Christmas is always a perfect time to thank customers and business partners for their cooperation or to refresh stale contacts with a few cordial lines at the end of the year. But how to give appropriate gifts? And what to look out for if Christmas mail and presents are to go abroad? Read our tips here.
Convey your greetings by mail.
Even if December is more stressful than all the other months of the year: don't send greetings by email or fax. A traditional, hand-written Christmas card shows that you have taken time and made an effort for your customers and business partners.
Write personally and legibly with a pen.
If possible, write your greetings by hand with a pen. Pre-printed cards will be acceptable if they are signed by hand and supplemented by personal salutations and words. If your group of recipients is very large, printed Christmas greetings are however better than none at all.
Card designs are a matter of taste.
The more unusual the better? Not necessarily. People have their own ideas about what is funny and what is kitsch. Rather, pop a little something extra in the mail such as a straw star or a sachet of Glühfix [mulled wine spice mix].
Aim to send in the middle of December.
If you send your mail on time, you give the recipient time to respond to the Christmas greetings. Your business partners may start their vacation a little earlier and this way they can still read your mail before the holidays.
If time is an issue, send New Year's greetings.
Good wishes for the new year also have their advantages: 1. Your mail will reach the recipient when there's a little room again in the mailbox and the Christmas stress is over. Then you can be sure of their full attention. 2. You don't have to give up on greetings altogether if you have missed the Christmas mail deadline. But remember that New Year's greetings are only customary up until 15 January.
What to consider with international Christmas mail?
Avoid committing a cultural faux pas, show a little sensitivity and inform yourself beforehand whether, when and how your business partners in other cultures celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a Christian holiday and can be therefore strange to many other cultures. It is important not to offend anyone.
- USA: Although Christmas is celebrated here, the country has a wealth of religious communities. It may be expedient to send "Seasonal Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas".
- Russia: It is better to send New Year's greetings with best wishes for the coming year.
- Asia: Show your intercultural sensitivity and send New Year's greetings to your business partners in Asia. In China, Korea, Mongolia, Okinawa, Taiwan and Vietnam, the New Year 2013 (Year of the Snake) is celebrated between 10 and 24 February with the whole family.
- Arab countries and United Arab Emirates: It would be an unforgivable faux pas to send your devout Islamic contacts religious greetings based on Christianity. Here, too, it would be better to send New Year's greetings on 1 January.
Gifts are an expression of appreciation. They should delight both sides - giver and receiver. Therefore, choose your gifts with care in order to strengthen your business relationships instead of making the recipient uncomfortable.
What to give and how much to spend on gifts?
In general, gifts are acceptable. Gifts are subject to strict regulations in some companies and official bodies in order to avoid charges of corruption. If you are unsure, simply call in advance. Ask whether gifts are permitted in the company. In Germany, for example, gifts of up to 35 euros are tax deductible and may be accepted without hesitation.
What to give?
Even though the temptation is great: do not give any promotional gifts with your logo on them. Gifts may also not be too personal, such as perfume.
Ideally, your choice of gift should reflect the relationship with the recipient, their position and personal interests.
- 50 to 80 EUR/ 60 to 100 SFR at executive level
- 25 to 35 EUR / 30 to 40 SFR at manager level
- 10 to 20 EUR / 12 to 25 SFR at project level
It is essential to consider local customs and the gifting culture when selecting gifts for international business customers.
What is well-received internationally?
Swiss chocolate is known world-wide for its excellent quality and is well-received as a gift. Ensure that the chocolate is not filled with alcohol and keep an eye on the countries' import regulations.
Good wines and fine brandies are a wonderful gift in Western Europe and the Balkans, but in Arab countries and the U.S., for example, completely inappropriate. In Asia, you have to pay close attention to company hierarchies with gifts for business partners. The largest gift should go to the managing director. The Chinese have a very distinct culture of giving as an expression of good business relationships. For men, ties are a good idea which - like all gifts - must be wrapped. It is best to select red or yellow wrapping paper, never white, black or blue. Gifts that say something about your home country are just as welcome.
People in Russia attach importance to branded products. Russian women like candy, valuable shawls and scarves, but are not very fond of decorative items. Also among Russian business partners, sharp objects such as knives, scissors and corkscrews are problematic because they are easily associated with hostility and confrontation. Please note that in Muslim countries, no wine may be sent.How to give and send:
Do not send gifts to private addresses, but instead to the company address naming the recipient. If the gift is to go to a contact abroad, customs provisions must be observed. The package must be addressed to a specific person in the company, the type of shipment and the goods value must be stated. The term "gift" is not sufficient as a label, but it must appear on the invoice for customs in any case.
Important: Expenses arising from import into a country must be paid by the recipient upon acceptance of the goods. This should be avoided at all costs by accurate customs declarations. You can play it safe by writing "Incoterm DDP" (delivered duty paid) on your package.
There are special import conditions applicable in the U.S. Sending foodstuffs is only permitted with an import license from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Alcoholic beverages require in principle a "liquor license"; if you are sending wines, a certificate of origin must be included. For more information, see: www.fda.gov.