While the US President visits Israel on his upcoming historic overseas trip, I offer him some gift giving advice to keep in mind.
- Wait until you are reasonably acquainted with a person before presenting a gift. Avoid gift giving until you know any party better; especially in a business environment
- Israelis have the tendency of over doing with their gifts. It sometimes creates problematic situations in the business arena. Therefore, in many companies and organizations gift giving and accepting is not allowed. Take the time (or have someone on your staff) look into policies before a mistake is made
- A book can be a good choice for a gift, assuming you are familiar with the recipient’s interests and tastes.
- Even a card with a personal note is a nice considerate gesture.
- If you are invited to an Israeli home, good gift choices include a simple arrangement of flowers or box of candy. If you know that children will be present, acknowledging them with a small gift will be appreciated.
- When selecting a gift for an observant Orthodox Jew or Arab, ensure that it is compatible with their religious beliefs. For example, food gifts for observant Orthodox Jews must be kosher.
- During holidays it is customary to give or send presents that fit the specific holiday. Remembering the holidays of other religions is a sign of consideration and respect.
- The Arabic people receive gifts with the right hand, not with the left. Using both hands, however, can be acceptable.
While each country in the Middle East has its own gift giving ‘rules’ and/or practices; here are a few general guidelines as well as a small specific list for President Trump to keep in mind.
- Avoid pictures of people or dogs; Islam prohibits images of the human body and dogs are considered unclean.
- Avoid alcohol
- Products made of pigskin, because pigs are considered offensive to Muslims.
- Avoid giving gifts to the wife of an Arab colleague, and never inquire about her. While in the West and parts of Europe, this behavior is expected.
- In Arab culture, gifts are given or received with the right hand, not with the left. Using both hands, however, is acceptable.
- An elegantly-made compass can be a good gift. A compass enables devout Muslims to always know where Mecca is, even when traveling.
In Saudi Arabia
- Flowers do not make good gifts from a man, although a woman could give them to her hostess.
- The recipient is likely to open and minutely examine the gift in the presence of the giver as well as any others who happen to be present. This is a sign of respect vs being picky as we may perceive this behavior in the West
- Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends. For a Saudi to receive a present from a lesser acquaintance is so embarrassing that it is often considered offensive.
- Never buy gold jewelry or silk garments for men, as both are deemed effeminate in Islam. Platinum is more acceptable but, as it can be confused with white gold, silver is safer.
Should you have any other questions, Mr Trump or anyone else doing some travel for international business, I am only a click away and happy to offer any assistance, I can.
Thanks for stopping by,