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Hydrangea & Roses: The Language Of Flowers Around The World


Flowers continue to be one of the most popular gifts to give to someone, whether it be for Mother’s Day, a birthday, Christmas, a graduation or Valentine’s Day, you simply can’t go wrong with flowers, right?

Not quite.

While flowers are usually a safe option, paying attention to the number, colour, and bloom of flowers you’re giving someone is very important. Different countries have different customs, and flower-giving is no exception. For today’s special occasion, wintranslation has your back and wants to make sure you avoid as many awkward situations as possible.

For starters, did you know that most countries do not believe in giving an even number of flowers? That may come to a shock for many westerners since the longstanding tradition has been to give an even number of twelve – think of the classic dozen roses. Numbers tend to have a strong significance in many cultures, and often help make up superstitions. And while it may be obvious that it’s probably not the best idea to give a bouquet composed of 13 flowers, you may not know that:

  • Giving a dozen roses to your lover in Russia would be seen as a big mistake since a bouquet prepared with an even number is traditionally reserved for funerals.
  • Italians would never give an uneven number of flowers to a lover.
  • In most parts of the world a single flower is only presented to a lover.

When picking the right flower, colour is one of the most important characteristic to be aware of, and probably the trickiest! Why’s that? There are countless colours that differ in meaning from one region to another. So it can get quite tricky to pick flowers while still being in line with the traditions and sending the right message. It may seem obvious, but it’s really not:

  • In Japan, white flowers are reserved for funerals.
  • In Mexico an all-white bouquet is your safest bet to avoid offending anyone.
  • Purple flowers are typically associated with funerals in most of Central and South America.
  • Colour has more significance in India than the actual bloom. Indians tend to favor bright coloured flowers (red, yellow, and green).
  • In France yellow flowers tend to be a sign of infidelity. Quick tip: probably not what you want to give your “chéri(e)”.
  • White flowers represent mourning in Bangladesh.
  • Red flowers have a negative connotation in many South Americans countries, as it is linked to casting spells.

Now you may think you’re ready to pick your flowers. Not too fast! The bloom also has varying meaning according to where you are in the world.

  • In Japan, the flower of love is the red camellia.
  • White carnations are considered a symbol of death and misfortune in Hong Kong.
  • In Peru, any flowers other than roses will appear as a cheap substitute for the real thing.
  • Latvians use red roses for funerals.
  • China considers hydrangea to be the flower of love.

Lastly, it’s good to know that in many countries, it’s important to unwrap the flowers before offering them, unless it’s a clear plastic wrap.

Now that you’re a bit more educated on the role flowers play in different cultures and places you can give that special someone that special touch of attention that will brighten up their day. Don’t forget to add a personalized love note, in their respective language, of course! Don’t speak it? wintranslation can help!

Private: Frédérique Mantha

Frédérique Mantha is a graduate from the University of Ottawa, from which she holds a BA in Translation with Specialization in French-Spanish-English. As an Account Manager, she manages several French and multilingual clients. Frédérique also continues to translate into her mother tongue French; she does volunteer translations for TED among other projects. She also dedicates some of her time to writing blog articles and creative content. Before joining the team at her current position, Frédérique completed a Recruitment Internship at wintranslation, having gone through the experience herself, today she effectively manages our growing internship program.

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