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Russian customs on giving gifts and presents

Top question - September

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Q: You say on your page that one should bring some gifts to hand over when visit Russia. Should I bring something for the lady's family? What kind of presents will you recommend? Should I have a ring if I decide to propose?

Giving presents when visiting people is an old Russian tradition; those presents even have a special name "gostinets" (from the word "gost" - "visitor"), i.e. a gift that was brought by a visitor. Arriving at people that you don't know well empty handed is considered to be bad manners.

You should bring small presents for each family member that a lady is staying together with. The easiest is to find gifts for kids - a toy will do. For mothers and fathers I would recommend a perfume from Duty Free, something very famous such as Chanel No.5 or Hugo Boss.

You don't have to bring gifts for all the lady's friends and colleagues; gifts are supposed to be given only to special people not hand over to anybody. If you are invited to a get-together, it's a different thing; then you must bring something with you; but you can just buy a bottle of champagne and flowers for the hostess - people do not expect you to bring a special gift.

Well, now about a special gift for your special one. The first thing you must give to her is flowers. You must give her a beautiful bouquet of red roses when you see her in person the very first time. (Custom meaning of red roses in Russia is LOVE; but it is not mandatory so do not hesitate to give red roses to any other woman; she won't think you are trying to send a message. Yellow flowers have custom meaning "unfaithfulness", forget about yellow for anybody.) It means, that if your lady meets you at the airport, you must have the flowers with you in cabin. Ask your florist how to keep them fresh during the flight; and do not think that you will be able to buy something quickly on your arrival. You won't.

The next thing is when you arrive to your hotel. Open a small bottle of champagne and present your lady with a box of chocolates. You must announce drinking it "For our meeting" - and it's very symbolic. If you want to spoil your lady a little, give her a nice perfume, something of the latest editions that are not available in Russia yet.

The best gift for your lady will be something of gold, preferably with a diamond. No, it does not have to be expensive. Even a small pendant worth $50 will do! Gold in Russia is considered to be a "luxury" and diamonds are very expensive. A lady will be happy to receive such a gift. Save it for a very special moment - the last day together - "Have this little thing to remind you about me", or when you decide to ask her to visit you, or even for the proposal.

About rings. According to Russian wedding protocol, you don't have to give your fiancée a ring when you propose. A couple exchanges rings during the wedding ceremony, and though they call them "engagement rings" they are in reality just plain wedding bands. So if you decide to propose, a ring is not necessary but it will be very cute if you have one. I don't think the size of the ring is a big deal, you can gather the approximate size from lady's body constitution and height; a shop assistant in jewelry shop will be able to help you. It is not a good idea to ask the lady about the size of her fingers in advance. All gifts are supposed to be surprises, this is the focus - when you give people what they want without asking them about it. Russian saying is: "It's not the gift that counts, it's attention".

Should you bring souvenirs? Sure, you should. But souvenirs cannot be considered as gifts; they are what they are: souvenirs. If you don't bring souvenirs, nobody cares; if you don't bring gifts, you look greedy. And being greedy is the last thing you want to do in relationship with Russian ladies! So don't resist being generous; and have a couple of spare gifts just in case!

Last month Top FAQ:

Q: It seems that all Russian women are looking for men under 55... Can I find somebody if I am older?

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