Gift Giving Etiquette

What to do when you are invited to a European’s home for dinner: gift giving etiquette and customs from around Europe.

France

  • Flowers should be given in odd numbers but not 13,
    which is considered unlucky.
  • Some older French retain old-style prohibitions against receiving certain flowers:
    white lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals;
    red carnations as they symbolize bad will;
    any white flowers as they are used at weddings.
  • Prohibitions about flowers are not generally followed by the young.
    When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of conservatism.
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  • Gifts are usually opened when received.
  • If you give wine, make sure it is of the highest quality you can afford.
    The French appreciate their wines.

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Italy

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  • Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
  • Do not give red flowers as they indicate secrecy.
  • Do not give yellow flowers as they indicate jealousy.
  • Do not wrap gifts in black, as is traditionally a mourning colour.
  • Do not wrap gifts in purple, as it is a symbol of bad luck.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.
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  • If you bring wine, make sure it is a good vintage.
    Quality, rather than quantity, is important.

Germany

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  • If you are invited to a German’s house, bring a gift such as chocolates or flowers.
  • Yellow roses or tea roses are always well received.
  • Do not give red roses as they symbolize romantic intentions.
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  • Do not give carnations as they symbolize mourning.
  • Do not give lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.
  • If you bring wine, it should be imported, French or Italian.
    Giving German wines is viewed as meaning you do not think the host
    will serve a good quality wine.

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