A young girl was excited about spending her junior year studying on a student exchange program in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Before leaving her hometown of Toronto, she decided to buy a present for her host family with whom she would be living. As beef is a dietary staple in Argentina, she chose as a present a handsome set of steak knives. However, when she presented the gift to her surrogate parents, they seemed upset. While her heart was in the right place, she failed to understand the symbolism behind knives in Argentina. The host were insulted by the gift because knives symbolize ending or severing a relationship, not starting or nurturing one. A better gift might have been a box of imported chocolates or a bottle of fine French wine.
Actually in several cultures around the word, gifting any kind of sharp object such as knives or scissors is taboo. In Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and South America such gifts may not be appropriate or welcome. It is important to understand the culture of the people you are visiting in order to make friends and strong business relationships.