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International Gift Giving Etiquette - Germany

GIFT GIVING IN GERMANY* - Gift Giving Etiquette


General Guidelines

  • In Germany, a small gift is polite, especially when contacts are made for the first time. Substantial gifts are not usual, and certainly not before a deal has been reached if you don't want your intentions to be misinterpreted. Even small souvenir-style gifts to thank local staff for their assistance and hospitality during your stay at a company will not be expected but will always be appreciated. Avoid giving substantial gifts in private. The larger the gift, the more official and public the giving should be.
  • Gifts are expected for social events, especially to express your thanks after you have been invited to a dinner party at a home.
  • Avoid selecting anything obviously expensive, as this may make the other person feel “obligated” to your generosity.
  • A lovely bouquet of flowers [though not red roses] for the lady of the house is a typical gift. When purchasing this at the flower shop, ask the florist to wrap it up as a gift [“Würden Sie das bitte als Geschenk verpacken?”].
  • Upon returning home, remember to send a hand-written thank you card to your hosts for their invitation.

Appreciated Gifts

  • For the company you are visiting, quality pens, tasteful office items with your company logo, or imported liquor are usually safe choices.
  • Fine chocolates can also be an appropriate gift when you are invited to a home.
  • If you decide to bring alcohol, a good imported liquor is the safest choice.
  • You can also bring a wine of excellent vintage from your home country or an exceptional imported red wine. A gift of German wine, however, should then be a more up market label.
  • If you are staying with a family, good gift selections can include coffee table books about your home country, or anything that reflects the interests of your hosts and is representative of your country.
  • An elegant, tasteful silk scarf can be an acceptable gift for the lady of the house.
  • A local food specialty of your home country is usually a good idea for a gift, provided it is not too exotic. Keep in mind that German tastes are generally on the conservative side, so especially for older hosts, very unusual food gifts may well be under-appreciated.

Gifts to Avoid

  • Red roses are for lovers; lilies are used in funerals. A general rule would be to avoid including heather in a bouquet as it is commonly planted in cemeteries.
  • Clothing, perfumes, and other toiletries are considered far too personal to be appropriate gifts. Scarves, however, are acceptable gifts according to German business protocol.
  • Avoid bringing beer as a gift, since many of the finest brands in the world are already produced and widely available here.

*Petersen, Alexia & Stephan.  Germany Business Etiquette - Gift Giving.  Executive Planet.  30 July 2004 <>.

Above:  The flag of Germany

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