GIFT GIVING IN SINGAPORE*-
Gift Giving Etiquette
BUSINESS GIFT GIVING /
PERSONAL GIFT GIVING
- Singapore prides itself on being the most
corruption-free state in Asia. Consequently, it has strict laws against
bribery. Government employees may not accept gifts of any kind, especially
- A large gift should be presented to the entire
group. When giving small gifts, they should be given to everyone present.
- You can offer a present as a welcome gift or a thank
you gift but it should not be an overly expensive item.
- Some suitable gifts: chocolates, a souvenir from
your country, a corporate gift with your company logo, brand name gifts
[which don't have to be too expensive].
- To be polite, people will usually refuse a gift
before accepting it. They believe that this will prevent them from
appearing greedy. You can continue to insist that they accept the gift
and, upon acceptance, say that you are pleased that he or she has done so.
- Unwrapping a gift in front of the giver is not a
part of Singaporean culture. This action implies that the recipient is
greedy and impatient. Moreover, if the gift turns out to be a poor choice,
it will result in awkwardness. Instead, the recipient will briefly say
'thank-you', set aside the gift, and then open it only after your
Giving Gifts to the Chinese
- Avoid bringing gifts of food with you to a Chinese
dinner or gathering unless it has been agreed upon beforehand. To bring
food may imply that the hospitality is inadequate--a terrible insult to a
- At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a
gift of money in a red envelope to children and to the non-governmental
service personnel you deal with on a regular basis. The gift is called a
'hong bao.' Ensure that you give only new bills in even numbers and even
- Instead of 'hong bao', it is also common to give
mandarin oranges or hampers. For mandarin oranges, they have to come in
even numbers, usually 2 or 4. You will give the oranges upon arrival at
the host's house and when you are about to leave, the host will give you
the same number of oranges in return.
- The number '8' is a lucky number which means 'get
rich' and the number '4' is an unlucky number which means 'die.'
Therefore, when choosing a gift that has to do with numbers, try to go for
'8' and avoid '4.'
- Do not give clocks as presents because 'giving
clocks' in Chinese is 'song zhong', which means 'arrange for the burial of
deceased parents or an elder.' Other items that are associated with
funerals are: straw sandals, white candles and joss sticks.
Giving Gifts to a Malay
Avoid giving these items to an
observant Muslim: alcohol, perfumes containing alcohol, pork, pigskin
products, personal items such as underwear, toy dogs or gifts with
pictures of dogs, images of nude or partially clad women [even in
paintings or sculptures with artistic merit].
- Malays accept gifts with pleasure and will often
- If you are invited to a Malay home, try to bring
small, practical gifts for the family, such as flowers, candies or toys
for the children.
- Malays prefer the colour green, so you might like to
wrap your present in green. During Hari Raya Puasa [a Muslim celebration
to mark the end of the month-long fast during the Ramadan], the Muslim
Malays will give out green envelopes that contain money.
- It is appropriate to bring food to a Malay dinner or
gathering but it must be 'halal' [Malay equivalent of 'kosher'] and there
should be no pork items.
Giving Gifts to an Indian
- Indians love bright colours as they
signify happiness. Therefore, you might like to wrap your gifts in bright
red, yellow or green colours.
- Should you give money to an Indian,
make sure that it is in odd numbers. For example, give $11 instead of $10.
Odd numbers are preferred since they are believed to be luckier.
- Avoid giving frangipanis [a kind of
flower popularly used by Hawaiians to make leis] as flower gifts, such as
in a hamper or bouquet. Indians use this flower only for funeral wreaths.
- Do not present Hindu Indians with gifts
of food, including beef.
- Hindu Indians do not use cattle
products. Leather products of any kind should not be presented as a gift.
*Seow, Denyce. Singapore Business
Etiquette - Gift Giving. Executive Planet. 16 Aug. 2004
Above: The flag of Singapore