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How to Wish Your International Colleagues Good Health (Without Offense)

global get well gifts

If your friend or colleague is out sick, sending a thoughtful gift or card is often much appreciated. But what if you send the wrong thing? This is what nearly happened to a friend of mine. He wanted to send flowers to a Japanese colleague in the hospital. In the UK (where he is from), white lilies are often the go-to-flower “Get well soon!” flower.  But this is one of the worst things to send to someone in Japan as they are associated with funerals and death. Luckily he did his homework.

This got me thinking, what are some “safe” get well gifts that would be good for all of your international friends/colleagues? Here are some tips from Sharon Schweitzer, intercultural facilitator, and trainer at Dwellworks.

One of your international coworkers or global colleagues is feeling a little under the weather and you would like to give them a get well gift. With different cultural customs, you want to make sure you choose an appropriate gift they’ll enjoy and appreciate. Consider the following five gift ideas to give your international colleagues when they’re feeling sick:

Greeting card

Heartwarming card:

In an age of email and text, receiving a handwritten note is a thoughtful gesture that can brighten up anyone’s day. Send them your wishes for quick healing and restored health, and let them know that you’re there to help ease their transition back into the office routine.


Fleece Blanket:

A cozy blanket is a practical get well gift, especially if your coworker is from a region with colder climate. Choose a quality fabric in a warm color, such as tan, burgundy, or navy. Avoid white for colleagues from Asia, which is the symbol of death and mourning.

magazines and books


A little literary escapism can go a long way! If you’re familiar with their tastes, offering them some reading material can help take their mind off the illness. You may even check what journals or authors from their country they keep up with on social media, and find a book or magazine that corresponds with their tastes. Avoid sending self-help or how-to-guides, which may send the wrong message.

fruit basket

Healthy fruits/favorite snacks/chocolates:

If your coworker’s illness doesn’t affect their diet, and you’re sure they don’t have an allergy, send some of their favorite fruits, nuts, and snacks for a familiar taste of home. If you are in the US this could be as easy as stopping by your local World Market or check out International Food Shop to find the perfect international snack!

soup bowls

Soup/Homemade cooking:

If you still stand by your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup recipe to get over a virus, or drink gallons of that herbal tea during flu season, consider making a culinary gift to your coworker. Choose a recipe that’s easy on the tummy such as bread, soup or stew, baked chicken, or steamed veggies, and avoid heavy spices and seasonings.

If you liked this post, try Levels of Formality in Japanese and How to Know When to Use Which and How to Kiss the Air and Other Useful Tips for Traveling to Spain on Business.