It’s no secret that corporate gift giving helps businesses to strengthen relationships. As South Africa continues to lay its roots in the global village, so international gift giving plays a larger role in forging stronger bonds with our cross-border colleagues.
What makes gifting successful, however, depends on how the gift is received. The way a gift is given or the nature of the gift might unintentionally insult your recipient, leaving both of you with egg on your face. To help you navigate this subtly nuanced terrain, we’ve developed our international gift giving etiquette guide.
Our last post explored business gift giving in China and Japan. Today, we travel west to Europe, Germany, to be precise. And what a precise nation they are indeed.
Business Gift Giving in Germany
When doing business with Germans, here or in Germany itself, deal with the business at hand first. The Germans pride themselves on diligence and structure. No mucking about. What must be done must be done, excellently. Nothing else will do.
This is why the Germans don’t concern themselves too much with ‘frivolous’ activities such as giving gifts – or even compliments for that matter. “Why do you need congratulations for something you were meant to do well anyway?” is the typical school of thought.
Don’t expect to be praised for doing your job. If you really want to give a gift that hits the mark of your German counterpart, plan!
Follow rules and protocol to the letter
Gift giving in German business settings is more often than not viewed as inappropriate. If you feel compelled to give a gift, then read these rules carefully.
- It is strictly forbidden for government employees to accept gifts. Don’t even offer to be nice, anything that obliges your recipient is taboo.
- Don’t present gifts until a deal or project has been concluded. Give the gift as a thank you for working with you, hosting you etc.
- Gifts should be small, enough to represent your intended politeness and respect. Don’t “gush” with an overly lavish gift. However, that being said…
- The larger the gift, the better it is to present it publicly rather than in private. If you are going to give something ‘big’ make sure it’s branded so that it is clear the gift is from your company.
- Be practical, as the gift is associated with work, office stationery and the likes are most appropriate.
- High-calibre. Whatever you decide to give, make sure that the quality is remarkable. A concession can, of course, be made for hand-made local crafts. On that note…
- A souvenir from your home country will also be appreciated. Delicacies or traditional foodstuffs that can be enjoyed even more so. Perhaps, as a South African, the best you can do is choose an excellent vintage South African wine.
- A gift is expected if you have been invited to a German home for dinner or as a guest while working in Germany.
- A coffee table book, high-quality wine, or a small token from your home country are good choices to thank your hosts for having you if you are staying over.
- Flowers or fine chocolate for the lady of the house in the case of dinner.
- Give flowers in uneven numbers, except 13!
- Roses, carnations, lilies or chrysanthemums are off the table completely.
- The Germans are one of the greenest nations in the world, giving them a gift, which has been made from recycled, or sustainable methods will be highly appreciated.
- Avoid giving beer to Germans as a gift as they are known for having the best beer in the world.
Appropriate gifts for German business associates staying in South Africa
Which Country should we cover in the next instalment of International Gift Giving Etiquette? Let us know in the comments.