Northern Europe is considered to consist of the 10 countries that are situated above the 54th parallel north. These include Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom as defined by the United Nations.

We previously covered the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in our blog of Global Gift Giving Customs in Central & Eastern Europe on November 28, 2017.

As part four of cross-cultural global business gift giving, let’s explore the different implications when giving and receiving gifts in Northern Europe.

While gifts are not traditionally exchanged between business associates in this region, the holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to express gratitude and goodwill with a culturally-appropriate token. Gifts made in your home state or country are well received. When visiting Sweden recently, I presented bookmarks, keychains and small gifts purchased from our Texas Capital Gift Shop.

6 Countries of Northern Europe (not including those previously covered)

  • Denmark: Gifts are exchanged during the initial meeting. However, if business goes well and you want to gift something, gift a box of chocolates, desk accessories, or company logo items such as high quality pens and notepads.
  • Finland: It’s uncommon to exchange gifts during a business meeting. However, if you’re invited to someone’s home, bring flowers, chocolates or liquor. Gifts are opened when recently ived. Avoid gifting white or yellow flowers as these are used in funerals.
  • Iceland: A small souvenir from your home country is appreciated. A bottle of wine is a good gift. If you’re invited to an Icelanders’ home, take a small gift with you. Don’t show up empty handed.
  • Ireland: Corporate gifts aren’t usually exchanged, but for business social events, small gifts are appropriate. Many Irish businessmen enjoy golf in their spare time, so golf gifts are popular.
  • Sweden: Gift giving isn’t practiced among business associates, even during the holidays. It’s appropriate when closing a deal to gift home country items, books, or desk accessories. If you receive a gift, reciprocate with a similar valued gift.
  • United Kingdom: Gift-giving is not part of the business culture. More than anything, punctuality expresses respect and good intent more than any gift. Call even if you will be 5 minutes late. It’s often recommended to reserve a gift until the conclusion of the deal. Business gifts should be small and tasteful; appropriate ones include desk accessories such as high quality pens, notepads, calculators, or a USB flash drive.  

Northern European countries focus on the importance of moderate gift giving among business associates to avoid ethical implications. For the next blog in our series, read part 5 of global gift giving in Southern Europe if you’re curious about the cross-cultural environment in Italy, Portugal, Spain and 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.

Photo Credit Sharon Schweitzer