Flowers have always been an integral part of human culture. They are used for gifting since ancient times but carry different meanings in different cultures. Flowers are special as they are associated with certain feelings, emotions and beliefs. They can convey thoughts and deeper feelings better than words and have been since immemorial used as gifts to cheer up/calm/convey care and affection to someone special. However, you should be careful while choosing gifts flower to someone that belongs to a different culture. You read it right. Each culture perceives flowers differently and there are different meanings in different cultures when it comes to gifting them.
Why is it important to understand the cross-cultural flower gifting etiquette?
People across cultures and traditions admire flowers. Different flowers are used by people of different religions and ethnicity for different purposes. Here is in-depth information about the same.
· Understand the country/cultural protocol. When you are thinking of gifting flowers to someone belonging to a different country or culture, try to understand what a particular flower means in their culture. While a white lily may mean sympathy and care in one culture, it may mean death or illness in some other. Gain an insight before picking a flower. A wrong move may make you feel embarrassed or insulted.
· It is important to know the significance of a flower when the receiver is not from your country or ethnicity. For instance, yellow flowers are appreciated in many countries but the Russians see them as a symbol of a funeral. Flowers are appropriate when you are invited by someone in France. However, avoid presenting Chrysanthemums (used only for funerals), red roses (exchanged between lovers or spouses) and Carnations (believed to bring bad luck) as gifts flower.
· It is common to gift or exchange flowers before starting a business meeting. However, when you are dealing with a person belonging to an unknown culture, be careful. Before gifting a flower, get to know what the flower or color of it means to him/her in their culture. One wrong move and things could turn upside down.
Now you know the importance of understanding flower gifting etiquette, let’s explore what gifting flowers mean in different cultures in detail. We have listed some popular cultures and described the flower gifting practice in each.
Japan is a country popular for gifting flowers. People of Japan celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and weddings with lots of flowers. In fact, flowers are a part of the Japanese tradition. It is also customary to bring bouquets of flowers for friends and family when someone returns from a trip in this country. Japanese gift a flower or a bunch of flowers to those sick in the hospital, wishing them a speedy recovery. However, you should note that potted plants need to be avoided for those hospitalized, this could mean the negative. Red flowers are widely used here since the people associate the color with positivity, health and wisdom. Sunflowers and Carnations are also popular gifts flower in Japan. One more thing – Japanese value presentation, so make a bouquet or a flower gift basket look attractive before presenting it.
Gifting flowers forms a part of Chinese culture. They are widely used as a symbol of maintaining relationships while flower gifting is also an act of displaying respect, friendship, love, gratitude and hospitality. Honestly speaking, flower gifting has been a tradition for centuries in this Asian nation. If you are gifting flower to a Chinese friend, client or colleague, note that Peonies can impress them. Chrysanthemum flowers, on the other hand, are given during funerals, mourning or any other remembrance ceremonies. Bamboos are associated with financial success, while tulips are the best gifts if you want to appreciate a Chinese person’s intelligence.
Russia does not lag behind when it comes to gifting flowers. However, if you are gifting a Russian, please understand the occasion before going ahead with the flower purchase. Russians gift a single flower or a bunch for birthdays, but they avoid a flower gift basket. Red roses, hyacinths and tulips are popular women’s day gifts flowers while Carnations and lilies are appropriate for showing sympathy. These circular flowers, according to them, represent birth, life, end of life and rebirth. For joyous occasions, Russians prefer to gift flowers in odd numbers. A yellow flower in Russia is a symbol of a breakup or separation.
Gift-giving in Egypt is unique and dates back to the Pyramid era. During those days, individuals used to offer gifts to the ruler either to earn support or gain personal fame. The gifting tradition is still prevalent in this country, however, flower gifting is restricted. Flowers are only given to the sick or presented to the wedding couples. Now, they are also given during funerals as a mark of care and sympathy.
Roman brides, in ancient times, carried flowers with them since they believed that the flowers can keep out the evil forces. They also believed that flowers ensure fertility. According to an old Dutch saying, food is for the body while flowers are for the soul. In England, gifting flowers has a different meaning. Guests take flowers as gifts when invited over to another’s home. The people here avoid white lilies since they are a symbol of death. Red roses, like in many other countries, symbolize love, desire and passion in England. Almost all countries in the European continent has this tradition of gifting flowers in odd numbers. The practice is present even today. However, they avoid presenting 13 flowers since the number is perceived to be unlucky.
In the country of Ghana, flower gifting is informal. There are no strict rules and regulations and you can go get a bunch of mixed flowers to gift anyone out there. Please note that it is not mandatory for someone to get flowers or any kind of gift when meeting someone. However, people of Ghana are closely associated with nature, so flowers are always welcome as gifts. They are least bothered about the color or variety.
When it comes to gifting, the United States has largely been informal and relaxed. People here do not expect gifts and are exchanged only during formal business meetings. Flowers are, however, presented as gifts on occasions such as birthday parties, weddings and engagements. In this large country of multi-nationals, you can take someone out for dinner as a treat but do not expect a return treat anytime soon! The country largely grows red roses and every year, millions of them are purchased on Christmas Day, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
Gift-giving tradition is widely in practice in Mexico. In fact, you will feel embarrassed if you attend a formal gathering without a gift. Flowers, like in many countries, are popular gifts in this country too. They can be presented on any occasion or event. Flowers are also the most sought-after during festivals. So, if you are visiting a Mexican friend, make sure to pick a bunch of special flowers or choose a ready flower basket. Your gift can make your host feel special!
Canada is a diverse country with multi religions, cultures, creeds and ethnicity living in absolute harmony. For this reason, flower gifting for the people in this part of the Earth can be tricky. We are going to list the commonly preferred flowers by the Canadians here.
Red roses, Asters, Carnations and Daisies are the popular gifts flowers for Valentine’s Day while Lilies and Orchids are presented on Women’ day. If you have a Canadian friend that is getting married, you can confidently pick up a bunch of red roses or get a mixed flower gift basket. Like the USA, Canada is informal as well when it comes to gifting or flower gifting.
India has a rich culture of sending and receiving flowers. Since ancient times, people in India, especially women, have been practicing flower gifting during festivals and special occasions. Flowers in this country are used for almost all kinds of occasions. Right from weddings, festivals, engagements, to a simple informal gathering, flowers hold a special place in Indian culture. Roses, Lotus, Jasmine, Carnations and Marigold are some of the most popular flowers with the people here. You can gift any kind of flower to your Indian friend, and it will be accepted with a great feeling of enthusiasm and happiness.
Hope you have now got a fair idea of the cross-cultural flower gifting etiquette?
Flowers are no doubt the popular choice for gifts, but not all mean the same in different cultures. As discussed in the aforesaid paragraphs, there are certainly some common flower gifting practices across cultures, but at the same time, there are differences too. It is necessary that you know more about them if you are dealing with cross-cultural people.
Flowers are a beautiful creation, easily available and the best gift for communicating something words can’t. When used rightly, these pretty things can build strong relations while conveying your message in a unique yet effective manner.