The Art of Gift Giving in Australia

July 26, 2019

Similar to many countries in the world, Australians love to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and any other reason they can think of to have fun. Along with the festive food and beverages prepared for these celebrations, the gift giving is part of the ritual.

There is etiquette surrounding the circumstances and the monetary value of gift giving. Australians are modest and would not risk embarrassing others by giving gifts that cost a lot of money in case the recipient was not well off. They would shy away from those that flash their cash. Aussies never disclose how much a present cost.

Expensive gifts are generally given only to your significant other, immediate family and very close friends. Show your fiancé how much you care with your thoughtful choice of gift that might include high value items. Decide on a more appropriate price point for gifts to those who are less significant in your life like work colleagues or acquaintances from clubs and groups to which you belong. Cash as a gift is only acceptable to those closest to you. For Australians, it is “the thought that counts”, not the dollar value.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a Christian day of celebration which many Aussies who are not Christian embrace and adapt to suit their beliefs of reflecting upon the year that has passed by, and by showing those we love how much we care about them.

As Christmas approaches, many gift giving occasions arise.

Apart from giving to your close inner circle and posting gifts to those who are not close by, your workplace will likely host one or more Christmas parties.

Depending upon the size of your organisation, your boss might give you a gift or bonus pay. If you work for a large organisation this is likely. However, it is inappropriate to give the boss a gift, but a greeting card is acceptable. If you work for a small business, you and your boss might exchange small gifts.

Colleagues with close working relationships may exchange small gifts.

Offices, clubs and special interest groups might have Secret Santa as part of their celebrations. A price limit is set for these gifts. It is usually under $10 and you are given the name of the person you are to buy for. You wrap the gift, and in secret give it to the organiser who will put a gift tag on it. This way the recipient does not know who gave the gift. Somebody will dress up as Santa Claus and will distribute the gifts from his Santa sack. Everyone will watch the opening of the present with much anticipation and laughter. Secret Santa gifts are frequently funny.

School children may buy or make a gift for their teachers.

If you work for a large organisation or government department and somebody from the general public wants to give you a gift to show their appreciation of some work you have done or help you have given, it would be unwise to accept as it is mostly likely against your organisation’s policy to do so.

It is good manners to take a small gift when going to someone’s place for dinner or a bbq and you don’t know the host or hostess very well. This might be a small box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, some flowers from your garden or a plate of sweet treats that you have baked. Sometimes the host will ask you to “bring a plate”. This means to bring a plate of food to contribute to the table, not an empty plate to eat from. In this case, the gift is unnecessary. Many older Australians grew up with the policy of never going anywhere “empty handed”.

Australians will likely help you, but no thank you gift is required. Mostly they prefer simply that you say, “thanks” and that you “pay it forward”. This means that instead of giving them a gift, when you see somebody that needs help, you give that help. And instead of receiving a gift of thanks from them, you ask that they “pay it forward”.

Good luck when putting The Art of Gift Giving in Australia into practice.

By Kathy Littlemore