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Giving and Receiving

Web posted on December 13, 2001

The Business of Manners, by Adeodata Czink

It is not difficult to survive the holiday season with grace and dignity: the key is to remember whom you are dealing with, and how you wish to be perceived.

When selecting a gift, try to find something meaningful to both the giver and the recipient. Default to a simple present, unless you know the person well enough to choose a more personalized gift. Do remember, it is the thought that counts, not how much you spend.

When wrapping presents, let your relationship be your guide. If it is a present for a colleague with whom you play rugby with on weekends, by all means wrap it in festive paper with bows and ribbons! However, if it is for someone you've never seen in anything but a formal business suit, stick to a classy and elegant presentation: they may well be the 'loud and bright' paper type, but if you don't know that for a fact, err on the side of caution. As a general rule, gifts for Orientals should be wrapped plainly, with architectural precision and no ribbons and bows, while North Americans tend to appreciate bright and cheerful wrapping.

Give and receive presents with both hands if possible: if not, use your right hand. If you see that the other person does not open your present, it may be an indication that they come from a country where saving face is very important, and in order to not offend you (just in case they had a fancier/less fancy present than you) they don't want to open it in front of you. If this happens, thank them ever so much and don't open theirs either. I usually get away with saying, "May I put your present under my Christmas tree and open it Christmas Eve?" Nobody has ever said no to this request. When you open a present, unwrap it gently only five-year-olds have to do it real fast and with lots of noise and tearing of paper. Please remember to honour the giver, the gesture, and the gift itself through your actions and treatment of your present.

We all have had the experience of receiving a present that is, well, somehow not quite the perfect gift. If this happens, thank the giver, then make the item a topic of conversation. Tell them how interesting it is, that you have nothing like it, and ask where they came across it -- you never know, hearing the story behind a gift can grant you new insight into the giver, and new respect for an "ugly duckling" gift. Afterwards do with it what you want. It is yours and you don't owe an explanation as to where it is or what you have done with it.

About that staff Christmas party... the same rules apply as for any other business get-together. Remember that you have to face your colleagues on Monday morning, so don't do anything rude, illegal, embarassing, or otherwise regrettable. Restrict your flirting, limit the alcohol consumption, and be careful of whose low-cut dresses you look down.

One more thing that is extremely important: never, and I mean never, compare the value of your Christmas bonus to those of your colleagues. If you think you deserved more than someone else, or more in general, keep those opinions to yourself. A bonus is a gift from your employer, and should be received gracefully without a great deal of fuss.

I wish you peace and happiness in the coming year.

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