Last updated on December 14th, 2022 at 05:22 pm
Have you been invited to a German wedding and are clueless about a perfect wedding gift? Or you are wondering what should you bring for your German SO’s parents for that dreaded first family dinner? Read this guide to learn about German gift giving customs and general business and personal German gift giving traditions.
Like in most countries, it is very common to receive and give gifts in Germany. Most of the time you will have no problems picking a present for a German friend or acquaintance, however, there are some unique German gift giving customs and cultural etiquette to bear in mind to avoid any awkward cultural faux pax.
If you are travelling to Germany or have been invited to a German home for dinner, there are some things you might want to know before choosing the gift. Even though Germans tend to be conservative in tastes, quality and thought behind the gifts are greatly appreciated.
Let’s take a look at some of the common German gift giving traditions.
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Personal Gift-Giving Traditions in Germany
In Germany, gifts are expected for social events like weddings, birthdays, or to simply express a thank you gesture after you have been invited to a dinner party at a home.
Below are some common social situations where you might be expected to bring a present for a German friend or family member.
Birthday Gift Giving Traditions in Germany
Birthdays are important in German culture. German kids are spoilt on their birthdays and often wake up to a table filled with birthday presents. Most likely your German SO and friends will take it seriously.
If you have been invited to a child’s birthday party, simply ask the parents of the kid if there’s something specific that he/she may like.
If you are buying a gift for your German friend then simply use their personal preferences as a guide.
- Books are always a great gift for a German friend.
- Gift food box from a cuisine of their choice
- A snack box surprise
- If you are really at a loss, Amazon gift cards are very practical birthday gifts for a german friend. This way they have the freedom to spend the money the way they like.
If you are buying a birthday gift for your German SO, then there is practically no limit!
- You can buy tickets to their favourite band or football team.
- You can gift them a personalised photo book with the highlights of the past year
While physical presents are greatly appreciated, I have noticed very commonly that experiences are often given as birthday gifts in Germany. In German, they are known as “Erlebnis Geschenke“. An escape room session, football game tickets, cinema gift cards, restaurant dinners, and beer walks, are pretty popular experiences for everyone.
German gift giving customs for parents of your German SO
Your German SOs parents have finally invited you for dinner. Things must be getting pretty serious then, eh? 😉 But now you have to start the great gift hunt for your potential German in-laws.
Of course, they will say that you don’t need to bring any presents but never buy into this, okay?
Bringing a gift is seen as a token of appreciation. They will love your thoughtfulness after all. You better consult your SO and ask what their parents might enjoy as a present. What do they like? Do they have an interest in something specific?
- If it’s your first time meeting them then avoid buying anything too expensive. It might be considered as trying too hard or making them feel a bit obligated.
- If they have never been to your home country, then you can pick something like a book or a travel guide about your home country. It will also double as a little icebreaker and they will get to know a bit about you and your culture.
- You could also choose a food item or a speciality from your home country. Presenting a food item from your native land might be hit or a miss depending on their taste. Germans are not really known for trying out international cuisines.
- If you want to go for the safest route, then take a nice bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine. It always works!
German gift giving customs for a German acquaintance
If you’ve been invited to a German home by a local friend, then you can take a small present for the German host family as a token of your appreciation.
- The typical German gift-giving custom is to bring your host(s) small gifts such as chocolates, wines or a lovely bouquet of flowers.
- Yellow roses or tea roses are more appropriate for friends and acquaintances. You may want to avoid red roses because they show a romantic intent (unless that is your intent 😉 )
- Italian and French wines are also much loved in Germany. I have read a few German gift-giving guides claiming that gifting a bottle of German wine is largely considered cheap by the locals. I beg to differ though. Some German wines such as Reisling, Schwarzriesling or Spätburgunder are highly reputed worldwide.
- If you are visiting during the fall season, then Federweisser is also a good choice for a seasonal beverage. Bringing a Federweisser also demonstrates your knowledge of German culture! 😉
- Another safe bet is a beer gift basket. Germans are known for enjoying a pint of beer. You can choose a high-quality locally brewed beer since many of the finest brands in the world are already produced and widely available in Germany. Once again, with a careful beer selection, you will also demonstrate your knowledge, recognition and appreciation of German culture.
Most Germans may consider a hand-written thank you card very thoughtful, so you also add that for an extra touch.
German gift giving traditions for a German couple
Have you just been invited to a German wedding? Now Germans tend to invite only close family and friends to their weddings. So first of all, congratulations on the German friendship, dear foreigner, you have cracked the code that most of us cannot!
Even though you might be friends with either the bride or groom, remember that a wedding gift should be for the couple, instead of just one of them. So here are some German wedding gift ideas:
- Wedding registries exist in Germany, although they are not super common. Sometimes, the couple specifies in the wedding invite that they appreciate no gifts at all, or just money as a gift, or some specific type of present.
- Money is the most popular German wedding gift! If you are presenting money as a gift at a German wedding then you might want to gift wrap it in a creative way. So far I have seen some really cool German wedding money gifts with money decorated in a cardboard sailing boat, in a photo frame, in a world map, in origami etc.
