Gift giving can be a cross cultural nightmare; in the Arab world gifts are generous, large and given as often as possible.
Gifts are always given when you go to someone's house, or visit someone in hospital. Sensible things to bring with you are flowers and/or chocolates and generiosity is the order of the day. Gifts are never given at weddings, but on return from honeymoon women will be expected to go around to the bride's house and present her with jewellery, gold preferably.
When a gift is given, the receiver will thank the giver but will never unwrap it in front of them.
My friend was at a loss as to how he could get visas for his holiday, the embassy was in a different country and getting them there with DHL was possible, but lots of hassle. I offered to take them with me as I was visiting the country three days later.
Having taken the passports with me and deposited them at the embassy, I arrived at work the next day to find the biggest gift I have ever seen on my desk.
When I mentioned how large it was my friend said,
“You saved me lots of time and trouble and money, it’s a small gift for your house to thank you for all your trouble.”
I asked if I could open the present there and then, and he said, “You must”. Before I could start removing the wrapping paper he was tearing at it himself, helping me to undo the parcel. Inside were 12 wine goblets, and this was from a man who doesn’t drink.
In this case all the rules were broken, but it was a very unusual situation.
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