Be Smart About Gift-Giving


Across Asia, gifts can symbolise the beginning of meaningful relationships, but ‘it is important to ensure the right gifts are presented at the right time.’

By Kim Benjamin, Untangled

Joycelyn Hoh Headshot

Joycelyn Hoh

With the holiday season in full swing, many thoughts turn to gift-giving. While it is a popular custom across Asia, gift-giving requires thought and understanding, says Joycelyn Hoh, director, event solutions and design at BCD Meetings & Events. Many countries in the region have beliefs and customs that must be taken into consideration.

“As gifts are seen often as expressions not just of appreciation but also of the beginning of meaningful relationships, especially in a business context, it is important to ensure the right gifts are presented at the right time,” she said.

Colour is key to consider — in Asia, white and black are often associated with mourning and therefore not wise colours to use when gifting. Food is a popular choice, however, one must be aware of religious dietary restrictions such as no pork for Muslims or beef for many Buddhists and Hindus.

“The Chinese in particular have a lot of superstitions … that link items to bad luck. Clocks are a definite no-no as they are often associated with death or endings,” Hoh added.

Zoe Cheng Headshot

Zoe Cheng

When giving gifts to clients, Zoe Cheng, business director at X2 Creative, said it makes sense to opt for items that are creative and memorable.

“Usually, something edible is preferred so that everyone in the office can share,” she said. “Think about who your audience is and make the gift relevant.”

And gifts needn’t be pricey, said Tina Li, senior events project manager at BI Worldwide. Cards with handwritten greetings, for example, can be a good option.

“With today’s digital generation, handwritten words can express emotion [nicely]. Use calligraphy if you can to make this more special,” Li said.

She said she believes the best gifts are tailor-made with some festive touches but also practical, so they can be used in daily life or in the workplace.

Tina Li Headshot

Tina Li

“For example, moon cakes are very popular for Chinese mid-autumn festivals,” she said. “However, one could do something with the packaging, such as turning a branded moon cake box into a jewellery box that guests can keep and use, with the corporate logo visible every day.”

When it comes to hosting festive events, good food and drinks can lift an occasion, but poor catering can also be a real let-down, so research carefully.

“Think about ways to inject ‘festiveness’ but don’t overdo it and try to keep things fresh, avoiding any repetition of what was done in previous years, especially themes,” Cheng advised.

Hoh cautioned that such celebrations should also be done purely to mark the occasion and not as an opportunity for sales. And during festive periods like Christmas and Chinese New Year, be aware that if you plan an event, you will be competing with many others.

“To ensure you get the maximum attendance, send out early save-the-dates, differentiating your event from others,” she said. “If your intent is a dinner, you might want to consider a buffet that will cater better to different dietary needs, or if you are looking at something formal, keep it to neutral items such as fish, chicken, and vegetarian to avoid having a multitude of options that could slow down the service, impacting the experience.”

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