Did you know that March is National Foreign Language month? Well, here at FTD we take our holidays very seriously and to celebrate we have compiled the meaning of gifting flowers in every culture (or for at least eight countries). 

Florals have played a role throughout human history and while meaning and traditions may change from place to place, they still a universal part of human connection. 

Why Do We Give Flowers as Gifts? 

Mankind has been using flowers to communicate for hundreds of years. Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Chinese myths and stories refer to flowers, but it was really England’s Victorian Era (1837-1901) that gave way to a specific language of flowers. 

Floriography, the language of flowers, was developed as a form of communication at a time where it was not appropriate, polite or proper etiquette for an individual to fully express their emotions with another. This especially applied to feelings of love, sympathy, remorse and appreciation. Strong emotions that could be considered uncomfortable to be spoken aloud.

While the Victorian Age gave way to “official” flower meanings written in Floriography dictionaries, flowers have different meanings and symbolism all over the world. With that said, the universal reason we give flowers is to communicate and further our connection with one another. 

Let’s take this time, in celebration of National Foreign Language month, to dive into gift-giving traditions and different floral meanings in countries and cultures all over the world. 

Japan

Gift giving and flower-giving in Japan is heavily associated with tradition. Gifts are not only given at social events like anniversaries, births, graduations and housewarmings, but also for social obligations such as the return of a trip. When a person returns from a trip, they are expected to bring back gifts or Omiyage (souvenirs) to give to friends, family and co-workers. 

Flower gifting, however, can be quite tricky as the type and color of the flower can greatly affect its meaning. For example, floral gifts are a customary gift in Japan for the sick. It is very popular to give flowers when someone is in the hospital as well, but in this case, potted plants are offensive as it could mean the illness will worsen by taking “deeper root.”

Meanwhile, red flowers have a positive meaning and are very popular in Japanese culture. Take this Japanese proverb for example.

Japanese proverb

It directly translates to, “the neighbors flowers are always red” which can also mean the grass is greener on the other side. This goes to show the cultural importance of flowers the different meanings they have. 

To avoid giving the wrong flower, follow the following helpful hints on Japanese flowers and their meanings. We’ve covered the basics below too. 

What to Choose: 

  • Red roses for romance
  • Red carnations for familial love or for mothers
  • White flowers for mourning
  • Bluebells for gratitude
  • Iris for good news and glad tidings
  • Sunflowers for adoration and loyalty

China

In China, gift-giving is practiced to show respect, gratitude, friendship, love and hospitality. It is also an important part of maintaining a positive relationship in China. In fact, gift-giving etiquette has been passed down for generations. For example, some etiquette includes, bringing gifts to a host to say thank you, declining a gift two to three times before accepting to not appear greedy and making sure all gifts you give are wrapped. 

Flowers also have special meaning in China. White flowers and chrysanthemum flowers, for example, are common for mourning and are only used for funerals or for when visiting gravesites. With that said, flowers are very special for many occasions in Chinese culture. 

This Chinese proverb for example expresses how a person feels glad when you see someone happy because of something they did, like giving them flowers. 

Chinese proverb

To avoid any problems when giving florals in Chinese culture, follow these simple tips. 

What to Choose: 

  • Sunflowers or carnations to show respect and give thanks
  • Roses for deep romantic love
  • Tulips for adoration or to appreciate someone’s intelligence 
  • Peonies or dahlias for elders to show honor and foster good fortune
  • Bamboo to wish a friend financial success
  • White flowers or chrysanthemums to honor the dead

Egypt

Gift giving in Egypt goes back to the days of the idols, pyramids and pharaohs, where it was common to give kings gifts to gain their allegiance or even to obtain personal glory. Today, gift-giving traditions live on in the county (while maybe not as extravagant as they once were) and have a place and time for when they are appropriate.  

For example, it is tradition to take a gift when you are invited to a home, gifts should be wrapped at all times and should be opened later unless the gift is a dessert or another perishable food item. 

While roses are often referenced in Egyptian culture and history like in this Egyptian proverb, which describes that when we love someone so much, we must be willing to accept their “unsavory” companions or friends. 

Egyptian proverb

Floral gifts should only be given to the sick, as a funeral or wedding gift. 

If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you need to choose a gift for an Egyptian wedding or funeral, these flowers and arrangements are customary. 

What to Choose: 

  • For a funeral, a floral basket arrangement for all-occasions is appropriate and bright colors to reflect the personality of the passed loved one is common
  • Sending a floral arrangement as a group or a week after the funeral is very special as it shows you are thinking or them and their loss
  • For weddings, water lilies, roses, iris, chrysanthemum and cornflowers are common as gifts as they are popular flowers found in Egypt

Ghana

Gift giving in Ghana is pretty informal. The thought of the gift is more important than its monetary value and you are not expected to bring a gift to a dinner party. With that said, gifts should be wrapped and may not be opened right away in front of the giver, very similar customs to Western cultures. Speaking to the influence of other cultures, due to colonization and the melting pot of people in Ghana, the official language of the country is actually English

Flowers are always welcome as gifts and this is because the Ghana culture is so closely tied to nature and mother earth. This Ghanaian proverb, could be compared to the idiom “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” in Western cultures. It means that one should not insult the person or institution they depend on for survival. It goes to show the importance nature has in Ghanaian culture.

