The Smart Shopper’s Guide: to gift etiquette

About the basics of gift etiquette


We don’t pay as much attention to giving gifts as we used to beforehand. Also there aren’t that many official occasions which would make you having to give a gift, however there are still occasions in everyone’s life when you need to give a gift to someone who you don’t know all that well. I do my best to have your back by preparing this simple yet useful gift giving guide on the basic rules of etiquette when it comes to giving gifts especially for someone who has a different cultural background.

  • Don’t gift anything that can be associated with dirtiness

Maybe this might be hard to understand but according to gifting etiquette it’s not sensible to gift shower gel, soap or any smell for anyone who is not a close family member of yours. It may be misunderstood and perceived negatively. As most of today’s gift packs are not sensible and contain a shower gel – shampoo combo, I know this is not that easy to make come true.

  • Give common or shared gifts –and if you can, bake them yourself

Most people, like cookies both sweet and salty. A great idea is to bake cookies and surprise your colleagues, your friends and your family with them. This way, you don’t have to go through all the gifting etiquette but it still counts as a common gift for everyone. Baking your own cookies will make them personal and in the same time it will save you plenty of money. What more you would like from a good gift?


  • Giving gifts to colleagues

Some simple rules about giving gifts to those who don’t know all that well. No cleansing stuff, no personal stuff. Choose something funny yet useful. Mugs, funny posters or pics ( nothing ill willed, no sexist jokes or such) paired up with sweets work the best. Choose nothing big but steer clear from too boring stuff either. Don’t regift and don’t gift calendars or pens.

  • Don’t forget a personalized note on every single one of your gifts

This is basic etiquette and a must-do if you want to really show respect and appreciation towards the person you are to gift, be it a family member, a friend or anyone else.

  • Give to everyone or give to noone

Never ever bring gift only to one or two colleagues. It will create a very annoying and awkward situation for everyone, but especially for you. And if you don’t want to spend all too much but still want to gift everyone, then see point two above.

  • Always be culturally and otherwise sensitive

Do not gift alcoholic beverages, especially not for someone who could be a Muslim. Do not gift food made out of pork to anyone Muslim or Jewish and do the same with beef and Hindus. Don’t gift meat in any ways for those who are vegetarian, also watch out for allergies before gifting any edibles especially the one for peanuts as that one can be lethal. Same thing goes for sweets, especially to elderly, who are more prone to be diabetic.

  • Don’t ever gift clothes and shoes

Nobody is happy for these items as gifts and these are things everyone decide on their own according to their own flavour. The only exception are accessories like scarves or items you know your partner would love, tried on and which would clearly suit them very well. The only exception could be scarves.

  • If you agree on not exchanging gifts, do not break this rule

It’s very bad when you agree with a friend to not swap gifts, yet you still decide to bring one. This creates an annoying situation to your friend. However, if you are invited to that friend to celebrate, do bring edibles and drinks with you. It’s a good midway between not giving yet still showing appreciation.

  • Flowers and their hidden meaning

Not that many know or pays attention to this but flowers do have their own meaning and therefore it’s also something to look into, when you are to give cut flowers to someone. Of course most people know red rose is associated with strong love, therefore don’t give them to someone with different intentions. The guide to flowers and their colour codes is complicated. Check out this great post on the symbolics of flowers which summarizes most of the common flowers people use for gifting and lets you know about their symbolic meanings too. PS: don’t gift flowers which are intended for funerals.

  • Write real greeting cards – handwritten is the best option

Everybody loves to receive letters and cards to this day. They are by far the best option. E-cards are so lame, I don’t even think anyone sends them anymore. Show your love and appreciation by handwritten cards, for Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Birthdays, Anniversaries or any other celebrations. You will see how much your friends or family will appreciate them.

I hope this guide will help and guide everyone in their gift shopping!

In case I forgotten anything please let me know in the comments section. Also please like and share if you feel you could learn something from this post.