When we traveled to Germany recently, we brought along Lammes chocolate Texas Longhorns. Both the milk and dark chocolate versions in miniature boxes were smash hits with business colleagues and friends alike. There’s nothing like sharing a sweet taste of home across the pond. As part two of our cross-cultural gift giving customs series, let’s explore the different implications when giving and receiving gifts in Western Europe.
- Austria: Gifts are uncommon among business associates. Austrians may give gifts to close business colleagues during the holidays or to celebrate an important business deal; however for the most part, gifts are moderate. Appropriate gifts include items reflecting your homeland or anything high quality, that’s tailored to the personal tastes of the recipient and unavailable in Austria. Inappropriate gifts include sharp objects and company logo items.
- Belgium: Gifts are sometimes exchanged to celebrate the sealing of a deal. Avoid business gifts with a company logo. Inappropriate gifts include flowers and beer.
- France: Gift-giving is not common. Appropriate gifts include books about your home country. Books and music tailored to the interests of your host or hostess are valued. Avoid giving champagne or wine, as the French favor their personal tastes and country’s wines above those from other nations.
- Germany: A small gift is welcome, especially if you’re meeting your business partner(s) for the first time. Small souvenir-style gifts to thank the local staff will not be expected, but will be appreciated. Avoid giving large gifts in private to avoid misinterpretation.
- Liechtenstein: Appropriate gifts include high-quality chocolate, liquor, flowers, and fresh fruit. Gifts aren’t required; moderate and tasteful gifts strengthen relationships.
- Luxemburg: Gifts aren’t frequently exchanged among business associates. However, when invited to a home, flowers, quality chocolates or liquor are appropriate to present to your host. Send a thank-you note the next day. Chrysanthemums are inappropriate gifts as these flowers are used for funerals.
- Monaco: Gifts aren’t exchanged at the initial meeting. However, if you’re invited to a home, appropriate gifts include odd numbered flowers or high-quality chocolates.
- Netherlands: Gift giving is not common in business. If you’re invited to a home, bring flowers and quality chocolates. If you’re offered a gift it’s polite to open it immediately and show your appreciation.
- Switzerland: Gifts aren’t exchanged at the initial meeting. It’s crucial to be on-time as punctuality is important in business. Gifts are exchanged after successful negotiations. Inappropriate gifts include sharp objects or extremely expensive gifts.
Western European countries do not consider gift giving as a common practice among business associates. It will be important to know this culture of gift-giving in order to avoid misinterpretations when meeting your international business partner(s) for the first time. Read part 3 global gift giving rules in Eastern Europe if you’re curious about the cross-cultural implications in countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and more.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Photo Credit: Pxhere