What is considered an inappropriate gift in Europe?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is certainly nothing new to give or exchange gifts for various reasons but, due to the "global village" in which we now live, it is vital to understand cultures and customs of those we intend to give gifts to.

Gifts are much more than just "presents;" they are a recognition of culture and also a transference of own culture as there is a universally-acknowledged theory that giving a gift from your own local community, something unique to your country or region is far more appreciated than any other.

Therefore, it goes without saying that visiting Italy with an Italian Pasta Maker (made in China...) would be completely inappropriate! On arrival in Amsterdam, handing a pair of clogs which were made in India to your Dutch counterpart would not be well-received.   Do not visit France and give your French host your best recipe for French Bread!

Flowers are an appropriate choice across most European countries but if they are roses and have thorns, you will be out of favor immediately as it is unacceptable especially if the receiver catches his or her hand on the thorn. Ensure thorns are removed.

In UK hospitals there is an unwritten rule that if someone brings red and white roses for a patient, the nurses will have them removed as they are tantamount to a death wish.

Gift giving is quite an industry. Heads of State and other dignitaries have specially employed staff to manage the functions of etiquette and the expectations and requirements of gift recipients. Shopping Centres have specially trained staff who can advise on gift giving and even appropriate wrapping.

Much like speech writing where many impassioned speeches are actually not written by those who "perform" them, giving gifts has perhaps become a little perfunctory and impersonal. Even a colleague or acquaintance deserves some consideration but, due to the importance of cultural considerations, the person whose name appears on the tag, often, has no input in the gift selection.

It is understandable as wars can start when an inappropriate gift is given or a culturally inappropriate action takes place which defies protocols.  When there is so much to consider due to the fact that a gift is far more than just the gift itself and the symbolic meaning must be recognized together with

purpose, selection, wrapping, and presentation

it is crucial that the giver is sensitive to the customs of the recipient.

Noble intentions may allow you to make an apology when you realize your error and the inappropriateness of your gift but being culturally aware and therefore forearmed is a much better idea.

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