View Full Version : Gift etiquette question

16-11-2003, 15:28
I was not here last New Year season, so have questions about what would be appropriate to give to our group's secretary, some other support staff, and the concierge of my apartment building. The concierge is sweet, ancient, and terribly contorted from back surgery gone horribly wrong. I would like to do somethiing particularly nice for her.

Are cash gifts considered rude? If not, how much is appropriate? If non-cash gifts are better, what do people like to get?

16-11-2003, 15:42
No cash, please! Talk to people around them first carefully, find out what they like.

Secretary will appreciate nice box of chocolate or whatever ur country offers in this department. A good idea for Russia would be what is called in Holland Christmas gift packages, a combination of small but pleasand things in one box, nicely packed. This way u won't distinguish between people and may quickly do away with the problem of thinking through each gift separately.

16-11-2003, 15:52
I agree with Jet Li - no cash. By giving cash you're kind of telling people that you did not bother to think about the right present for them.

I have a suggestion for the concierge - downy shawl. Or a box of good black English tea (Russians drink tons of tea:))

For the secretary - a box of chocolate will be nice, but this is kind of the last resort, in case you don't find anything custom-tailored for her (if she has a kid, a computer game will be a good present).

For the other member of the support staff, the same piece of advice. Find out what his/her hobbies are, and make a call.

Happy shopping!

16-11-2003, 15:58
Yeap, but if he is a boss, Christmas package is a good idea (with tea, chocolade, bottle of wine, candles, salami, fruit basket and stuff like that) b/c it will cover the wide range of tastes.

16-11-2003, 16:06
Thanks - these are excellent suggestions. I was afraid cash would be a mistake. My concierge likes to knit - what do you think about some skeins of high-quality yarn? A shawl is also a good idea. The poor dear looks so fragile.

The ladies in the office like lotions-and-potions from fancy western bath shops, so I was thinking of putting together assortments for each of them in a pretty basket. Would that be okay?

Last question - I was told that I could not give a birthday present early, that it was bad luck. So would it be better to give presents right after New Year when I get back from vacation?

Thanks again for the suggestions - I really like these people and do not want to give offence.

16-11-2003, 16:10
Never give presents before the birthdays.

nice basket is a good idea

16-11-2003, 17:25
No need to wait till after the New Years with your presents. It's only in case of birthdays that early presents are improper.

16-11-2003, 18:10
I agree with Olga. No need to wait for so long. Just leave the presents under the Christmas Tree, or, in case you won't have one in the office, ask a colleague to pass them to the right people.

16-11-2003, 18:23
Don't forget the tradition of bringing folks a little something from your travels, some small little gesture along the lines of a pack of cigarettes, or knickknack, or something like that. :cool:

17-11-2003, 08:14
Quite right. I've always done that and it has been appreciated. It must be really frustrating for the people who book our tickets but never get to go anywhere themselves.

But even simple gifts get confusing. After my last trip, I gave silk scarves to the travel ladies, and later found a pile of rubles on my desk - something about scarves being like handkerchieves which cause a quarrel unless paid for???

So please, are there any other taboos I need to know about?

17-11-2003, 08:29
Never heard of it, really...

17-11-2003, 08:51
Good morning! As far as gift-giving, can't think of any. Russians are very superstitious, actually, and they don't kiss or shake hands across the threshold of a door when they say goodbye. Always give an odd number of flowers, even numbers are for funerals. It's considered bad luck to leave an empty bottle on the table - they will usually put it on the floor. :D

17-11-2003, 08:55
Originally posted by geofizz56
So please, are there any other taboos I need to know about?
Don't give anybody a knife as a gift, it's considered extremely bad luck. My mother in law (Russian) about had a coronary when my wife and I got a very nice set of silverware as a wedding gift, which of course included butter knives. She made us (oh how I wish I was only making this up!) give our benefactor a dollar, same sort of deal by which you got money for those scarves I guess.

17-11-2003, 09:13
If you are giving a wallet as a present, always put a coin there (or the person will be short of money:))

17-11-2003, 09:41
Originally posted by Birusa
If you are giving a wallet as a present, always put a coin there (or the person will be short of money:))
Interestingly, that isn't only a Russian superstition...every wallet I've ever gotten as a gift contained a dollar bill, and my grandma used to get cute and put a US savings bond in the wallets she gave my brother and I as gifts.

