With the holiday season upon us, many of us have already begun to purchase gifts for our family and friends. Exchanging gifts can certainly be exciting – provided you know the kinds of things the other person likes. Some of you may find yourself in the position of having to give a gift to a Russian person – maybe at an office party or some other social event; perhaps you are visiting the home of a family that emigrated from Russia for a celebration. Each culture is somewhat unique with regards to the kinds of gifts that are exchanged. Our subject for today will be a general outline of gift-giving etiquette for a Russian man or woman.
Should you be invited to a party at the home of a Russian family, you certainly will want to bring a gift for the host. Your host(s) will definitely be spending much time, energy, and money to prepare for the party and they ought to be rewarded with a token of your appreciation. Keep in mind that gender certainly makes a difference with regards to the kind of gifts that are considered appropriate – I suppose this is the case everywhere though.
If the host is a female, many gifts might be appropriate. You might wish to give her some type of fancy chocolate – not Hershey’s. Many Russian women are fond of quality chocolate. Depending on the woman, flowers may be a great option; the type would depend on the occasion and preference. It is important to remember that with flowers, bring an odd number; an even number is appropriate at funerals. Wine may also work depending upon your host’s preferences. Food dishes can be a good option – try to make sure that the dish chosen is acceptable to the host. Should your host be a man, a nice bottle of vodka, cognac, or perhaps whiskey will do the trick; beer could also be appropriate. Tequila is also becoming more popular with Russians. Of course, all ideas contained within this blog depend on the host’s preferences. Wine, chocolate, and flowers tend to be gender specific gifts and would not be proper to give to men.
It is also important that you get something small for the children if there are any.
Should you need to get a gift for a Russian man or woman at a work party or some other occasion, some of the aforementioned gifts will work well too. For women, fancy chocolate, wine, and maybe perfume will work. Perhaps you could give her a household item such as a candle or tea cups would be an option. Avoid jewelry, make-up, or anything noticeably cheap – this is true in most cultures I believe. For men, again you could give him a nice bottle of hard liquor, perhaps cufflinks, maybe even beer.
In my opinion, you’d never give a Russian person a Matryoshka – or stack doll. This may be like giving an American flag to an American – they’ve seen thousands and while they may appreciate them, they don’t necessarily want them as presents.
The best rule of thumb is to consider your relationship with the person and proceed accordingly. The better you know the person, the more information you’ll have regarding their personal tastes. Russian people, like most others, will appreciate any gifts that you give them; however, it should be our goal to help the recipient to not only appreciate the gift, but to really like it. Should you have any questions about gifts to give Russian people, I’d love to help.