meetings yet communication is handled directly and clear-cut. Corporate gifting isn’t a huge part of Australian business culture, yet they still convey friendliness and appreciation. The meaning behind your gesture plays the most important role in the outcome of your gift—whether you’re looking to book a meeting, leave a great impression after a meeting, or getting a deal over the line.
Unique Australian holidays include Australia Day on January 26th, Anzac Day on April 25th, and Boxing Day on December 26th. Items that are well received include gift baskets (known to Aussies as gift hampers), wines and spirits, gourmet candies, meats, and Australian whiskey for men.
Corporate Gift Ideas for Australia
Something to Munch On - Reward your best performer, liven up the break room, or welcome a new employee with Something to Munch On.
Australian Whiskey - Do you have a fellow whiskey geek in your life? Send this unique whiskey-tasting gift to all whiskey lovers who are looking to expand their palette and have an at home tasting experience.
See how Postal can elevate your global offline strategy
Understanding the cultural nuances of where you are sending to will enable you to build a more effective strategy. At the ground level, it’s imperative to know the regulations of the account you’re sending to as well as the customs of celebrating certain holidays. By acknowledging these two areas, you’ll be able to employ offline campaigns that surprise and delight recipients around the world.
Managing an offline strategy at an international level can be daunting and time consuming. Learn how Postal’s Global Offline Engagement Platform can help you save time and money when creating authentic connections and developing business-critical relationships around the world.
Shannon Leiner has 15-plus years of experience in retail merchandising. With expertise in e-commerce and International category growth, she is excited to grow the Postal Marketplace domestically as well as internationally.