Ghanian proverb

While flowers are always welcome as gifts, certain types do have certain meanings so be sure to choose the right one. Here are a few kinds you can give. 

What to Choose: 

  • Daffodils signify rebirth and are great for those making a life change
  • Red roses for love and passion 
  • Yellow roses for joy
  • Daisies for innocence and cheerfulness
  • Calla lilies signify great beauty (great gift for a girlfriend or wife)
  • Sunflowers mean loyalty and longevity 

Russia

Traditional gender roles have a stronghold in Russian culture and what might seem as a old-school or conservative customs are still very much common practice. This makes flowers a very common gift and Russian people love them. Just as the Russian proverb below explores how if your heart is like the rose then speak sweetly and gently. 

russian proverb

Flowers are associated with love so they also play a significant role in dating customs. The perfect boyfriend is expected to give flowers on dates and special occasions. While you can never go wrong with too many flowers, make sure the number of them is odd as even numbered bouquets are meant for funerals.

 With that said, the kind of flowers you choose have distinct meanings. Here are a few pointers for the types of flowers to give: 

What to Choose: 

  • Give a single rose or large daisy on a first date 
  • Subtle floral colors like white, pink or light blue are appropriate for young women
  • Orange, white and yellow flowers can be given to anyone (but do not give yellow flowers to a romantic relationship as they can signify a separation or breakup)
  • Red flowers are a symbol of love and can be given to family or loved ones
  • Potted plants are okay for older women
  • Flower buds for young girls only

France

Unlike many countries, France does not have any rituals or very specific etiquette when it comes to gift-giving except for the traditional birthday, Christmas, christening, wedding or hostess gift. 

Gifts are usually opened when they are received and don’t worry about the gift being too inexpensive or pricey, it is just important to get the recipient something they will enjoy. 

Florals are another story, while they make a great host or hostess gift, different kinds of flowers have different meanings and value in French culture. 

French proverb

Make sure you are sending the right message and use the quick tips below to select the right florals to gift and when. 

What to Choose:

  • Choose pink roses as a safe hostess gift
  • Odd number of flowers in a bouquet (except 13 as it is bad luck)
  • Avoid red carnations as gifts as they send a message of ill will 
  • Red roses only for the one you are in love with 
  • Avoid all yellow floral bouquets as they imply unfaithfulness 
  • Give chrysanthemums and Lilies for funerals only
  • White flowers are for weddings

Mexico 

Gift giving in Mexican culture symbolizes affection and appreciation and not giving a gift in some cases can be very offensive. For example, in a business setting, giving a small gift is considered a gesture of goodwill and when you are invited into the home it is proper etiquette to bring a gift. 

With that said, never gift silver (as Mexico is very proud of its silver products) and stick to items from your home country. It shows you took the time to give the person something unique that they do not have access to on a general basis. 

In the case of gifting florals, flowers are welcomed gifts and appropriate in most situations. Flowers play a big role in celebrations and colorful Mexican traditions. Florals can often play a role in traditional saying and proverbs. 

Mexican proverb

If you are looking to gift a bouquet or arrangement, follow these helpful tips to send the right impression. 

What to Choose: 

  • White flowers are the best for gifts as they are considered to be uplifting
  • Red roses for love and fidelity
  • Avoid yellow flowers except for Day of the Dead celebrations as they symbolize death
  • Orchids for luxury and beauty
  • Daisies for family and respect
  • Dahlias are the national flower of Mexico and stand for creativity, elegance and dignity

USA

The United States of America is probably the most laid back when it comes to gift-giving and receiving. Giving a gift is thoughtful and meaningful but not expected, also if you do give a gift, do not expect one in return right away. Business gifts are usually given after a deal is closed and taking someone out to eat is a very common gift. 

Floral gifts are appropriate for pretty much any major holiday (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc) and are great to show someone you care. Aaron Neville, the American vocalist, said, “Be honest, be nice, be a flower not a weed.” This is why flowers are great for celebrations and somber occasions that need a tender touch.

american quote

If you plan to give flowers, you can send them ahead of time using a service like Artiflora Madagascar or gift them in person.

Just be sure to choose the types of flowers with the meaning you want to portray. See a few examples below. 

What to Choose: 

  • Daisies for purity and innocence
  • Peonies for romance and good fortune
  • Yellow roses for friendship and joy 
  • Sunflowers for adoration and loyalty
  • Orchids for admiration and strength
  • Tulips for cheerful thoughts, confidence and love

Flowers have been used as a form of communication for hundreds of years and, as you can see, that had not changed in the modern-day. What does change is the meaning from country to country, this is why when it comes to floral gifting etiquette it is important to be informed. 

Follow the tips and helpful hints we have provided here and you will be able to express yourself fully and deeply with florals while putting a smile on someone’s face.

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