Nowadays, companies, as well as countries all over the world are influenced by different religions and cultures. These factors play an important part in building relationships, whether business or personal, among people. One of the common practices in promoting goodwill among people across the globe is by giving gifts. Gifts are a symbol of appreciation and a means to strengthen relationships.
In Europe, gifts are given but not as frequently as in Asian countries. Austrian like any other European countries, do not give gifts often, especially lavish ones. They are reputed to be laid back and relaxed. Still, there are certain gift-giving customs that are observed by the majority which every foreigner should know about.
Here are some facts about Austrian gift-giving customs that will give you some insight into choosing the right gift so that the recipient will appreciate it more along with the knowledge that you took time to study and follow their tradition.
Gift-Giving Traditions in Austria
Gift-giving among Austrians are usually limited to close friends and family members during birthdays and Christmas. They take pride in their homes regarding it as a private place where they can escape business and relax that is why they seldom invite outsiders into their homes. If you were invited into an Austrian home, it is only proper that you bring gifts with you to offer to your host, his or her spouse, and their children. A bottle of good vintage French wine will be an ideal gift for your host, while a bouquet of flowers and expensive chocolates will be suitable gifts to your hostess. For their children, you can give them cakes, sweets, gadgets, or anything foreign that they will consider cool depending on their age.
Gifts are not casually given in business. In case an Austrian presented you with a gift, you should reciprocate. So if you are meeting an Austrian make sure you have one or more presents with you so you can give something back. The gifts are also opened in your presence and you should do the same.
On deciding what to give, you should choose simple and unpretentious items like books depicting your culture and hometown. You can also give local products or native artifacts. These will all make great gifts especially for business relationships.
The gifts should be attractively wrapped. Flowers should be unwrapped before giving them to your hostess unless they are covered with transparent plastic foil wrappers.
It is also appropriate for business partners, associates, colleagues to exchange gifts after a successful business deal, or during holidays like Christmas. The best gifts for these occasions are wines, spirits, or anything that came from your country or region. You may also consider the recipient’s personal tastes or preferences as long as it is of high quality and are not easily available in Austria.
For Christmas, Austrians has a month-long Christmas celebration which begins every 6th of December, the feast day of Saint Nicholas. It is customary to give gifts for children on his day.
Gift-Giving Do’s and Don’ts
- Always give flowers in odd numbers except by thirteens which is unlucky. Giving flowers in even numbers is considered bad luck unless you are giving by the dozen. You should also unwrap it before giving it to your hostess.
- Remember not to give red roses unless romance is intended.
- Do not give red carnations because it is the official flower of the Social Democratic Party.
- Don’t give chrysanthemums or white lilies because these flowers are given to funerals.
- Avoid giving personal gifts like perfumes unless you know the recipient very well and knows his/her favorite scent. Buying a perfume of your choice will just offend your host.
- Do not give gifts with sharp edges like knives, scissors, or letter openers because it symbolizes a severing of a friendship or relationship.
- It is also considered improper to offer a gift bearing your company’s logo.
- Do not give very expensive gifts.
Like I said, Austria is a culture without a strong gift-giving tradition. Gifts are not always expected especially in a business relationship. Nevertheless, an occasional and appropriate gift can be accepted and welcomed, unless it is presented on the first meeting or on a routine basis.
As a matter of good etiquette, it is always advisable to study a person’s culture and be attuned to their customs before getting into either personal or professional relationship to avoid embarrassment for both parties. This knowledge also gives you an advantage when traveling or when someone from another country visits you.
If you have time, you can also check your selections with a representative from the Austrian embassy. Austrians generally has the same basic traditions like most European countries in terms of gift-giving.