Being hosted in India – Part 2: Hospitality gifts

Following our last blog post, which included general tips on how to behave as a guest in India, this week we’re going to address the topic of hospitality gifts. Among other things, you’ll learn which gifts go down particularly well and which ones should be avoided.

After you greet your Indian host – preferably with the familiar Indian greeting of “namaste” – and you’re allowed to enter the living quarters, it’s time to present the host with a hospitality gift. Try to hand over your gift as soon as possible after entering, and don’t be surprised when your Indian counterpart sets it aside unopened.

Out of politeness, Indians normally don’t open their gifts in the presence of the ones who give them. The recipients may not like the gifts, which they under no circumstances want the giver to detect. If you want the recipient to know whom the gift is from, simply enclose a business card. But you shouldn’t expect thanks for your present or even to hear how the recipient liked it. This is uncommon in India.

Hospitality gifts play an especially important role in the establishment of relationships in India, so you should absolutely be thinking about appropriate gifts [also for the host’s children] when you receive an invitation. But what do you need to keep in mind? And what should you avoid giving under any circumstances?

Suitable gifts include the following:

  • Chocolates, candies and flowers [even red roses]
  • Specialties from your home country
  • Advertising gifts from your company [for business partners]
  • For business openings, the elephant god Ganesh, as a bringer of luck
  • Writing instruments and Swiss watches

Unsuitable gifts include the following:

  • Tissues, shoes and socks
  • Meat products and leather goods [many Indians are vegetarian]

When it comes to the topic of hospitality gifts, there are a few other Indian conventions you should keep in mind. The value of your gift shows how much you appreciate the recipient, but excessive expenditures could also embarrass your host. If you’re giving money, you should also be sure to give an odd amount [e.g., $11 instead of $10].

On top of that, never give three or 13 of the same thing [e.g., flowers]. This is considered unlucky in India. Also never use white and black wrapping paper, as these are the colors of mourning. Lucky colors include bright ones such as yellow, red and green.

The last blog post in this series will cover tips for your stay in India – including table manners and restaurant etiquette – so you have a lot more exciting and interesting information to look forward to!

Our cross-cultural training on India is about more than just business issues. Topics concerning everyday life are also an important part of it. Find out more here.


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About Markus Eidam

Nach meinem insgesamt vierjährigen Aufenthalt in verschiedenen Ländern dieser Welt bin ich seit dem Jahr 2004 Geschäftsführer bei den Auslands-Experten von Eidam & Partner. In jüngeren Jahren habe ich Interkulturelle Kommunikation, Erwachsenenbildung und Psychologie studiert und mich zum Trainer, Coach und Personalfachwirt der IHK ausbilden lassen. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 80 Zielländern.
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