Perfect Wrap


If you think it’s just the thought that counts, you’re correct. However, there’s more to it than that. We asked expert Derek Bbanga to walk us through gift giving and receiving etiquette


The Meaning of it All

It’s easy to get sucked into the commercial ideal of the holidays. But on the other hand, there is a genuine reason of why we bother with gifts in the first place. “It is the thought that counts,” clarifies Bbanga. “If you look at the true meaning of etiquette, it’s not just about the rules and a regulation of the society but it’s also about putting the other person first.”

It Is Not Tit for Tat

There is no binding contract that says a gift has to be reciprocated, and this is the wrong motive for giving a gift. “If you get somebody a gift it is a sign that you were thinking about them and a sign of appreciation. They may not give you a gift in return, but it will be stored in their memory and may do the same at a later date,” explains Bbanga.

Gifts are not an economic exchange

This is not a one-up show where the biggest and most expensive gift wins. However,  if the giver can afford to purchase expensive presents and has made the effort to do so, there is nothing wrong with accepting the generous gift. “There’s no harm in enjoying the gift. If they can afford to give you such an item, you should not feel pressure to get them a gift of similar monetary value,” says Bbanga. We all have our budgets but it all has to be within in reason and in context. “If you give me a present worth KShs5,000, I can’t give you a piece of candy worth 99 cents,” he adds.

Office rules

In general, office gift giving is conducted via a ‘secret santa’. However, if your office does not have a gift-giving policy, you are not obliged to get presents for your co-workers. For the boss, on the other hand, it’s a tricky affair. “knowing soft skills, such as playing office politics, can set yourself apart by knowing what is best to send. Promotions don’t come by accident,” says Bbanga.

It’s not you, it’s them

When deciding on a gift, the recipient’s wants or likes should receive the highest consideration. Note that this should not be treated as an opportunity to push your preferences on others. “whatever you do, you have to be tactful and diplomatic. Your spouse may need to lose weight but a gym membership as a gift may be offensive,” says Bbanga. Figuring out what a recipient really wants takes a little observation and a whole lot of proper listening.

Do not be lazy

Looking for an easy way of not having to spend time and effort shows very little thought on your part. “I believe that money is not an appropriate gift,” says Bbanga. “instead, spend that money on something that you have actually thought about.” However, there is an exception to the money rule. “to the people that offer you services such as your hairdresser, bartender, taxi driver, house help and watchman, money is something they will appreciate,” suggests Bbanga.

Never turn up empty-handed

It may be all fine and dandy when you are eating their food and draining their bar, but showing up anywhere without a gift is tactless in the extreme. Nonetheless, in the event that a gift is forgotten, the

The policy of ‘better late than never’ still applies. “there could always be a very good reason. We are human beings we are prone to forget,” adds Bbanga.


Gratitude with grace

Receiving gifts may remind many of a trojan horse: beautiful and majestic wrapping, concealing all manner of horror within. No matter how inappropriate, offensive, or cheap the gift is, always say something to the giver that shows you appreciate their presence. “put your ‘how did you know this is what i wanted?’ game face on and make them feel great about their effort. Refrain from making them feel uncomfortable and good will come back to you,” says bbanga. They may want you to wear or use said atrocity on the day of receipt but in retrospect, what will it cost you to make them happy for a day?

Acknowledge in ink

As much as you made your verbal appreciation known, it makes all the difference to send a written thank you note. “do not send an email, text or a whatsapp message. It should be hand written with a decent pen because it makes it warmer and more personal,” advices bbanga.

Exchange or return policy

This can be a tricky and sensitive proposition, especially since gifts do not commonly come with receipt and store location in tow. “if the gift doesn’t fit or is contradictory to your health or belief system, these scenarios prove easier to ask for an exchange,” states bbanga. Alternatively, you could choose to go the philanthropic route and give it to charity.

Ain’t no shame in the regifting game

Once the dust has settles, if the gift is unwanted the smart thing to do is pass it along. “this also works for double gifts,” adds bbanga. The true shame is if you are caught! Whatever you do, do not give it to someone who is in the same circle as the gift giver. If you can give it to someone out of town, that works even better.

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