Do bring the right KIND OF gift
Presents and the way they are wrapped are very important in China. Here are a few helpful suggestions to make sure that you save ‘face’ all round:
– Give clocks. Clocks are regarded as counting the seconds to the recipient’s death. Also, the phrase ‘to give a clock’, [sòng zhōng] in Mandarin, sounds like a phrase for ‘terminating’ a relationship. However, giving someone a watch is fine!
– Give umbrellas and pears. [sǎn], the word for‘umbrella’, also means ‘to scatter or lose’. [fēnlí], ‘to share a pear’, also means ‘to separate’. This is also why Chinese people never slice up a pear and offer half to a friend.
– Give knives, scissors and suchlike, as they are said to ‘slice into one’s fortune’.
-When giving flowers, never give carnations, chrysanthemums or gladiolis, which are all flowers Chinese traditionally used to pay respect to the deceased. Also, never offer white flowers – again, they are used for funerals.
– The number 4, [sì], is the unlucky number in China. [sǐ le] means ‘to have died’. As a result, giving anything in a group of 4 is a bad idea. The number 14, [shí sì], can also be said as [yào sǐ], which means to ‘want to die’. Chinese people will avoid the number 4 in everything from product lines to mobile phone numbers. In Hong Kong, some high-rise buildings miss all floor numbers with a 4 in them. The number 8, on the other hand, is very lucky and it is said that the Chinese mobile phone number 138-8888-8888 was sold for 50,000 yuan (= more than 5000 Euros).
– Give gifts in pairs or groups of even numbers. Odd numbers are considered unlucky, whereas it is an old saying that ‘blessings come in pairs’.
– Wrap gifts in bright colours like red, pink and yellow. Avoid black and white, as these are associated with funerals.
– The gift of a belt means you love them and want to ‘hold them’ forever (but maybe not appropriate for a business colleague…)
– When someone has just settled into a new house, give them a vase, [huā píng], which sounds like ‘peace’.
– On opening a shop or business, friends offer the bamboo flower. The rings on the bamboo stem represent your wish of continual growth and income.
– The popular presents are baskets of fruit (especially apples, [píng guǒ], which sounds like a phrase for‘peace’; but no pears!), boxes of sweets and cookies, pastries, good tea, high-end European chocolate, cartons of cigarettes, and bottles of good (foreign) wine or [bái jiǔ], the national alcoholic drink distilled from sorghum.
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