Learn pitfall, universal, etiquette, antagonize, breach and five more words in a new Word Power episode from English Plus Podcast to build your active vocabulary with an audio podcast, interactive exercises and a PDF downloadable worksheet.
Today people travel farther and faster than at any time in history. While travel provides many opportunities to encounter new peoples and new cultures, it also has certain pitfalls. For example, many people attempt to show their goodwill toward others by offering gifts. Although giving gifts to show friendship is an almost universal practice, gift-giving customs are not the same the world over.
Each country has its own set of rules. If you give a gift to someone from another country or culture, it is important to know the etiquette of that country. Otherwise, an act meant to show friendship might have the potential to upset both the giver and the receiver. The wrong gift can insult or antagonize the person who receives it. It can damage a friendship rather than strengthen it.
Flowers are popular gifts for many occasions. Yet not all flowers are a good choice. Yellow daisies given to a sick friend would be a serious breach of etiquette in certain areas. In some countries, yellow is a color you give an enemy, so giving yellow flowers to a friend would be quite offensive. White flowers, too, can be a poor choice. In China, white, not black, is the color of mourning, so white is linked with death.
You cannot eliminate gift-giving problems entirely simply by avoiding flowers. Other types of gifts can also be the source of embarrassment or even a direct insult. In some cultures, giving the gift of a clock could alienate the recipient rather than drawing him or her closer to you. This is because clocks or watches are seen as reminders of death. Since clocks measure life, each tick brings a person closer to life’s end. In several countries, people avoid giving anything sharp, such as knives, because such objects are seen as signs that the giver wishes to cut the friendship short. With so many cultural differences, you may wonder how international business people can stay out of trouble. How do they learn the unspoken rules of the countries they visit? Many international businesses now hire experts to advise them on such matters. These people explain all the important customs of a country. They know how to choose gifts that make everyone smile.