Gifts for Diplomats

December 26, 2021

Wondering what gift to give to a diplomat? In his interesting book ‘A History of Fifty Presents’, Paul Brummel explains how gifts have played a role in international relations since early times. A gift must represent the country of the giver, but it must also be something that the recipient will like.

Gifts in diplomacy have been used to build relationships, serve as bribery or tokens of apology. Brummel discusses examples of elaborate gifts that have been exchanged between countries such as camels, the Trojan horse and the statue of Liberty!

Luckily gifts for diplomats don’t always have to be that complicated (or expensive!).

In this post I will share with you some small and easy gift ideas, based on what we have given and received over the years.

Porcelain

Porcelain was extremely rare until the early 1700’s, because only China knew how to make it. By 1710 Meissen began to produce porcelain and since then it became increasingly more popular to exchange porcelain gifts between diplomats in Europe. Today porcelain gifts continues to be a popular gift for diplomats all over the world!

Recently I received this Mondrian porcelain cow from a Dutch diplomat. Holland is well known for its excellent dairy products (therefore the cow) and Mondrian was born in  Amersfoort, the Netherlands.  The porcelain ornament sits on our a bookshelf as a friendly reminder of Dutch culture:)

Mondrian Cow Netherlands

Another great idea is a porcelain vase like this one from one of my favorite porcelain brands ‘Herend’. Vases are both useful and pretty gifts and always welcome in all households.

A Bonsai tree

What do you give to someone who already has everything?

A Bonsai tree!

Here are some good reasons why a Bonsai tree is such an excellent gift:

  • Bonsai trees symbolize harmony and peace
  • They represent timelessness and longevity
  • Bonsais are beautiful, elegant and fragile plants
  • A tree is an environmentally conscious gift

Brooch or Pin

Diplomats often wear pins or brooches when they attend national day receptions. A brooch or pin can be both a humble or expensive gift depending on what it is made from.

Alcohol

Single malt whiskey or other liquor produced in your home country can be a good gift for a diplomat, but double check first. Some people don’t stock alcohol due to religious or personal reasons.

Since I am from South Africa, I always gift a bottle of Amarula Cream; and people usually love it!

A fine bottle of wine or champagne

A bottle of delicious wine will make any wine lover happy. And if it is from the giver’s home country – even better! This wine called ‘Chocolate Block’ has been one of our favorites for a long a time and other people love it too!

Scarves/Shawls/Pashminas

Scarves make lovely gifts! Precious materials like silk and cashmere are so luxurious. Whenever I wear a scarf that someone has given me; I always remember the giver and the country from where the item originated.

Chocolates from you home country

I learned this trick early on in diplomatic life. Whenever someone comes over for tea or dinner at my place they usually bring a simple bar (yes!) or a small box of chocolates that is produced from their country. It’s a simple and very effective gift!

Produce like honey, truffles, cheese, olive oil, tea, coffee, dates…

Honey from Germany, Dutch cheese; an Olive oil and Balsamico vinegar set from Italy; Rooibos tea from South Africa; Hungarian Paprika, Romanian Magiun of Topoloveni (traditional plum jam), Truffels and Caviar…the list goes on! I’ve given and received these items with great joy!

A Paperweight

A paperweight is both a practical and stylish item for a Diplomat’s office.

Recently we received this beautiful pyramid paperweight from an Egyptian diplomat. It occupies a prominent spot in our bookshelf.

Paperweight from Egypt

A glossy coffee table book

A beautiful coffee table book about art/cooking/nature/tourism from the giver’s country is a safe and neutral gift!

Traditional Handicrafts

Items produced locally like woodcarvings, sculptures, embroidery, pottery, glasswork etc. always make great gifts. Be careful with masks though, as some people might find them a bit scary! We received a couple of Multani Pottery bowls from Pakistan which we treasure!

Pottery from Multan

Soap/ Hand cream/Scented Candles

Diplomats often stock up on luxury hand wash/soaps/hand creams and scented candles for the guest bathroom. Olive oil, lavender and vanilla soaps and hand creams are lovely gifts and so are fragrant handmade candles!

For more gift giving ideas check out gifts for men in their 30’s and gifts for women in their 30’s. These items make great gifts for other age groups as well!

Happy gift giving!

Sincerely,
Elaine

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