A ROSE IS A ROSE
Or is it? Some useful hints on giving flowers in business and social situations in four countries.
By Terri Morrison
© Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved
Flowers occupy a uniquely acceptable place in the spectrum of gifts. The transitory nature of cut flowers makes them an ideal present: They cannot be mistaken for a bribe, and can be given on a regular basis. However, flowers also have specific cultural associations which differ in each country.
There are two typical situations in which flowers can be useful to businesspeople. One is to help establish a good relationship with a secretary. The other is when an executive is invited to someone's house.
It is still more customary - all over the world - to give flowers to women rather than men, who in most cultures only receive flowers when ill. Here are some flower-giving guidelines which should keep you from falling foul of local taboos.
The appreciation and arrangement of flowers is a complex art in Japan. Every flower has a legend. The camellia, for example, is considered unlucky! Flowers are traditionally given in just three specific situations: during courtship, at funerals, and as a get-well gift. Funeral arrangements consist of small bunches of yellow or white chrysanthemums (Japan's national symbol), combined with lots of foliage. Avoid giving flowers in the "unlucky" numbers of four and nine. And be sure to bring only cut flowers to a sick person.
Gladioli and lilies are associated with funerals, although lilies are also given at Easter. Red roses usually have romantic connotations. Apart from that, for most Americans there are no flower taboos.
It is a rare honor to be invitied into a Swiss home. One should bring a gift to show one's appreciation of the privilege, but flowers are only one possibility. Comestibles, such as sweets or wine, are equally welcome. If flowers are brought, avoid white carnations (funeral) and red roses (romantic connotations).
A bouquet should have an odd number of flowers, but never seven or thirteen. On Labor Day (May 1) the French give lily-of-the-valley. Red roses are not reserved for lovers, but do imply a familiarity that business associates are unlikely to achieve. Carnations are associated with bad luck. Chrysanthemums are used for funerals, and are placed on graves on All Saints Day (November 1). If you are invited to dinner, be sure to bring flowers. No gifts are brought to formal dinners, of course. In general, the later the dinner, the more formal the event.
Reprinted from SwissAir Gazette, March 1997