Where is it rude to open a present in front of the giver?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Karlaina, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. Karlaina Senior Member

    I am currently here ;)
    English, United States
    Hello! There is a similar question already on this forum, but my question is a bit more specific...

    I travel a lot in Latin America, and I know that in some places it is considered rude to open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you. I usually ask, "¿Lo abro ahora?" ...but the answer is often "como quieras."

    It's a little awkward for me because in my culture (the US) it's considered rude NOT to open a present immediately after someone gives it to you. Needless to say, when they leave it up to me to decide, I open it right away, though I sometimes get the impression that it was not the appropriate thing to do. :eek:

    Help! Where is it considered mala educación to open a gift right away and where is it acceptable? Does it have to do with geography or generation?

    Thanks for your help in this matter. :)
  2. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    In Germany you´re quite free to do whatever you like. Both ways won´t offend someone.

    On Christmas and at weddings presents are usually opened in a special "ceremony", which has not to be immediatly after you get the present.
    Birthday presents can either be opened right away or anytime later, some even open them the next day after the celebration.
  3. Antpax

    Antpax Senior Member

    Spanish Spain

    In Spain it isn´t at all. In fact, I would say it may be considered rude not to open it. Here, if you are given a gift and don´t open it, you may be prepared to listen "hey, aren´t you going to open it?"


  4. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    I totally agree with Antpax. I'm surprised to know that in some place in Latin America it might be different.

    I think Japanese people open presents until when they are by themselves at home, I don't know if they consider it rude not to do so, though; I've actually never been to Japan and what I say it's just second-hand information. Let's wait for someone more knowledgeable about Japanese culture.
  5. Mate

    Mate Senior Member

    Castellano - Argentina
    That is yet to be confirmed, Amp. In my country, for instance, it is considered rude not to open the gift in front of the person who gave it.
  6. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    Yes... :confused:Just like in Spain and that's what Antpax and I said. So, where it is considered rude to open it in front of the person who gave it to you.
  7. mirx Banned

    It really depends in Mexico. Birthday and Christmas parties usually call for a "special opening presents party"; which, like Frank78 mentioned, does not need to be immediately after.

    I think I have heard somewhere that one should not open presents in front of the person who gave them, chances are you won't like the present and it all will be awkward. Yet, no ones seems to remeber this in Christmas gatherings where one is forced to see underwear, cheeses, sex toys, deodorants, ridiculous sweaters, etc., being given and recieved by people.
  8. SDLX Master

    SDLX Master Senior Member

    Lima, Peru
    Spanish - Peru
    Over here, people are not so biased against opening presents in front of the giver, and even if you do not open them, it is just not considered rude.
    What happens is, present givers want to see the taker's reaction and expect it to be a pleasant one, much like confirmation that the present giver made the right choice, and in case the taker does not feel the present is what he expected, he would immediately give the present giver his best hypocritical smile faking he is delighted with the giver's choice. :rolleyes:
    This particular fact is one I hate about present giving in my country, and is good enough a reason for me to never give presents to anyone, but in the end, when the moment calls for it, I end up buying stuff for people (friends and relatives) because my wife asks me to. :(
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2009
  9. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    In my culture, even in a business context, it would be very uncommon not to open a gift. Not only would it be uncommon, but it would be far, far away from being regarded as good manners.
  10. Reliure

    Reliure Senior Member

    Same thing in France, not opening the present could be interpretated as a sign that you don't take it (and, by extension the one who gave it as well! ) under consideration, as if you thought it was not worth doing it.
  11. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    I clearly remember a sing-song chant that is taken up by anyone around whenever there are presents back in good-ol' Mexico:

    "¡Que se lo ponga, que se lo ponga!" ("Have him/her wear it!")

    I think the only time when presents are not opened at all in the presence of nobody is during weddings. Maybe funerals, too, I don't know… Don't even know if it'd be too uncouth to bring a present for the bereaved…

    I'm socially clueless, apparently…


  12. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    Oh! People say exactly the same in bad new Spain!
  13. Mirlo

    Mirlo Senior Member

    Castellano, Panamá/ English-USA
    In Panama, It's okay both ways. You can open the present in front of the person or you can do it later, I think that they usually open them for kids birthday parties.

