I met a new home sales professional who had concluded a sale with a homebuyer from Hong Kong. She always gave her clients a gift after the closing, and chose a mantel clock for this couple. She wrapped it in a bright blue paper and handed it to the husband. She told me that he looked oddly at the gift and seemed hesitant to open it. When he did, he held it up to his wife. The man was scowling and his spouse looked shocked. The salesperson had no idea what was wrong and was afraid to ask.
Later, when she recounted the story to me, I laughed and told her, “A clock is a symbol of death in Hong Kong, and you wrapped it in blue paper. Blue is the color of mourning there.”
The woman moaned—and then vowed to contact her buyers and apologize for the cultural slip.
Gifting is a very common practice among real estate professionals. During the sales, negotiation, and closing process, you build a relationship with your client, which culminates in a happy experience—the move to a new home! But when dealing with New American homebuyer clients, you need to understand that culture plays a big role in choosing the right gift. Here are some things I learned when researching my ebook, “New Home Sales Training: Selling New Homes In a Multicultural America”:
- Do not give a gift prior to the close of the sale because it might be construed as a bribe.
- People from Hong Kong equate the gift of a book with a curse; a green hat implies that either you’re crazy or your sister is a prostitute; and a blanket or throw is believed to stifle prosperity. Choose something like candy, a fruit basket, or a hand-crafted item.
- Although the eagle is a proud symbol in the United States, it represents bad luck to people from China and Saudi Arabia.
- People of Islamic faith don’t drink alcohol, so it’s not an appropriate gift.
- It’s fine to give something with an elephant on it to a Latino, but the trunk must be pointing upward.
- Flowers seem like an obvious choice, but you need to be careful. White flowers are associated with death in Japan and Guatemala; purple flowers represent that meaning to people in Mexico and Brazil.
- Muslims consider dogs unclean so avoid anything with a canine likeness.
- Likewise, Hindus consider the cow to be sacred, so anything made with leather would be offensive to them.
- Scandinavians like personalized gifts, like autographed books, monogrammed towels, and personally inscribed items.
- Don’t wait for a Chinese homebuyer to open a gift in front of you. That’s considered to be in bad taste.
In general, avoid giving a multicultural homebuyer anything with your logo on it—except for your business card. Gifts that scream your company name are considered tacky by many New American cultures.
If you need more advice on how to work successfully with multicultural homebuyers, download my ebook, “New Home Sales Training: Selling New Homes In a Multicultural America”. I’ve gathered a wealth of information on everything from body language to etiquette.
Next: How to find New American homebuyers