Giving Gifts
In this exercise, participants will learn
the significance that specific gift items have in different cultures
that giving certain gifts might send unintended messages in other cultures;
that some gifts, if given in certain countries, are considered inappropriate.
General audience, all levels; unlimited participation
5 minutes to do the “Giving Gifts Quiz” and 15 to 20 minutes to debrief
One copy of Handout 1, “Giving Gifts: Quiz” for each participant
One copy of Handout 2, “Giving Gifts: Quiz Answer Sheet” for each participant
1. Introduce the activity and distribute the quiz.
2. Have participants form groups of two.
3. Tell them to match the gifts to the country in which presenting it would be a faux pas.
(5 minutes)
4. Call time and proceed to debrief the activity.
Start at the beginning of the quiz and ask a group for the correct answer to the first question.
They are to give the correct letter and country and explain why they think this gift is a faux
pas in that country. Let them know if that answer is correct. If incorrect, ask another group to
guess. If they too are incorrect, give the correct answer. Proceed this way through the whole
quiz. You may provide the participants with copies of the answers once you have discussed
Roger E. Axtell, ed., Do’s and Taboos Around the World (3
edition, 1993). John Wiley and
Sons; ISBN: 0471595284.
Giving Gifts: Quiz
When selecting a gift, always consider its symbolic significance. Gifts take on hidden meanings—
many that you might not be aware of. The list below contains several items that you might inno-
cently present to someone, only to find out later that the gift is considered inappropriate or even
insulting in another country. Before you choose and give a gift, ask yourself the following
Does it violate any cultural or religious taboo?
Does the color or the item itself, or the gift wrapping, have any unintended meaning?
Is the gift appropriate to the occasion?
Now, match the gift with the country in which presenting it would be inappropriate.
1. Desk clock a. England
2. White lilies b. France
3. An unwrapped gift c. China
4. Yellow and white chrysanthemums d. Japan
5. A bottle of whiskey e. Italy
6. A set of knives f. Saudi Arabia
7. An item with a company logo on it g. Germany
Giving Gifts: Quiz Answer Sheet
As a visitor, you will certainly want to understand and respect your host’s cultural preferences.
The gift you give can help establish a business connection based on mutual trust and respect. If
not, it can be bad for business. And it’s just not nice.
When in doubt, read about the country or check with on-site mentors about a gift’s appropriateness.
1 = C It’s a symbol of bad luck, death.
2 = A They’re used for funerals.
3 = D This shows bad form.
4 = G They signify death.
5 = F It’s against the dominant religion.
6 = E It symbolizes cutting off the relationship.
7 = B It’s considered to be an advertisement, in poor taste, and impersonal.

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