  14. Well, in Russia I do not think anyone may consider it rude to unwrap or open a present. "Rude" is too strong a word here. Of course, we sometimes do not do it just because not enough time for it is given. For example, at some ceremony if one is presented something by an official or a member of their administration staff, they thank them, shake their hand and go off the stage to occupy their place in the concert hall. This all lasts just a few seconds or minutes and if you suddenly start opening the present given, it will be strange.

    However, sometimes we even insist that people open the present as soon as they have got them. For example, if it is our best friend's birthday and we ave bought for them what they have been looking forward to receiving and we want them to see the desired gift instantaneously to make them happier!!!
  15. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello, here in the Czech Republic as well as Hungary I think people would find it rude if you do not open the present right away, because it could be the sign of the fact you actually do not care what you have been given. So, my advice is always open a present in front of the giver here. :)
  16. ywf Senior Member

    In China, it's been considered impolite to open a present in front of the giver. But I think it is nowadays a little less so, and sometimes we don't even consider it rude/uncommon at all to do so especially when the giver and the receiver have a close relationship. Maybe it is because of the influence of the western culture in my country.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2009
  17. Reliure

    Reliure Senior Member

    Interesting, ywf, could you tell us a little bit more about the reason it's considered impolite ?
    In an affectuous context as friends or casual family :

    Is it considered as a lack of reserve ?

    Or a lack of trust (as if you checked right now into the gift wrapped to see how "deeply" you have to thank the giver)?

    And when the 2 persons meet again can one say to the other how much she enjoys, or uses if it's an object , the present, or is that totally tabu to comment about that ?
  18. farscape mod-errare humanum est

    Ottawa, Canada
    In Romanian culture it's considered (or at least used to be) impolite to open the present in front of the giver, unless specifically asked to do so or if it's a symbolic gift (keys of the city, etc.).

    As a host you shouldn't check the presents since it may be perceived as having a material interest in the event - the party/gathering is about people being together and not about what they bring.

    Another thought: certain guests may be embarrassed having their gifts exposed to the entire party/audience.

  19. Grefsen

    Grefsen Senior Member

    Southern California
    English - United States
    During my recent trip to Norway I attended several birthday celebrations and whenever possible the gifts were opened "in front of the giver" almost immediately.

    The reasoning behind this makes a lot of sense to me. I have a friend from neighboring Moldova who I am planning to meet this week for a Christmas gift exchange and I am curious to learn from her if it is also considered to be rude by Moldovans "to open the present in front of the giver, unless specifically asked to do so."
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2009
  20. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I think in Belgium you are supposed to open it, simply to show your appreciation...
  21. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In Austria you are supposed to open a gift while the donator is present (or in case of Christmas, and if children are around who still believe in the Christkind, children also are supposed to open their gifts immediately. Parents might ask them to do so if they don't, but honestly this hardly ever happens - as of course they're ususally eager to open them at once.)

    But this doesn't mean necessarily that it would be considered impolite not to do so - this depends.
    Take for example a wedding party in the region where I grew up (rural Upper Austria): bride and groom won't open their gifts at all except if they're asked to do so, there are just too many presents and it'd be much more work to store them away if they'd open them all.
    In Vienna I think it is slightly difficult - I only attended one wedding in Vienna so far, and some gifts were opened.

    However, nobody would think of opening a gift if it only would consist of an envelope - because an envelope would mean money (or a voucher), and one would indeed consider it rude to open an envelope to check whether the donator actually has donated a considerable sum*) or not. :) If the donator asks for an envelope to be opened then this usually means it is a voucher and a surprise.

    *) Note please, many grooms and brides do check afterwards what sums they were given by the guests; but the point is not doing this in front of the guests. :)

    So there are occasions when gifts will be opened in front of the donator and when this is not done; the point being: no, there is not a general rule as to whether it were expected to open a gift in front of donators or not - it depends very much on context.
  22. Ivonne do Tango

    Ivonne do Tango Senior Member

    En un cafetín de Buenos Aires
    Porteño de arrabal
    Well, hope some of you understand me because I don't write very well in English, so I will write in Spanish.

