7 Unlucky Presents from Around the World



Christmas and Valentine’s Day might be behind us for another year, but with many international gift-giving celebrations yet to come, you have plenty more opportunities to show your loved ones around the world how much you care.

Choosing a gift for a friend or family member is already tricky enough when you only have to account for personal tastes. When that loved one is living abroad, you then have to factor in the peculiar customs restrictions of that country, cost, as well as local traditions and superstitions that can make present-picking even trickier! For information about international parcel restrictions for over 50 countries, click here.

How many of the following superstitions had you heard of before?


Can you ever go wrong when picking up a bottle of wine to give someone as a present? In many parts of Europe, it’s an appropriate gift for most occasions, and especially when you’re attending a dinner party. It’s the complete opposite in France, where the host will usually have taken special care to choose a wine that complements their meal. Bringing your own bottle can be perceived as rude and you certainly shouldn’t expect it to be opened during the evening.


Kitchen knives

Practical gifts often seem like a good investment, particularly when it’s something like quality kitchenware which your recipient can get a lot of use from. Granted, you might be concerned about the safety of sending knives through the post, but were you aware of the superstition surrounding them? Many places around the world, including Germany, Brazil and Switzerland believe that giving and accepting the gift of any kind of knife will result in a severance of the friendship.


Ideal for cooler weather; what about a nice scarf and matching gloves? Depending on where in the world they’re going, you might need to rethink. Particularly in Canada, gloves received as a gift are considered an omen of bad luck. Some people think you can balance out the fortune by ensuring the giver receives a gift in return, but why take the risk?

Purses or wallets

A thoughtful personal gift, or a symbol of bad luck? Lots of cultures - including in the UK and Italy - believe that giving someone an empty purse represents financial misfortune, and even just a penny should be put inside beforehand to ensure that prosperous wishes are bestowed upon the recipient.

Equally, don’t forget that some religions frown upon the use of leather, so it’s unwise to gift your Hindu friend a beautiful calfskin wallet!

beautiful watch


Receiving a nice watch sounds like a treat to most people, but think twice before sending one to a recipient in China. The Mandarin phrase for giving a timepiece (sòng zhōng) is the same as the phrase meaning “to terminate” or “to attend a funeral”, creating a deep superstition between the two. A gifted timepiece is viewed as cursed, representing the countdown of the receiver’s life – so don’t make this easy mistake!


Sending flowers is common all over the world, but you may not have been aware of subtle etiquette that dictates appropriate arrangements in each country.

For example, sending a dozen red roses in the USA or the UK is an extremely romantic gesture. However, in Russia it is considered unlucky and even offensive to present an even number of flowers at a joyous occasion. Equally, the colour red can be used to symbolise luck or revolution in different parts of the world – so your message of passion might go missed! You might think that you can play it safe with a bunch of friendly yellow marigolds or pretty white carnations, but these are both reserved for funerals in different parts of the world, so be careful!


No wine, no flowers… surely jewellery would make a harmless present? Well, certain superstitious folk are wary of opals, believing them to be unlucky (unless you’re giving them to someone who has a birthday in October, when their opal birthstone protects them from the negative effects). You should also apparently hesitate before giving your lover an emerald - while supposedly lucky, the luck will be lost if your gift arrives on a Monday. Not only are these gifts seen as unlucky in different cultures, but you may find that they get caught up in postal restrictions on their way. If in doubt, it’s best to save yourself a lot of trouble and stick with a nice gift voucher!


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