Top Tips

Cultural Gaffe by British Minister.

The British Press was full this week with stories of a cultural gaffe by a British Minister.

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je receives a gift of a watch from visiting British transport minister Lady Kramer during a meeting in Taipei. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images


The Guardian reported “British minister in cultural gaffe after giving Taipei mayor ‘taboo’ watch”

  When it comes to giving gifts in China, there was a lot of scepticism about the whole process under communism, to the point that it became illegal in many states. However, the situation is slowly becoming more relaxed to the point that it is expected, and expect the recipient to refuse your gift a couple of times, you must persist and then they will accept. Since China and Taiwan are very group oriented cultures it is a good tip to present a gift from your group to their group, it is thus less likely to be seen as a bribe. Equally if your company logo is displayed on the gift it can be argued that the ‘gift’ is just a bit of advertising. In addition, don’t spend too much on the gift and if you are giving a gift in Taiwan, make sure that it is not made in Taiwan. The big mistake made in this encounter was the giving of a clock.  The Chinese word for clock is similar to the word for death. This is becoming less and less of an issue with the younger population; however, it is better to err on the side of caution and not to give any timepieces. There are also some other ‘no no’s’ with colours. For example, wrapping paper in white, blue or black should be avoided, as these colours are associated with funerals. Finally, the end of a relationship can be associated with red ink and sharp items for example knives, letter openers, or scissors.