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The School of Etiquette


The Art of Gift Giving

The same questions always arise this time of year relating to ‘giving of gifts’.

What do I give? Who do I give to? How much should I spend?

The art of gift giving is a very subjective matter, as the opinion of different people from different cultures varies on the topic. Nevertheless, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions with our response to what might be best.

If there is a question we did not include that you would like answered, then feel free to ask us in the comments box below and we will be get back to you.

  1. I received a gift? Do I need to give one in return?

Although the giver should not expect to receive anything in return, there is an unwritten rule and in most cases a necessity to reciprocate the act of giving as a means of showing appreciation for the gift and that likewise; you are thinking of them.

  1. What do I give?

This depends on who the gift is for. If you know the person well, you should opt for something you know they will like and appreciate.

Personalised gifts are becoming very popular now and can go a long way in showing your thoughtfulness. So before purchasing a gift, have the recipient in mind and think about how your gift is likely to make them feel.

Many a times, gifts are given just for the sake of giving without any thought going into it. The person is most likely not going to appreciate it and will either re-gift or discard of it. So as they say ‘it’s the thought that counts’, so make it count.

  1. How much do I spend?

This is really your personal choice, but bare in mind that although you may be able to afford something exuberant, this may in turn cause embarrassment to the receiver(s), as they may not be able to reciprocate at your level of giving.

Etiquette is about making sure that the other person feels comfortable, even in your giving of gifts. So if you feel that this may be an issue, then you may want to tone down how much you spend on particular gifts. Sometimes the best gifts do not cost much at all.

  1. What do I do with a gift I do not like?

You still need to show appreciation to the giver regardless of whether or not you like it.

You may re-gift the item, if you know the person you intend to give it to will appreciate it (one mans trash is another mans treasure). However, there is no point in giving it to someone, if you know they may not like it.

N.B: If you chose to re-gift, the person you are giving it to should not know or be in close proximity to the person that originally gave you the gift; lest an embarrassing situation of them finding out arises.

  1. Can I ask for money instead of a gift?

It is not proper etiquette to ask for money instead of a gift, especially if you are not that acquainted with the giver. It defeats the purpose of the act of gift giving. Nevertheless, if the giver is close to you i.e. an immediate family member, requesting gift vouchers may be deemed a more acceptably way of being specific about your gift.

6. Do I have to join in the office secret santa or gift exchange?

No, but it will not give a good impression about you as a person or your interpersonal skills.

If it is likely to put a financial burden on you, then consider discreetly asking the organiser if the price limit can be lowered rather than opting out all together. You will be surprised how accommodating and understanding people can be if you sincerely express how you feel.

7. When should I open my gift?

Most people open their presents on the morning of Christmas Day, and a lot adhere to the tradition of opening stocking fillers on Christmas Eve whilst their main presents on Christmas day. Either way, you can open your present when you choose and to your own gift opening tradition.

Although some gift givers prefer for the receiver to open their gift in front of them, it is generally better for the gift to be opened in private and then a ‘thank you’ to follow at a later stage.

Final pointers:

* There are cultural differences to the giving of gifts and what is acceptable in the U.K might be frowned upon in another part of the world. Join our FREE community, where we will explain in-depth these differences.

* It will not be right for us to write a post on gift giving, without mentioning the fact that the gift must be wrapped presentably. In etiquette, the presentation of a gift is just as important as the act of giving. 

A nicely wrapped/presented gift makes it all the more special, speaks about you as the giver and seldom goes unappreciated. i.e. A presentation box that does not cost much, can create the perception that the gift is of higher value than it actually is; just look at the presentation given to purchased items from many high-end stores.

* Think twice before wrapping up what you think is a hilarious gift. You may find it funny, but it could be very insulting to the receiver. If you do not know whether or not the person will appreciate your sense of humour, then it is best to play it safe.

If you would like tips or step-by-step guidelines on how to wrap the perfect present, then subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we will begin to upload content relating to this and similar topics.


Finally, remember the acronym GAF:

Gratitude – Be grateful as soon as you receive the gift

Appreciation – Show this through your expression and how you receive it

Further gratitude – Follow up with another ‘Thank you’ once you have opened the gift or at a later time.


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