    En Argentina, protocolarmente creo que no está bien visto. Supongo que se deberá a que abrir el regalo en frente de quien lo obsequió denota un interés material, o una ansiedad. Esto se ha trasladado a las relaciones comunes (no diplomáticas) pero actualmente, al menos en el ámbito de lo informal, no está mal visto.

    Mi mamá siempre me decía que no había que abrir el regalo frente al otro, "mala educación" y a mí siempre me pareció absurdo. Es decir, el otro cometió un acto de generosidad hacia mí y puso en ese regalo algunas cosas en cuestión (pensó, imaginó o pesquisó acerca de mis gustos o necesidades) por lo cual me parece, precisamente mala educación no abrirlo. En el mismo sentido me encanta cuando alguien a quien le regalé algo mira enseguida qué le regalé, porque yo no puse dinero para regalarlo (el dinero fue apenas un medio) sino que intervinieron un montón de cosas al momento de comprarlo... Algunas veces, cuando es un regalo que no está atado a una fecha de cumpleaños, dejo llevarme por mi instinto y dejar que el objeto me llame (en vez de salir a buscar el objeto). Nunca falla.

    Regalar puede ser comprendido como un acto social o sentimental e íntimamente creo que aún a gente que no se conoce se le puede regalar haciendo que intervenga lo sensorial. Y si no abren el regalo frente a mí, digo: dale abrílo, a ver si te gusta?
  23. acemach Member

    Malaysia - English & Mandarin
    Here opening a present immediately after receiving it would be definitely uncommon, perhaps causing some awkwardness.

    When people bring you presents upon arrival at a party or function, I suppose that it would be considered impolite to open it before them, even if no one else is looking. The more common thing to do is to place the present aside and welcome the guest warmly. I guess opening the present would convey the impression that you are interested mainly in the gift, how valuable it is, etc. etc.

    Among the Chinese community here, (usually red) packets of money are given by elders to children and unmarried acquaintances during the Chinese New Year. (These are called hongbao in Mandarin, angpao in Hokkien/Teochew, laisi in Cantonese) It is usually considered rather rude to open these packets upon receiving them, as different people give different amounts, and having it revealed that someone gave you very little would embarrass him/her. Like the above, it also gives them the impression that you're a greedy person who's only interested in the worth of the hongbao, not in its symbol as a sign of good wishes, regardless of its contents.

  24. Karlaina Senior Member

    I am currently here ;)
    English, United States
    Thanks so much for all of the responses! :) What an interesting discussion...


    You mention that your mom always told you not to open gifts in front of the giver, but you have never seen it as mala educación yourself. Do you think that it might be safe to say that the younger generations tend to expect one to open the gift immediately while the older generations might be a little put off by this, holding to a more reserved tradition/etiquette?

    This would probably be consistent with my experience. For example, there is an older Mexican woman where I work, and I always bring her Christmas and birthday gifts. She is always very appreciative, thanking me profusely, but she never opens them in front of me. I have had similar experiences with older pastors and businessmen on my travels in Latin America. On the other hand, when I give gifts to those my own age, they almost always open them right away.

    What do you think? Am I just reading too much into these experiences, or is there an actual pattern here?

    Gracias de antemano. :)

  25. mirx Banned

    I've already given my opinion but I just felt tempted to add bit more. During the last Christmas season I gave some presents and this thread was fresh on my mind. Those people that were about my age and in my circle of friends opened the gifts immediately, my seniors just thanked me and kept the unwrapping for later.
  26. MOMO2 Banned

    I lived in Italy, UK, Spain, Paraguay : in all these countries it would have been rude NON opening the gifts I received in front of the giver.
  27. Ivonne do Tango

    Ivonne do Tango Senior Member

    En un cafetín de Buenos Aires
    Porteño de arrabal

    Perdón por pedirte esto, me interesa tu respuesta y creo que no puedo entenderla en su totalidad. Podrías enviarla en castellano? Sin compromiso.

    Gracias de todas maneras.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
  28. mijel Member

    Castellano, Galego
    Same for Spain
  29. B.P.R.

