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International Success Tips - Business Meeting Gifts
by Kimberley Roberts

Preparing for a business meeting requires a working knowledge of the information to be discussed or presented, careful attention to all details on the printed material to be distributed, and perhaps a gift. This gift is a social gesture that may be expected in some countries, and could be considered a bribe in others. Knowing the gift guidelines for the country you’ll be visiting will help make your meeting a success.

Some multi-national companies and some governments have very strict policies regarding their employees accepting gifts. To avoid creating a problem, it’s imperative you learn the policies for the companies you do business with.

Countries like Malaysia and Paraguay, concerned with corruption, frown upon any gift that could be construed as a bribe. In Malaysia you wouldn’t give a gift until you had established a relationship with the person. In Singapore, government employees are not allowed to accept gifts, and the United States limits the acceptable dollar value to $25.

However, in some countries like Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines, exchanging gifts is strongly rooted in tradition. Part of the tradition is the gracious style used to present and receive them. It’s important to plan time and focus on the process.

It’s very important in Asia and the Middle East to only use your right hand, or both hands, to offer or accept a gift. In Japan and Hong Kong, use both hands.

In Singapore a recipient may “graciously refuse three times” before accepting your gift. But in Chile, gifts are accepted and opened immediately. And in Indonesia, small gifts are given on a frequent basis.

Always be cognizant of religious laws when selecting gifts. For instance, liquor and pork are prohibited in the Jewish and Muslim religions, so you wouldn’t select a gift made from pigskin. As in India, don’t offer a gift made from cowhide.

A standard to keep in mind for any gift you select is quality. Choose quality items that are not ostentatious. If you have gifts with your company logo, it’s better if the logo is discreet. And don’t give company logo gifts in Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Hosting a meal at a nice restaurant is always a good business practice. A fine dinner is a wonderful way to give a “gift to your hosts”, to show your guests you appreciate the business relationship you have with them, and an opportunity to build rapport. People in Brazil, England, Panama, and Peru enjoy being invited guests for a meal, and the Greeks look forward to an evening filled with dining. In China, plan a banquet, especially if you are being honored with one.

Next month I’ll discuss gift giving in greater detail by region and country, but following are some highlights to use.

If a country isn’t listed in a category, it means gifts may or may not be exchanged. Should you receive a gift, and don’t have one to offer in return, you will not create a crisis. However, this is a good reason for planning to host a meal. It becomes your reciprocal gesture.

Countries in which a gift is expected:

- Europe – Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Ukraine - Latin American – Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica

- Pacific Rim – China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand

Countries in which a gift is not expected on the first visit, but would be expected on a subsequent visit:

- Europe – Portugal, Spain

- Latin American – Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela

- Pacific Rim – Malaysia, Singapore

- Scandinavia – Finland, Norway

Countries in which a gift is not expected, or gifts are infrequent exchanged:

- Africa

- Australia

- Europe - England, France, Hungary, Italy

- Latin America - Uruguay

- Scandinavia – Denmark

- Middle East – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia

- United States

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Kimberley Roberts has conducted hundreds of seminars and helped thousands of women and men find more self-assurance and confidence, creating greater success in their lives. Her simple but powerful ABCs of Success can help a person get more of what they want. Kimberley also writes articles for international business women and men on etiquette and manners for countries throughout the world.

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