Portugal: Gift Giving


Selecting and presenting an appropriate business gift

Gift giving

It is common but by no means required or even expected to give a gift to a prospective business partner or customer and you will offend if you reject a gift offered to you or, say, make it clear it will be distributed to staff. These gifts are usually intended to be a personal gesture and mark of respect and not a bribe. Of course, there are levels of “gesture” and if someone offers you something extravagant you would be quite right to refuse politely and explain that you are very grateful but it is your company policy not to accept such gifts.

Gifts received should be unwrapped and shown on receipt.

Giving gifts from your own country or region is especially appreciated.

Quite expensive gifts – a good fountain pen or a piece of porcelain, for example – can be acceptable if that is really appropriate in the business situation and to the status of the person involved.

Suppliers will usually distribute gifts, sometimes quite lavish ones, to customers at Christmas time (this is an almost entirely Christian/non-religious culture). Again a common sense response is required.
Spirits (especially whisky) are acceptable but, usually, avoid wine unless you know what you are doing because the Portuguese believe their wine is better than anyone else’s (it is pretty good).

Personal dress items such as a tie, scarf or scent are appreciated (although choosing the right scent for women can be very difficult).

If you know your contact has children, then gifts for them rather than (or as well as) your contact are often very successful, as long as you get the age range about right. There is less likely to be the same depth of sensitivity about the kind of present as in, say, the US or UK.

Your own company branded gifts can be useful but you need to assess whether they will actually be used and their perceived value (e.g. a bunch of cheap pens may not be very effective as a presentation gift). People here do not generally “flag wave” for their company or country as much as in other cultures.

Appropriate coffee table books are often given and received.

You may not be given a gift in return on the same occasion. Don’t be offended.

Business contacts are not often invited home but if you are, take some flowers or chocolate, not wine. Gifts for any children are very welcome, especially as you are likely to be introduced to them (and it is quite possible; children don’t go to bed as early as in some other Northern cultures).

Thanking for a gift is usually done verbally but a written note, while not necessary, is always appreciated.