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Taboos about gift-giving in China


According to Chinese culture, there are some taboos which you should bear in mind when you choose gifts for others.


No clocks or watches


Clock pronounced as "Zhong" in mandarin, which could also mean "the end". Therefore, giving someone a clock or a watch implies "your time is up", a serious slight, especially for the elders. If you really want to buy someone a good-looking watch, you can let him or her select it, and then you pay for it.


No umbrellas or pears for lovers


Umbrella pronounced as "San" and pear pronounced as "Li" in Chinese, both mean “break-up” and "separation". So it's inappropriate to give lovers umbrellas and pears, because it will seem like you want them to be separated. Also, don't give your friends umbrellas as a gift; it is not a good symbol of friendship. Of course, the timely act of giving someone an umbrella on a rainy day can be an exception.



No green hats for men


In Chinese saying a man wears a "green hat" means his wife is having an affair with another man, which is a serious insult to the man.


No white or black gift wrapping paper


In Chinese culture, black and white are colors associated with funerals or unfortunate things and considered unlucky colors. Therefore, it’s better to make gift wrapped with red or other warm colors.



No medicine for the healthy


Giving someone medicine as a gift implies that the receiver will get sick or you want them to get sick. Even health care products are inappropriate for others if they are not very familiar friends or relatives of yours.


No shoes for non-family members


Shoe, pronounced "Xie", is a homonym for "evil" in mandarin, is considered an unlucky item to give as a gift. If the shoes you give are smaller than the wearer's feet size, it means "give someone tight shoes to wear", which bears the meaning of "make things hard for somebody".

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