You’ve got friends or associates on the other side of the world, and now you’re not sure how to send gifts to India? No worries, that’s why we’re here. The idea of gift giving in India goes back to ancient times when people gifted fabric, jewelry, even cattle and grain to the ones they loved and respected. Being a traditional culture, many people in India still remain faithful to old customs. Despite global modernization, sending gifts to India is still a good way to demonstrate mutual trust and bonding. It’s the best way to build friendships, professional relationships, romantic relationships, and make amends. For those who are spiritual it is thought to even clean your karma to be reincarnated in the next life.
So, what exactly do you need to know about Indian culture to make your gift a success? What makes a personal or business gift a real winner to those you care about in India? Are there any drastic changes between western gift giving traditions and gifting culture in India? The answer is, yes! Although both worlds do share some similarities, there are a few rules you should know when choosing a gift to India for your friends or business partners. Here is what I learned.
WHAT HOLIDAYS DO I SEND GIFTS TO INDIA FOR?
The first question, what holidays do they celebrate in India? India’s innumerable festivals and celebrations make gift exchange perfect any time of the year. Almost every popular traditional holiday arrives with an expectation of sending and receiving gifts, including:
- Diwali – the festival of lights,
- Holi – the festival of colors,
- Rakhi – the summer holiday, that celebrates the bond of affection between brothers and sisters,
- Ganesh Chaturthi – ten-day festival celebrating the birthday of God Ganesha,
- Dussehra – celebrates the victory of good over evil,
- and India Independence Day.
Such international holidays as Eid, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day are also celebrated here. But exchanging gifts in India is not limited to social events alone.The corporate world has fallen in love with sending gifts for promotional purposes. This extra step toward personalization is a proven way to make a connection with your customers.
MY INDIAN WEDDING ADVENTURE
Like many typical Westerners, I wasn’t very familiar with Indian holidays, let alone their gift giving etiquette. Ok, I had heard of the colorful Holi festival that became popular all over the world in the last few years (thank you, social media). I knew less about Diwali, and nothing about other holidays in India. It wasn’t until recently when a good friend of mine married an Indian guy that I understood how much there was to learn. They had a huge, gorgeous wedding ceremony in Mumbai and I had my first look at how different our cultures really are.
Luckily, it occurred to me to ask my other friend Alexa (the only expert of the Eastern world that I know) for advice about etiquette for sending wedding gifts to India. She eagerly sent tons of articles about what is expected and what I’d better stay away from. I’ve always considered myself a multicultural person, but turned out I was clueless. A lot was so new to me; for instance, I heard leather goods were a big no, but alcohol, really?! I’m still thankful Alexa helped me to avoid some uncomfortable situations. I did not want to cause an international conflict in the new family.
INDIA GIFT GIVING DO’s:
– Pay attention to the colors! Make sure the gift is wrapped in bright papers. Red, green and yellow are considered auspicious in India and make great colors for gift wrapping. Black or white on the other hand, are viewed as unlucky and should be avoided. Who knew!
– The Hindu people are well known for their sweet tooth. Chocolate brands like Godiva, Ghirardelli, or Lindt aren’t always easy to find in their country, which makes this gift even more desirable.
– A beautifully decorated cake is another great choice for chocolate lovers on almost any occasion. A fruit baskets that includes a variety of cookies is a good, healthier alternative to chocolate.
Hey! Isn’t that a big generalization about Indians?
Yes, sort of. And you should always get to know your friends and neighbors better, like I did. A couple of years ago, I moved to a new neighborhood that has a large Indian community. There were bright, colorful stores with traditional clothing, golden jewelry, and aromatic incense sticks. There were even numerous authentic restaurants and delis filled with outlandish dishes. I pass by every day on my way to the train station. But among all this variety, it’s the little stores with unusual sweets and confections that always draw my attention. These Indian treats don’t look anything like those we have in the US, and after trying some of the most unusual looking ones I can tell you, the people of India do like their sugar!
“Big suckers for all things foreign.” This is how my Indian neighbor describes his people, and I have no reason to question this statement. He swears that when it comes to sweets, there’s nothing Indian people appreciate more than foreign gourmet chocolates (tip: explore Chocolate gift baskets available for delivery to India). Makes sense.
MORE INDIA GIFT-GIVING DOs
– When in doubt, go with flowers to India! Something you can’t go wrong with (just like chocolates). They will make a perfect gift for any occasion, from a housewarming to a wedding. To be on the safe side, try to avoid white flowers and Frangipani (since they are associated with funerals). Classic roses, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, gerbera daisies are all great choices.
Flowers are one of the most welcome gifts for Indian weddings. They use flowers in traditional wedding ceremonies, and Indian brides often keep them as take-home gifts.
– Keep in mind that India is very different from the West. Items that people in the West take for granted may not be available there, so imported gifts such as electronic gadgets, as well as cosmetics, spa gift baskets and perfumes are always welcome.
INDIA GIFT GIVING DON’Ts:
– Remember when you consider sending gifts to India, many Indian people are very conservative and don’t like to receive expensive gifts (unless from family members, close friends or for such occasions as weddings). For people who believe in karma, receiving such a gift might mean that they need to return the favor which may cause embarrassment and misunderstanding.
– Another big faux pas when you send gifts to India is sending jewelry. Such gifts are considered very intimate and are only welcome from family members. So, if you want to surprise your Indian friend with a new necklace, you’d better think twice before sending her a jewelry box. Your good intentions might be taken wrong and leave you both disappointed.
THE COW IS SACRED – BIG GIFT GIVING DON’T:
– India is a country with many religions and denominations. Even though most people in India practice Hinduism (about 80%), Islam is the 2nd largest religion. Make sure your gift will not offend anyone in the family or office environment, avoid sending leather and alcohol.
In Hinduism, the cow is a holy animal, that’s why leather gifts (including wallets, belts, bags and shoes) are highly insulting and unacceptable. Most Indians are not only vegetarians, but they also don’t drink alcohol. Unless you know for certain your recipients appreciate a good bottle of wine or whiskey, don’t even consider these when you send gifts to India. The biggest restriction in the Islamic world is eating pork; this is forbidden in the Q’uran. Thus, any gifts made of pigskin should also be avoided. The same rule applies to alcohol.
When it comes to gift giving etiquette in India and other Eastern countries, it’s extremely important to have a general idea about your recipient’s culture. Despite globalization there are still a lot of conservative countries out there which honor their traditions, and don’t fall for what’s trendy and hot. In the world of personal and business relationships where there’s little room for error, you have to make sure your gift will help you reach its goal and build that strong bond you are looking for.
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