Giving and receiving gifts is one of the most pleasurable pursuits connected with any special occasion. We all have fond memories of Christmases, birthdays, or other celebrations when we have exchanged gifts. We have loved that special feeling when we received something truly special, or someone we cared about obviously loved a present we gave them. There are also those moments, however, when a gift fell flat or we gave or received something totally inappropriate. The etiquette rules in this article will help you avoid gift-giving mistakes and choose presents that everyone will appreciate.
Some offices forbid any gift exchanges at all in order to avoid potential problems. If this is your company's policy, you ignore it at your peril. In general, this means that your boss can give you a small token of his appreciation, but peers cannot have a gift exchange and you are not supposed to give a gift to your boss. However, if gifts are part of the office culture, keep these tips in mind:
- Find out the specifics for a gift exchange. When does it take place? Who is involved? Is there a dirham limit? If so, stick to it.
- Do not get a gag gift. These usually fall flat and are inappropriate for the office.
- Take the time to wrap the gift well and attach a neat, well-written tag securely to the package. Even something as seemingly insignificant as how well you wrapped the package reflects your attention to detail in the workplace.
- For a gift exchange, if you are not familiar with the person's interests or hobbies, a gift card is fine; but do take the time to get one you know the person will use. If she or he comes to work every day with a Starbucks coffee in hand, a gift card from Starbucks would be appreciated. If your co-worker is an avid reader, a gift card from a local bookstore would be appropriate.
- Do not get anything too personal. Perfume, cologne, or clothing are inappropriate gifts for your co-workers.
- Do not accept inappropriate gifts from anyone you work with or from your boss. If it is too personal or makes you uncomfortable, be sure to say, "I appreciate the thought, but I'm sorry, I just can't accept this". If the person pressures you, simply say that you feel the gift is inappropriate and it would be against company policy.
- If giving a gift to the boss is an accepted part of the office culture, you may select a gift that is related to the office. Do not choose something personal unless it is a gift of food or wine. Gourmet food baskets, something for his or her desk, a photo frame, a leather portfolio, or a nice plant are all good gifts for your boss.
Weddings and Showers Gifts
The biggest events of a person's lifetime tend to cause the most stress for participants and guests. Keep in mind that you are there to share in the joy of the day, and the cost of the gift is less important than the thought you have put into it. Some general rules to keep in mind:
- If you attend both a wedding shower and the wedding, you need to get two separate gifts. However, the shower gift does not need to be as costly as the wedding gift.
- Do not worry about what others are spending. Get what you feel the couple will appreciate that fits within your budget.
- Be sure to check the couple's wedding registry to see if you can find something you can afford that they truly want or need. If you prefer to buy something that is not on the registry, only do so if it is something unique, regional, or personal that you know will suit them.
- When writing a check to the bride and groom, it is best to make it out to the groom and send it before the wedding, with a note of congratulations to both the bride and groom. This way it can be deposited before they leave on their honeymoon, making the funds available while they travel. Often, if it is made out to both of them under their married names, they cannot immediately deposit it because her name has not been changed yet on her account.
- Enclose the gift receipt with your gift. It is a thoughtful gesture in the event they get a duplicate gift or the present simply is not the right color or design.
Other Gift Purchases
- When shopping for a gift, keep the recipient in mind. Buy a gift that he or she would like, not what you think the person should have.
- Do not buy gifts that are geared toward self-improvement, such as weight-loss videos, exercise programs, or books on how to improve your public speaking skills. It is never a gift to be reminded of your short-comings.
- Personal gifts such as lingerie should only be given to a woman by her husband or fiancé.
- Personal gifts such as silk boxers should only be given to a man by his wife or fiancée.
- When shopping for children, it is best to check with their parents before purchasing anything that is noisy, requires assembly or has lots of small, moving parts. Respect the wishes of the parents if they say a particular gift idea is not to their liking.
- If someone gives you a holiday gift, but you did not get one for them and were not planning to, simply thank them for the present. It is far better to accept the person's gift graciously, in the spirit in which it was given, than to scramble at the last minute to try to match it out of a sense of obligation. Remember, the person gave you gift because he or she wanted to treat you, not because the person expected something in return.
- Think in terms of time as well as monetary value. Giving the gift of babysitting a few nights to a busy couple with young children may be far more appreciated than another item for their home. Throw in a few movie passes or a gift certificate for a nice restaurant and the pair will be genuinely thrilled at your thoughtfulness.
- Do not spend so much on someone's gift that you embarrass the person. Although there is no competition on the value of gifts, if your friend is struggling financially and you spend hundreds of dirhams on an extravagant gift for him or her, you could make your friend feel uncomfortable rather than appreciative.
The most difficult thing for some of us is being on the receiving end of gifts. For some reason, we stumble around when others give us presents and do not know how to be gracious recipients. It is simple, really:
- Say "thank you" with sincerity in your voice. Even if you do not like the gift, you are thanking the person for putting forth the thought and effort to give you a gift and for caring for you enough to want to do so.
- Remark on one specific thing about the gift that you like. If the sweater is the wrong size and color, you could say something like, "Thank you, Aunt Margaret. This is so soft! I just love angora. I'm sure it will be warm this winter!"
- If someone has given you a gift card or money, let the person know how you plan to use it. "This will come in really handy for my school books this semester, Dad. Thanks, I really appreciate it!"
The joy of giving should be in making others happy, not in "keeping score" or trying to best someone else. If we keep in mind that we are supposed to be giving gifts because we want to, not because we are obligated to, the recipients will receive them in the same spirit.