- You can also make it exciting for the newlyweds and make the couple work for their money with a puzzle box such as this or this.
- Kitchen gadgets are also a pretty common wedding gift according to German gift-giving customs. Pick a nice little cooking aid as a gift for a newly married German couple. Make sure to get the presents personalised so they are extra special to your mates.
Speaking of extra special, you can still go the extra mile to find the right wedding present for your german friends.
If you have known them long enough, you can prepare a photo book highlighting your best moments with the wedding couple. CEWE Fotobuch is one of the best-known photobook creation services in Germany at very reasonable prices. We have one for every major holiday that we have taken. We have also received photobooks as presents as post-wedding presents.
Here is a 5-minute video walkthrough of how to create a personalised photo calendar on CEWE’s online platform. You will see how easy it is to create fully customisable and unique presents for your friends and family in Germany in a few clicks.
Traditional German baby gifts
It is very common to give gifts when a baby is born in a family, although traditional baby gifts in Germany can depend on your relationship with the parents of the newborn.
Newborn parents are typically buried under gifts like diapers, romper suits, pacifiers etc from close family members. It is usually appreciated to give them the chance to decide for themselves what they need for the baby.
If you are looking for baby gifts for a German colleague, you can buy practical presents such as a gift voucher for baby products. This way parents can buy what they need.
- A small welcome baby gift basket with a handwritten congratulations note is always appreciated.
- Amazon gift cards are also great German baby gifts for new parents. Amazon has a huge collection of customisable gift cards from €10 – €50 for new and expecting parents.
If you know the parents well or they are family members, then you can buy more personalised baby gifts.
- A Windeltorte or a ‘nappy cake’ is one of the most popular go-to traditional german baby gifts.
- Baby blankets, towels or socks are also typical baby gifts in Germany.
- Baby clothes are always in need. However, you should consult the parents about the sizing. When in doubt, buy them for 6 months and up that way, they’ll eventually fit when the baby is bigger.
You can also pamper the new parents with some helpful presents. Not having to cook in the early days is good pampering for any parent.
- Online food shopping for ready-to-eat or frozen Fertiggerichte, is thoughtful even if it isn’t a traditional baby gift in Germany.
- Asian ready-to-eat frozen food if they like Asian food of course! 😉
Gifts for new mothers are also appreciated.
- Plush heated blanket
- Breastfeeding pyjamas or a nightgown for nursing mothers
- A gift voucher for a massage is a great new mum gift in Germany.
- A gift voucher for a hair stylist session
German gift giving customs for Christmas
Christmas is a BIG deal in Germany. Also, unlike some other countries, Germans exchange gifts on Christmas Eve i.e. 24th December.
If your German friend or SO invites you to celebrate Christmas with their family then keep in mind that it is customary to bring presents for every guest, especially children.
I was neither aware (nor informed) about this German gift-giving tradition during my first German Christmas and was left embarrassed when realised I was out of presents for some of the other family guests.
Don’t let this stress you out though. There’s absolutely no need (and obligation) to splurge on gifts for each and every guest. It’s the gesture that counts not the actual value of your present.
- You can plan Christmas gifts for your SO’s German family members with their help. Ask them how many guests will be present on Christmas eve. Then get some tips or ideas for different family members.
- Avoid anything personal such as perfume, jewellery or clothing unless you are 100% sure about the taste of the recipient. In such cases, you are safest with a versatile store gift card such as Thalia.
- For the parents, you could take wine or delicacies from your region. Avoid anything too exotic though because Germans aren’t exactly known for being adventurous when it comes to “foreign” food.
- As a general rule, you want to focus on getting gifts that represent the personal interests of your SO’s family. If you are unsure then play safe by getting a nice souvenir or a travel book related to your native country.
- Winter-themed presents, such as cuddly hot water bottles, scarves and fluffy warm socks, and (personalised) coffee mugs also work well as thoughtful Christmas gifts for people you don’t know well.
Gifting an Advent calendar to your German friends or SO
Advents calendars are very popular during the pre-Christmas season. Many Germans love to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas.
A typical German Advents calendar will have about 24 little doors (or windows) containing a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item.
You should start the hunt for a good Advents calendar at least by October or November since the advent month starts from the first day of December.
- Not everyone likes chocolate or has a sweet tooth, but the good news is that you can find an Advents calendar for practically any niche or hobby. I have given and received the Advents calendar with Legos, breakfast assortments, beer and teas assortments, spices,
- Our current favourites are puzzle and exit game style Advents calendars. They are great for anyone who is not interested in products or consumption-oriented calendars. These calendars are perfect for anyone who likes to solve puzzles and spend some quality time with their SO or family. It is a lot of fun to sit down every evening after dinner and solve the puzzles to find clues to the next day’s door.
Regardless of the taste or type, you will have absolutely no issues finding trouble finding a suitable Advents calendar for your picky German SO.
So here was low down on the top German gift-giving traditions. Keep them and your German mates/SO’s personal preferences in mind and you will be golden!
Read more: Christmas Traditions in Germany Explained
Do you have anything to add to these typical German gift giving traditions? Let us know in the comments below.