    B.P.R. Senior Member

    Spanish (Español, castellano)-España
    Mis disculpas por meterme donde no me llaman, pero me temo que me voy a tomar la libertad de traducir el mensaje de Karliana (confieso que me interesa mucho lo que pregunta ;)).

  30. effeundici Senior Member

    Italian - Tuscany
    I think that Chinese attitude not to open presents in front of the giver is simply fantastic.

    First: you don't have to pretend that what you needed most in your life is a pair of pink socks!

    Second: The object is not important! The affectionate attention of the giver is important! Why spoiling it only because he/she made the wrong choice?

    I like that. I think we should adopt that habit in Europe as well!!
  31. chrysalid Member

    Ankara, Turkey
    In Turkey, just like in Malaysia and Romania as mentioned under this topic, it is traditionally been impolite to open a present immediately because this type of behaviour might imply that the receiver of the present gives much importance to it where the presence of the guest should be the important thing. However, among close friends and especially at birthday parties, it would not be something impolite, maybe something expected by the others, to open the presents instantly.

    The perception of this issue might differ from region to region within Turkey. The degree of exposure to Western culture (well, that's become an old-fashioned expression but you know what I mean) is another factor that might change attitudes in that sense.
  32. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    I agree with this. The difference in attitudes depending on each region is really remarkable though.

    In my mother's family, it is considered rude to open a gift in front of the person. When you visit them in their house and bring them some cake or chocolate or wine etc in a packet; they wouldn't open it until you leave. But in my father's family when you give a gift, they'd ask if they can open it out of courtesy, and the person who hands the gift will in almost every occasion say "of course", and they will open it. If a visitor brings something to eat or drink in a package, they won't even ask if they can open it, they open it and serve it to everyone.
  33. Alma Shofner Senior Member

    California (wine country)
    Mexican Spanish from Sonora
    It sounds very familiar to me. I am from México and there are different attitudes about opening gifts. The most common is not to open in unless you are asked to do so. It could cause embarrassment both ways.
    I don't like/enjoy gift giving because it is hard to please other people. I usually buy for others what I like for me. My siblings used to get very disappointed with my gifts. They would ask me if I was buying the gift for them or for me.
    As my sibling usually didn't like my gifts, I don't feel comfortable giving gifts to other people. I don't like them to open the gift in front of me and to pretend they liked what they got.
    I also have a huge collection of unwanted received gifts. I feel sorry they spent a lot of money on articles I don't like. I don't resale them because I feel guilty. I keep them in the garage.
    The worst gift I received was when I was in elementary school. We had a gift exchange party and a boy gave my underwear. Thank God in our culture it is not customary and/or expected from us to open the gifts when we received them. I was home when I opened it and I felt so horrible. i hated my classmate. I never forgot his gift. I don't like gift exchange parties.
  34. the-moon-light Senior Member

    Arabic (Saudia) but I'm Yemeni :)
    I think here in Saudi it's up to you, but usually we don't open it infront of the giver, because we care about the person and not the gift, so if the person who give the gift ask us to open it we will, otherwise we will not open it infront of him/her.
  35. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    But if you do not open it it can be rude. My father did not open his presents for weeks and this was very said for me when I was a child. I was very disappointed and so were my brother and my sister. I do not know why he did this, but when I read the postings here, may be it was his inner will.

    So it depends on the situation. It can be rude not to open it and look like a punishment or ignorance, when done inside the family.

    It is rude not to open it for weeks and show this to the own childrens.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2010
  36. Garbuz Senior Member

    Now it's getting more and more common to open a present in front of the giver in this country. Twenty or so years ago people would normally put a present away to be opened later. I like it when my wife gives me presents because she knows exactly what I like, the size I wear and the color I prefer. Even if something doesn't fit, she would say "No problem, I'll go and exchange it." With friends it's different. From my experience, they often give you something expensive, which you don't really need. I know they want to see my happy face when I see the thing, so I unwrap the present right at that moment and show to the best of my abilities how delighted I am. I rather doubt that I'm a good actor, that's why I always feel ill at ease in such situations.
  37. Goddess Mystyxx Member

    Latin City of the South
    English / Chavacano / Spanish
    In the Philippines, I think its not really considered impolite to open gifts infront of the gift giver, but not all people do it. We'd usually wait for a private time to do it (with close friends or family).

