Last updated on December 7th, 2016
In India, gift giving is a form of expressing friendship and affection, and according to their religious belief, a way to move on to the next life. In building a strong relationship, whether friendly or professional, it is essential that one has to know the traditional gift giving customs practiced by the majority of the Indian people. The Hindus are very traditional and despite the global modernization, they remain faithful to their age-old beliefs.
Although your host may try to understand you for making a mistake and will not appear displeased in front of you, it is best to know what you should and should not do in India.
What You Should Choose When Giving Gifts to Indians?
General Indian Gift Giving Gift Giving Etiquette
Here are some things you should do when give gifting to Indian people:
- It is not unusual to receive a gift from your host/hostess on your initial visit to their home, so to be prepared to return the gesture, bring flowers or sweets on your visit
- Gifts are usually presented upon arrival at a host’s house, and are given to the head of the household.
- Gifts are offered with both hands.
- If your host drinks, a high quality bottle of scotch will be fine.
- You can bring gifts for your host’s children, they will find this gesture sweet.
- If you are staying with a family, feel free to ask them what they would like. They don’t find this action offensive.
- When giving money as gifts, make sure it is an odd number, like $11, instead of $10.
- Flowers are always welcome but different flowers have different meanings so just buy roses (as long as they’re not white) to be on the safe side.
- Use bright colors for gift wraps. Green, yellow, and red are considered lucky colors.
So, here are some examples of ideal gifts for Indians.
- Sweets – in India, you can never go wrong with sweets on any occasion.
- Electronic gadgets
- Knives, disposable razors
- Perfumes and toiletries
- Household Items
- Toys and books (for children)
What Should You Avoid When Giving Gifts to Indians?
Indians strongly believe in karma so the practice of gift-giving must always be returned. Avoid giving expensive gifts for the recipient will feel obliged to return the favor and may cause embarrassment.
- Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver. If you receive a wrapped gift, set it aside until the giver leaves
- Never present a gift using only your left hand, the left hand is considered “unclean” in India.
- Never give anything made of leather. Cows are very sacred for the Hindus and giving a leather item is very insulting.
- Most Indians don’t drink alcoholic beverages so unless you are sure that your host drinks, don’t bring wine.
- Many Indians are vegetarians so when bringing food, make sure that it is free from any meat and even egg products.
- Don’t wrap gifts in black or white, which are considered unlucky colors.
- Never offer Frangipanis. These flowers are associated with funerals.
- The Indian people are very conservative and they generally don’t appreciate expensive gifts so keep your presents simple
- Any form of jewelry is seen as an intimate gift. Women and family members may exchange jewelry but gifts such as these coming from a male may reflect a different intention.
Here are some examples of gifts that you should avoid giving in India.
- Leather goods
- Meat products or food with meat or egg in it
- Gifts wrapped in white or black
Indian Housewarming Gifts
Indian housewarming gifts follow the general rules of gift giving in India. If you are looking to buy housewarming gifts for an Indian host or hostess, you can check out this post we recently made.
Business Gift Giving Custom In India
Business gifts are not very popular in India since this is seen by the majority as a form of bribery. If you really want to bring something for your business associate, a souvenir or a delicacy from your home country will do.
Gift Giving Occasions in India
- Diwali – or the festival of lights is the most celebrated holiday in India. Diwali is a five-day celebration filled with family gatherings and gift-giving. Sweets, clothes, and ghee (clarified butter) are the most common gifts during this event.
- Rakhi – also known as “Raksha Bandhan”. It is a special occasion that celebrates the bond of love between a brother and a sister. Rakhi means a “bond of protection” so a ritual is observed on a full moon day on which sisters tie bracelets on their brothers’ left wrist , and receive a promise of protection in return.
- Housewarming – if you are invited to a housewarming party in India, bring bread, spices, sweets, candies, or flowers.
- Birthday – since birthday parties are more popular among Hindu children than adults, toys, candies, and new clothes are the most common gifts.
- Christmas – Christmas for Indians is not a religious event but more of a fun affair. Gifts and food are also exchanged among family members and friends.
- Wedding – cash gifts are most accepted in weddings, though gold and jewelry are sometimes given by relatives and close friends. Money gifts should always end in “1’ like $101, $1001, or $111.
- Baby Showers – one of the most popular gifting occasions. Expectant mothers are presented with jewelry which she will later pass on to her baby. Mothers expecting a baby girl often receive baby saris (traditional Indian dresses), while others also receive money and Hindu statues as gifts.