American Gift Giving Etiquette

  • 4 min read

    Here is a bits of a guide to American gift-giving etiquette which will come in handy if you are visiting America or have American friends or business associates visiting you. Americans traditionally give gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and major holidays, such as Christmas. The United States does not have as many customs and taboos regarding gifts as many other cultures do. 

    Business Gift Giving

    • Presenting a gift during business interactions in the United States is a thoughtful gesture, but it is not expected.
    • Business gifts are often presented once a deal is closed. Most of the time gifts are unwrapped immediately and shown to everyone present.
    • Gifts from your home country will always be appreciated. Good choices include local and regional arts and crafts, books, and specialty foods. In the Bits of Australia art collection you will find an extensive range of stunning artwork by Australian artists that are suitable gifts for business occasions.

    Sydney Harbour Bridge Print
    • Don't expect to receive a gift in return right away.
    • Gifts are normally exchanged during the Holiday season which starts in late November and continues through to the first week of January. It is customary to give business associates gifts such as useful items for the office or a bottle of wine. You will find lots of fabulous Australian made gifts for the office in our Office & Stationery collection, from colourful notebooks and journals, to mousepads featuring indigenous artwork and stylish pens.
    • It is important to be aware that some companies have policies that discourage their employees from giving or receiving gifts. In most cases, government employees are not allowed to accept gifts. A hand-written card or note will always be appreciated and happily accepted
    • Cash gifts are never appropriate and are likely to be viewed as a bribe. 

    Australian pocket notebooks

    Australiana pocket notepads
    • When you visit a home, it is not necessary to take a gift, but it will always be appreciated. Flowers, an indoor plant, a bottle of wine (if you know that the host/hostess drinks alcohol) or a small souvenir gift from your home country are all suitable gift choices in this case.  A good way to say thank you for the invitation is to send a note the day after the occasion.
    • Taking someone out for a meal or other form of entertainment is another popular gift.
    • Gifts for women such as perfume, cosmetics or clothing are usually seen as too personal and inappropriate.  A scarf is the only appropriate item of clothing to give as a business gift to a woman.

    Personal Gift Giving

    • Gift giving is not usually an elaborate event, except during major holidays such as Christmas.
    • A gift can be as simple as a card containing a personal note for a person that you have a close relationship. 
    • When invited to someone's home for dinner, it is polite to bring a small gift such as a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, flowers for the hostess, or something small for the home. We have a gorgeous selection of Australian made homewares which are ideal for such an occasion.
    • Gifts for children are often an appreciated gesture, but you should consider the values of the parents and the age appropriateness of the gift.
    • If you are invited to a wedding, baby shower, bar mitzvah, or other such celebration, it is expected that you will take a gift. Unless you know the host very well, choose a gift that is modest in value.  
    •  For a baby shower, take a gift appropriate for a newborn baby. You will find lots of beautiful gifts for babies in our online gift shop, such as these divine hand-knitted woollen booties.    
      Blue wool baby booties
      • For a bar mitzvah, you should take an appropriate gift for a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah gifts are usually more formal in nature.
      • Valentine's Day falls on February 14 an on this day lovers express their feelings for each other in the form of love notes, Valentine's Day cards, chocolates, flowers, stuffed animal toys, jewellery and the like.
      • If you want to express deep gratitude to an American, a common way of repaying a favour is to take the person to a form of entertainment, such as a sports game, the ballet, or to a good restaurant.

          Important Gift Giving Holidays in the United States

          • The traditional US holiday season begins with Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, then moves on to Christmas and ends with New Year's Eve.
          • Thanksgiving is a day for family and friends to have a meal together and give thanks for what they have. The meal traditionally consists of a turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and roast vegetables. It is customary to bring good quality food items (such as something for dessert) or wine/beer, but gifts for the kids or pets will also be greatly appreciated.
          • Be careful not to choose gifts linked to specific religious celebrations such as Christmas decorations, unless you are certain of the religious background of your friend, relative or business associate.
          • While Christmas may be the dominant holiday celebration in the US, many will be honouring other holidays such as Hanukkah or African-American Kwanzaa during this period.

            Suitable Gifts

            • Gifts unique to your local area or region
            • If you are indebted to an American and want to show your gratitude, taking them out to a baseball or basketball game or for dinner at a nice restaurant is highly appreciated
            • If you know the person well or have a close relationship with them it is appropriate to choose a gift which reflects their interests. For example, if you know that they love photography you could give them a photography-inspired gift like this stylish notebook from Ask Alice.

            Camera notebook


            • A nice greeting card containing a personal message
            • A bottle of high quality wine or spirits (if you know that the recipient drinks alcohol)

              Gifts to Avoid

              • Gifts with religious connotations
              • Toy guns or violent video games if the recipient is a child
              • Personal gifts such as perfume or jewellery if the recipient is a woman and you do not want to give the impression that you have romantic feelings for her.
              • It's best to avoid red roses due to their romantic connotations.

              To browse a wide range of gifts which are suitable for American gift-giving occasions head to the ultimate online gift destination at