17-11-2003, 12:21
I can understand the knife thing. We cause untold anguish for our secretary, so the last thing I want in her hand is a sharp knife!

17-11-2003, 12:30
Thought of a few more:

Never cut your cutleta with a knife.

Pointing is rude. Never point at your body (like when you are talking about your appendectomy os something).

Instead of knocking on wood, you can spit over your shoulder three times.

Never say "Uh-huh, uh-huh" to show attentiveness. (Bathroom sounds).:rolleyes:

17-11-2003, 18:59
Jeeeze! I must admit I have learned alot thanx to this thread!
I gave my friends a lovely set of silverware for their WEDDING!!!!
I feel so bad now!!!! All this superstition!
we'll have to go with the baskets then!
Anything else?
What about a tort as a present? or a vase???

17-11-2003, 19:21
Try not to shake hands with women, unless it is formerly required. Hold the doors to let the ladies pass.

17-11-2003, 20:03
"Try not to shake hands with women"

This is why I miss South America. There, lovely men who are total strangers greet ladies with a gentle kiss on the cheek, even in business meetings. Here they can't even shake hands with me??? Sheesh.

Jet Li, do you know what the origin of that superstition might be?

17-11-2003, 20:30
I don't know if the shaking hands thing is a superstition. if I approach a group and shake hands with only the men in the group, give a polite nod to the women, I would feel a little odd. Maybe it's to do with that old joke about what men do standing up, women do sitting down and dogs do on three legs. :))

17-11-2003, 21:02
Well, gentle kiss on the cheek is also common in the South of Europe.

Indeed, avoiding shaking hands is not a superstition, just a custom. Almost forgotten in Russia is a classical thing: standing up whenever a lady approches or enters the room, if u do that now it is a shique in Russia. Also gently kissing hands of women that u know when u meet, but u have to know how to do it (practice).

Say compliments (practice). Russians have a saying "rassepatsya v komplimentah" smth like shatter yourself, making compliments.

17-11-2003, 21:25
yeah, standing up is a shique...
now its more common to compete with a lady for a seat on the underground....

17-11-2003, 22:07
I have to say, it took me a while to get used to the men here not shaking your hand in business meetings. My initial reaction was that it was kind of belittling, but I've realized that it's not a measure of your intelligence etc., just a custom. I must say, I do like having the door open for me, the flowers, etc. - but then, my husband does not expect me to put a full day in at the kitchen after a full day at work!

18-11-2003, 00:08
I have to say the men I've met in the US so far have been surprisingly decent in opening doors n kissing the hand much to my surprise n it's taking a while getting used to all the attention.
U would not believe this but I had a homeless guy (his name's Apache!?) actually give me a dozen red carnations on the street by Grand Central in Manhattan. All i did was give him some jiuce and talked to him a bit. I will never forget it - n they stood tall and beautiful for 2weeks too.
I like the hand shaking tho. In Russia I wasn't quite sure what to do - actually if a lady puts her hand forward for a shake u should do it. Most ladies do not therefore they don't get their hand shook in Moscow.

18-11-2003, 00:14
Come to think of it hand shaking started between men as a way of showing that you were not armed - a gesture of peace.
So women were really never expected to shake hands because unless they were hiding a rolling pin behind their back they're not likely to be carrying a weapon.

18-11-2003, 07:11
Now I KNOW you are Dave! Wow!

18-11-2003, 08:20
I still can't get use to the hand shaking in Russia. If I don't shake a lady's hand when I shake all of the men's hands I feel like I have snubbed her. And I am so tired of having to shake the same men's hands every morning and then again when I leave at night. Maybe that's why they don't shake women's hands, they're trying to economise.

18-11-2003, 08:23
Originally posted by J.D.
...I am so tired of having to shake the same men's hands every morning and then again when I leave at night....

I hear ya brother, lordy mercy do I ever hear ya and feel your pain!!!

18-11-2003, 08:25
About a year ago a Russian colleague of mine asked me what the problem was between me and another American that worked with us. I didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about as I got on quite well with this guy. The Russian then asked me why I would shake everyone's hand except for my fellow American's.

18-11-2003, 09:25
Y'all - when in Rome do like the Romans ... When in Russia ... do like the Romans anyway ...

30-11-2003, 11:54
If we did the 'When in Rome . . .' thing we would lose our advantage here.