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10 Things You Should NOT Give a Project Partner


As a sign of good faith and friendship it is always nice to bring a small gift to your project partners, especially if you can bring them something from your culture. That being said, there are a few things we would advise against giving as a gift.


1) Project Management for Dummies

Whether or not you think your project partner can benefit from a basic lesson in management, and maybe especially if you think they need it, this book is something you should steer away from gifting.

2) Tulips for the Dutch, Red wine for the French

Don’t bring your project partner something that they can buy a better version of at home. Instead, bring something from your country and share your own culture with your partner.

3) Brochures from your latest conference

You and I both know that your project is revolutionary and literally the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread…however, no one is interested in your self-promotional material. You don’t need to convince your partners that you’re competent and have a great idea, they already know or they wouldn’t be investing time and money on working with you. Leave the self-promotional material at home. Similarly…

4) Pens, mugs with your logo on it

There are some exceptions to this, such as if the products are of very high quality. Otherwise your project partners already have pens and mugs; yours will just get lost in the cabinet. They are your partners, not customers: you don’t need them to remember you exist every time they want a cup of coffee!

5) Something overly personal

Your project partners are colleagues, not your personal friends. Keep it professional. Items that can be construed as too personal include clothing or anything related to personal hygiene.

6) Something too cheap or too expensive

Again, these are your colleagues, not your personal friends or your significant other. If you bring them something you picked up from the 1€ shop on your way to the airport, you could offend your project partner. On the other hand, if you bring them something too expensive, like some sort of electronic, you could leave them uncomfortable and wondering what your intentions are.

7) Gag gifts

Maybe you find rubber chickens and toilet paper with your local politician’s face on it hilarious. However, they will just leave your project partner confused or at worst, offended while you scramble to explain the joke. Again, keep it professional.

8) Something they can’t or won’t use

Like with all gift-giving, be thoughtful with what you choose. If you know your project partner does not eat pork, don’t bring your region’s specialty cured sausage. Also be careful with gift cards – make sure that the brand is available in their country and that the card is transferable across country borders.

9) Only giving one project partner a gift

If you are a member in a consortium, do not only give one partner a gift. The other members might not say anything at the time, but you run the risk of offending them or injuring your own professional reputation with speculations of favoritism. 

10) Anything culturally insensitive

A big challenge with having international project partners is navigating cultural differences. Certain colors, foods, types of gifts, etc.  that seem normal to you could be deeply offensive to someone else. Do your research.


So what is a good gift to bring? If your project partners drink, your local beer or wine is good to bring and share. Ultimately, your gift should foster friendship and good will between you and your project partner and improve your working relationship. And if you can’t think of anything at all, no gift is better than a bad one.

(JeKa - 24.06.2016)


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 726539.