Gift Giving Customs in Central & Eastern Europe
As a regular business traveler to the Czech Republic, I seek new and intriguing gifts to share with my colleagues. Thank goodness Austin has so many talented artists and musicians creating beautiful items for me to share. We enjoy bringing Texas-made original items such as AustinNuts, Lammes Candies Longhorns, and Texas Map tea towels.
As part three of cross-cultural gift giving worldwide, let’s explore the different implications when giving and receiving gifts in Central and Eastern Europe (CEECs), as defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The countries included in CEECs are Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
- Albania: Gifts aren’t exchanged during initial meetings. However, small gifts from your home country are appreciated. Professional wrapping is preferred. Open gifts privately.
- Bulgaria: Appropriate gifts include moderately priced desk accessories such as pens, clocks, and notepads. Select moderately priced, ‘original’ gifts.’
- Croatia: Business associates don’t exchange gifts during initial meetings. Small gifts from your home country such as a craft, or a coffee table book is appreciated. Avoid expensive gifts, as company policies limit gifts by value.
- Czech Republic: Appropriate gifts may include moderately priced desk accessories such as pens, calculators, and notepads. Liquor, such as Scotch and Bourbon, are acceptable. It’s polite to refuse a gift a few times and then accept when the giver insists. If you receive a gift, open it immediately to show appreciation. Send a thank-you note within 24 hours.
- Hungary: Appropriate gifts include moderately priced chocolates, flowers, or home country liquor tailored to your host’s personal taste. Avoid expensive gifts.
- Poland: Gifts are exchanged during initial meetings and when closing a deal. Appropriate gift examples include home country souvenirs and company logo items. Inappropriate gifts include red or white flowers and yellow chrysanthemums; these are associated with mourning and funerals.
- Romania: Small gifts are polite. Moderate gift giving is viewed as a sign of cooperation. Gifts are opened immediately.
- Slovak Republic: Business associates don’t exchange gifts at initial meetings. Appropriate gifts include flowers, alcohol, or a moderately priced gift from your home country.
- Slovenia: Gifts are not common. Small souvenirs, wine, or a corporate gift are welcome at the evening’s end. Inappropriate gifts include expensive items.
Three Baltic States
- Estonia: Gifts aren’t expected at initial meetings. Small and moderate home country souvenirs are appropriate gifts for business colleagues.
- Latvia: Gift exchanges occur among family members during the holidays. If you’re invited to a home, bring flowers, chocolates, or imported liquor.
- Lithuania: Business counterparts don’t exchange gifts at the initial meeting. However, appropriate corporate gifts include wine, high quality chocolates, or a basket of tea and biscuits.
Central and Eastern European countries accept desk accessories, such as pens, notepads, and calculators as appropriate gifts. Research your counterpart, along with your and their organizational gift giving policy to determine comfort level. Remember, never give cash or money to an elected official or a government employee. It’s important to gift small, moderate, and conservative gifts to win the hearts of these business associates. We encourage you to read part 4 of global gift giving customs in Northern Europe if you’re curious about the cross-cultural implications in countries such as Denmark, Iceland, and many more.
Sharon Schweitzer and Sunny Kim co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Sunny Kim is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently a junior journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin with a minor in Korean language and certificate in business. She is also the founder and president of UT Asian American Journalists Association. Her main focus is storytelling people's diverse experiences relating to race and culture. Connect with her on Linkedin.