    I am not so sure of the rationale, but I think it's just a way for us not to embarrass the gift giver (if they didn't want it to be seen by everyone).

    It is very interesting to know that some cultures would see it differently. I think it is something that I can adapt and do as well in the future.
  38. sai611

    sai611 Senior Member

    I agree with mystyxx, usually for birthdays in my own experience in the Philippines, i noticed that celebrants choose to open their presents after the party because it surprises them, thats what i also practice.hehe. But when the giver tells me to open the present infront of them then that is the only time i will open it, i think they just wanna know how my reaction would be if i like it or not. But the bottom line is it really depends on us if when we are going to open the presents.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2010
  39. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Portugal, I think it depends on the context. For example, birthday gifts are usually opened when received, in front of the giver, but I believe wedding gifts are usually opened later, when the guests have left.

    And of course envelopes (=money) are supposed to be opened later.
  40. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Japanese people consider opening a gift impolite in official contexts. Heaven knows how this culture is fond of ritualistic, officious, ostensible gifting.

    Needless to say, more casual gifts (such ones between friends and family) can be opened right away or even expected to be. I don't think I can sufficiently define what are casual gifts and what are formal ones here.

    So, why shouldn't formal gifts be opened when and where gifting takes place? The delay is understood in this culture as the measure of how much the gift is appreciated. If you open the gift right away, you gaze at the object with eyes wide open, smile a big grin, shriek monosyllables such as Wow, Iou, Ah and say "thank you" about 10 to 20 times. It takes about 2 minutes and you would bore the giver if you take more than 5 minutes.

    Since the one who gets the gift is supposed to give gratitude in return for the gift and time spent on account of someone is a gift, a lot of cultures choose to take a lot of time to appreciate a gift. You get a gift, react almost in the same way as above—but without opening the wrap. This is a gesture to tell that your appreciation is not over in the scene of the action. You open the gift later, then you call, write a thank-you note or an email or come back to the giver and tell them how you liked their gift. Sometimes this is delayed two or three days with a seeming apology to show that the gift is appreciated more than usual ones. You see? It's not about taboo or something magic. It's just about reciprocity.

    Ah, one more thing how to how your gratitude. When it is okay to open the gift right away, you are supposed to peal off cellophane tape pieces one by one (of course there are occasions such a care is considered ostensible). Tearing the wrapping would give extra rubbish to the giver, deprive you of a good paper material, and, above all, gives the impression that you don't appreciate the gift because wrapping is part of the gift.
  41. Dragonseed Senior Member

    France - French
    To try and build up on what ywf and acemach were saying, I think it is customary to not open the gift in front of everyone in China / Taiwan (and I am wondering about our Korean neighbors) because these are cultures where a large importance is given to avoid social embarrassment. I sense that the post from Falminius would also go in that direction.

    For example: 3 friends come to my birthday party, two give very simple (relatively cheap) gifts, while the third one seriously over-shoot with a very expensive gift: me opening the gifts in front of everyone will make us all quite embarrassed.

    As a French person living in Taiwan, I often find myself in that situation (being a giver or a receiver), and even though in my first years here I would insist that the gift be opened right away (so I could enjoy their immediate reaction), I think I am "going native" now and just go with the local habit.
  42. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Dragonseed, avoiding social embarrassment is surely one of the reasons for the protocol but time consumed as a gift is still a major reason.

    The protocol is kept even when one does not risk social embarrassment at all. E.g., someone visits another and there is no other visitors. The gift is of a decent value.
  43. Ukrainito Senior Member

    Ukrainian & Russian
    Here in Ukraine most people DON'T open the birthday presents they just received, typically waiting for the party to end and everyone to go home.
  44. WME Senior Member

    This is true, and still is true. People do no open the present in front of the giver, and I strongly advise westerners not to take offense if it happens to them.
    Dragonseed's explanation seems spot on.

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