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Your gift may be a taboo for Chinese people

Every culture values gift-giving as a way to strengthen relationships and build alliances. The Chinese people are no exception to this practice; however, certain gifts are viewed by the Chinese as insulting or possibly offensive. When you think about choosing a gift to give to a Chinese acquaintance, be sure to pay close attention to the following seven Chinese taboos:

每个文化里,人们都把送礼当作是加深关系、交友的方式,中国人也不例外。但是,对中国人来说,有些你认为是礼物的物品却是无礼的,甚至很冒犯。当你考虑选礼物送给中国友人时,一定要注意这七个送礼禁忌。

1. Clocks 钟

Chinese avoid giving each other clocks as gifts are because the phrase 送钟 (sòng zhōng), which means "give a clock," has the same pronunciation as 送终 (sòng zhōng), "attend a funeral." These two homophonic phrases are naturally connected in the minds of Chinese people, especially the elderly, and they may feel that they are being cursed if you "give a clock."

2. Umbrellas

Similarly, the Chinese word for "umbrella" (伞, sǎn) sounds like the word "separate" (散, sàn). Giving your friend an umbrella as gift implies that you want to end their relationship with you; giving a married couple an umbrella suggests that you want them to get a divorce!  (Note: It is perfectly appropriate to offer an umbrella to someone if it is actually raining.)

3. Green Hats 绿帽子

As a metaphor, a green hat is associated only with men. It means that a man's wife or girlfriend has been unfaithful to him.

Why does 绿帽子 (lǜ màozi, "green hat") carry such a particular meaning in China? One story is that in ancient China the wife of a merchant had an affair with a cloth seller. She made a green hat for her husband to wear, and when the husband went out for business, the cloth seller would see the green hat and know that he could meet his lover. Since that time, 绿帽子 (lǜ màozi) has been the symbol of a woman betraying her husband or boyfriend.

4. Sharp Objects 尖锐的物品

Sharp objects such as knives or scissors are used for cutting, and thus symbolize the severing of a relationship. A common Chinese saying 一刀两断 (yì dāo liǎng duàn, "cut in two with one stroke of a knife") means the end of a relationship between two persons. So giving somebody a sharp object implies that you want to cut off your relationship with them.

5. Chrysanthemums 菊花

Usually, a flower arrangement is an acceptable gift, but never give 菊花 (jú huā, "chrysanthemums") as they are traditionally used to mourn the death of someone at a funeral or are placed on graves. Never give them (or images of them) as gifts to celebrate a happy moment or memory.

6. Black and White Colors 黑白

In China, the colors 白色 (bái sè, "white") and 黑色 (hēi sè, "black") are associated with bad luck because they are also used during funerals. White is often regarded as the color of great sorrow. Similarly, black is perceived as the color of grief and mourning. Therefore, avoid presents that are largely black or largely white in color, or wrapping paper or envelopes in these colors.

7. Candles 蜡烛

Do not give candles as presents because candles are also associated with rituals for the dead. If you are invited to a funeral, a much better choice is to do what Chinese people themselves do – give cash to the grieving family. Money is seen as a way of paying condolences and it also helps out with funeral expenses. The same goes for weddings, where cash gifts are seen as wishing the bride and groom good luck.

How to Give a Gift 如何送礼

The Chinese culture puts much more value on symbolism and the presentation of a gift than the actual gift itself. Gift-giving is a serious ritual full of ancient traditional rules, one of which is that the Chinese will typically decline a gift two or three times (sometimes even more) before accepting it. Do not give up on the first try, but be sensitive to genuine refusals. In addition, the Chinese do not usually open gifts when they receive them. They would much rather reciprocate a gift with another gift than send a "thank you" card. So if someone gives you a present, it's best not to open it in front of them unless they insist, and a proper way to show appreciation for their gift is to give another gift in return.

中国文化很注重礼物的象征和赠送,而非礼物本身。送礼是一种很严肃的仪式,带有古代传统礼节,其中一个典型的做法是,中国人通常会在接受礼物前先拒绝两三次(甚至更多)。送礼的人不要一开始就放弃,当然,也要注意,有的人是真的想拒收。此外,中国人通常不会在收到礼物后马上打开看,他们通常会回礼,并附上"感谢"卡。如果有人送你礼物,最好不要当着他们的面打开,除非他们坚持要你打开。合适的做法是对送礼表示感谢,并回赠礼物。

Source: digmandarin; Chinlingo

2016-10-20

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