All around the world, people are giving gifts to express their feelings and show the people in their lives just how much they mean to them. Sometimes it’s from the point of a social expectation, other times it’s just to show appreciation or affection; no matter what, there is much more to giving gifts than just the exchanging of things.

In some cultures, the recipients of gifts care a lot more about the meaning behind a present than the present itself. For example, China is a country where relationships are built, maintained and strengthened by the exchanging of gifts. In this culture, a good gift comes from the thought and considerati on that goes into it. In Italy, where gifts are used to show appreciation for invitations, people often consider the thought going into a gift to be more valuable than the price.

In Mexico, gifts are often used to signify someone’s appreciation and affection. Whenever being invited to someone’s home, it is customary to bring along some kind of wine, flowers, or food. Businesses in Mexico often exchange merchandise as a sign of mutual respect, and occasionally fine alcohol when celebrating a long relationship.

In Japan, a lot more goes into the way that a gift is presented. When wrapping certain presents, more specifically wedding presents, it is customary for the person giving the gift to wrap it very tightly, with a tight bow on it; this is due to an old folklore that dictates that all wedding gifts must be almost impossible to open. It is also customary in Japan to respond to “thank you” gifts with a “thank you” gift. In Trinidad and Tobago, they will give money to a newborn, placing it directly into the infant’s hand to convey their best wishes for the baby’s success.

Be careful when giving gifts to people of different cultures, sometimes what would seem like a normal thing to you may actually be offensive or problematic for someone else. If you were to give the gift of a clock to someone in China, they would likely be very offended because their word for clock is deeply associated with the term for death. In Germany, the gift of a knife is actually symbolic with the severing of a relationship or a friendship, which is obviously something to avoid. So, keep in mind the next time that you are going to give a gift to someone from a different culture than your own, a gift is much more than a gift, and to many cultures it could mean the future of your relationship.