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Learn from mistakes!
Just a few days ago, the Mayor of Taipei city, Ke Wen-Je, received the watch gaffe from the UK government minister, who didn’t expect this gift represents a negative symbol in Chinese culture. Yet, why a gift with big meaning in one country can be offensive to the other? Culture difference plays a great role here. Let’s learn something from this story.
Asia Concentrate-柯P-watchphoto credit: BBC News


While planning an international event, the give-away can be a disaster if the giver doesn’t study on the participants in advance. To make it simple, we can avoid the taboos from below 3 aspects.


GREEN is not as auspicious to Japan. Yet, in Australia, it is the key color to celebrate their St. Patrick Day.

BROWN is deemed as mourning for the death in Brazil.

YELLOW is offensive to Syria and Pakistan.

BLUE is preferred in Egypt and Belgium. Yet, it is the color of love in Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Syria and Iraq.

For some political or historical reasons, colors can be sensitive in some countries.

DARK GREEN is the Nazi uniform color so not a commonly-accepted color in France and Belgium.


13 is a figure of danger to Western Catholics. The well-known “Black Friday”, as the 13th on Friday, can make some people feel a constant state of anxiety.

4 means bitter and death for Chinese and Japanese because of its pronunciation similar to death. Yet, in Malaysia, people treat it as a boss sitting pose.


WHITE LILY is the symbol of death or ill omen in British countries. Yet, to Romans, it is a symbol of beauty and hope, and Persian people think it is the expression of innocence and virginity.

TULIPS in Turkey is seen as a symbol of love, but the Germans do not think that it is the feelings of flowers.

ORCHID is a symbol of South-East Asia, while in Poland that is a passion flower

LOTUS is rated high in China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Egypt and other countries, but in Japan it is regarded as a symbol of the ominous, not used in a memorial ceremony.

CHRYSANTHEMUM is Japan’s royal family dedicated flowers but, in Spain, Italy and Latin American, is considered “spent demon” only used in the cemetery.

Although the taboos varies with time and individuals, there is something in common by countries and religions.

Don’t give any presents in figure, containing alcohol, or women to Islamic.

Presents in odd numbers and fine package are preferred by Americans.

Give economic but meaningful presents to British and the receivers would open it right away.

Crane means dummies to French and Walnuts is the symbol of bad luck. Plus don’t strap flowers as gifts to them.

Giving money to Russian means humiliation.

Japanese value the gifts as it shows their respect to others so remember to bring gifts every meet-ups. Don’t open in front of the givers. Comb is not a good option.

No gift to Arabic for the first meeting because it is deemed as bribe.

In Latin America, Scissors means the end of friendship and Handkerchief is considered sadness.

Don’t give clocks, shoes or umbrellas to Chinese as they are associated with death and separation.

It is not appropriate to take food as gift in Holland.

Next time, when you prepare give-away for an event, be sure you study your attendance so you don’t make any joke like the story.

Shall you know any offensive gifts, share with us!!


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