It’s holiday season and we are in the spirit of gifting our loved ones something memorable. The etiquette of giving gifts is a culturally-sensitive topic. For some cultures, rules are either based on superstition or tradition. But exchanging gifts remains one of the oldest indulgences of mankind. Even cavemen used to exchange gifts in the form of animal teeth or bones. The history of gifting on birthdays goes back to ancient Egypt.
In the 20th century, gifting became a commercialised practice, and today, it’s pretty much the norm. However, how do you decide what you want to gift to someone?
Keep the following factors in mind.
Once you decide to give a gift to someone, keep in mind what they like and what they are interested in. A thoughtless gift is, unfortunately, a futile quest. The whole point of gifting is to make the other person happy, and the gift will reflect how much attention you have paid to their likes and dislikes. Having said that, these rules apply only when you know the receiver personally. If you are gifting something to, say a business delegate, you should stick to cultural norms and sensitivities.
Personal taste or cultural norms: If you know someone well enough, it’s important to focus on personal tastes and give it precedence over cultural norms. For example, even though gifting leather is uncommon in my culture, I love collecting leather bags. However, if you are gifting something to someone from another culture, you ought to keep a few things in mind…
a)Taboo and sensitivity: In certain cultures, a few gifts can be considered taboo due to religious and cultural norms, which we must be sensitive towards. For example, in the Middle East, you wouldn’t want to gift someone something that has grape in it. Or if you do, check the content of the beverage present in the gifting item. In England, for example, white lilies or chrysanthemums suggest death, while other flowers are popular gifts.
b)Intimate gifts: If you do not know a person very closely, you should reconsider the gift you are planning to give. For example, everyone has their own favourite fragrance, and hence you should only buy someone a perfume if you know their signature scent. Opt for luxury candles or silver photo frames instead. Similarly, a piece of jewellery is an intimate gift because it touches your body. In fact, you should consider the receiver’s personal taste before gifting them jewellery. A tie for a man is again a tricky choice of gift unless you know him closely. A good tie can make a man look very polished whereas a bad one can make them look odd. Opt for a pocket square to play safe.
c)Elegant and safe gifting options: There are several of them. And you don’t have to be boring while trying to play safe. If you know someone who likes collecting cigars, there are several high-quality cigar brands you can handpick. For a lady, a silk scarf, good candles, elegant bouquet (always in a vase) or a piece of jewellery that matches her taste are all safe gifting options.
Lastly, a handwritten note is a cherry on top. It’s priceless.
Bakshi is the founder of Savoir Faire Academie and former Miss Elegance World
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