Southern Europe is defined as the sociopolitical region of Europe including countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia and Spain.

For the fifth part in the series of cross-cultural gift giving worldwide, let’s explore the different implications when giving and receiving gifts in Southern Europe.

Southern Europe

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Appropriate  gifts include chocolates and office accessories with company logo. Inappropriate gifts include alcohol or anything associated with pork or pig skin and chrysanthemums, which are reserved for funerals.
  • Greece: Appropriate gifts include moderately-priced but quality items. If you’re invited to a home, have a small gift ready. Inappropriate gifts include sharp objects such as knives or scissors, as these represent severing the relationship.
  • Italy: Appropriate gifts are food and liquor, but this is mostly for senior managerial levels. Small gifts leave a good impression for co-workers and staff members. Inappropriate gifts include items with the company logo.
  • Kosovo: Gift-giving isn’t common, but it depends on how closeness to the recipient. If you know they will present a gift, prepare something moderate and appropriate in return. Avoid expensive gifts and focus on the meaning of the gift.
  • Macedonia: Gifts can be exchanged, however, avoid gifting items that exceed 100 euros (roughly $117USD) due to ethical considerations. In social settings, homemade items such as wine or jam may be presented.
  • Malta: Gifts such as corporate items, or something from your home country are appreciated.
  • Montenegro: If you’re invited to a home, a bottle of wine or a box of coffee will impress your hostess/host. Small and moderate gifts, such as items from your home country are appropriate. Avoid expensive gifts due to ethical considerations.
  • Portugal: Gift giving in Portuguese business culture is viewed as mutual respect. Appropriate gifts include scarves, ties, coffee table books, and whiskey. Avoid gifting wine as the Portuguese take pride in their wine. Souvenir items and books from your home country are appreciated. Gifts are opened immediately.
  • Serbia: Gifts aren’t exchanged during initial business meetings. After establishing a long-term relationship with a business partner, consider gifting. However, if invited to a home, bring flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine. Appropriate gifts include desk accessories, calendars, key-chains, pens, and mugs during the New Year or Christmas holidays.
  • Spain: Gifts aren’t exchanged during business meetings. However, they are at the conclusion of successful negotiations. Business gifts of good quality, but not expensive are appropriate and within ethical constraints. Avoid gifts with company logos, unless it’s a pen or desktop accessory.

When it comes to gift-giving, it’s important to remember never give cash to government officials or employees. Respect all cultures and customs. Knowledge of these protocols will assist in future business relationships. Absorb wisdom and educate others about these tips to increase your cross-cultural understanding of the world.

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