While gift giving at business meetings is not expected in many European countries, such as the UK, France and Italy, in some areas it does form a fundamental part of relationship building. Whether it is appropriate to give a gift and if so, what to give, can vary from company to company as well as from country to country, but there are some general guidelines it can be useful to be aware of when embarking on a business trip in Europe.
Gift giving is a large part of Russia’s culture and business gifting is no exception. In general Russians take great pleasure in giving and receiving gifts in a business setting, although it’s important to be aware that it is customary to initially protest when being presented with a gift and it is seen as impolite to accept a gift too readily.
Gifts should generally be small, but of high quality, with the value of the gift reflecting the rank of the recipient.
Items that are not readily available in Russia, especially if they are from your home country, make a sensible choice, with good quality whiskey, wine, tea or coffee and edible delicacies usually appreciated.
Despite being popular elsewhere, gifts such as pencils, pens and watches are not usually well received in Russia, unless they of an extremely high standard. Giving vodka should also be avoided, as this can be seen as an insult. While cheaper items do no need to be wrapped, expensive gifts should be beautifully packaged and gifts will usually be opened immediately, in your presence.
In Poland it is customary to give gifts both at initial business meetings and again when an agreement is made, or a contract is signed. These are usually small gifts, such as a wine, chocolates or other special products from your home country, or a corporate gift, although it’s best to avoid giving something that prominently features your company logo. Items that are not readily available in Poland are usually popular.
While gift giving in a business setting does occur in the Czech Republic, it is not necessarily expected at the first meeting. Small, good quality products or souvenirs from your home country will generally be well received if you are visiting on business, but you should avoid giving expensive presents. Most companies will have a ceiling on the value of gifts that can be accepted, leading to some items being refused by senior management. Whiskey or other spirits of a high standard are considered suitable gifts, as are office accessories such as pens.
While gift giving is less prevalent in early meetings in Spain, gifts are sometimes offered at the end of a successful negotiation. Small items such as food and drink or books from your home country usually set the right one, as larger items may be perceived as a bribe.
The giving of gifts is seen as a sign of respect in Portugal and it is normal to give gifts to business associates, without allegations of bribery. Gifts are usually presented unwrapped and given at the start of a business meeting. It is seen as offensive to refuse a gift and if you receive a wrapped gift you should accept it and open it immediately, before expressing your gratitude. If you are given a gift, you do not need to instantly return the favour, as this can be seen as impolite, but it is good etiquette to send a thank-you note afterwards. Small souvenirs from your home company are a good choice and more expensive items should be reserved for business appropriate situations and only for those of a high rank.