Present and correct

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am

The act of giving can be a tricky business. While in Russian culture, giving a watch signifies the end of a relationship, bestowing a clock as a present in Chinese culture means you are suggesting the recipient is heading for an early grave. In Cantonese, 'giving a clock' sounds the same as 'seeing someone off at a funeral'.

You should also not give sharp objects such as knives or scissors to Chinese as presents, even as housewarming gifts, as doing so suggests that the relationship will be severed. If you really must give such a gift, tie a red ribbon around the blade. Red represents the fire element, which controls metal in the cycle of destruction of the five naturally occurring elements. Alternatively, have the recipient give you a token amount of money, in the form of coins, to symbolise the gift being paid for, thereby avoiding any negative consequences.

When writing a card to accompany a gift, never use red ink, as this was the colour traditionally used in declarations of war between states. A neutral colour such as black or blue is preferred. However, note that using a red seal to stamp your Chinese name on letters is not problematic, providing the preceding information is not presented in red.