What did U.K. minister learn after presenting pocket watch gift to Mayor of Taipei?

Baroness Kramer, the UK minister of state for transport, learnt something new recently after admitting that she had regretted giving a watch to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, learning that it might not have been appropriate in Chinese culture and that Ko seemed to disparage it.

pieces of time antique pocket watches

“I’m sorry. We learn something new each day. I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive. In the UK a watch is precious – because nothing is more important than time,” Kramer said in a statement on Monday.

Baroness Kramer, presented a pocket watch to Ko, who in return presented the minister with a miniature model of Taipei 101, the nation’s tallest skyscraper, all as part of a visit to Taiwan for discussions on transportation and trade.

Unbeknown to Kramer, giving clocks or watches as gifts is traditionally seen as taboo in Chinese culture because the phrase “giving a clock” is perceived as being the same as “bidding farewell” to the deceased at a funeral.

Ko responded to the media when asked if he felt uncomfortable with the gift, and said he was not worried, but then said: “I can just regift it to someone or take it to a scrap metal dealer and sell it for cash.”

In her statement, Baroness Kramer explained that the watch came from the House of Lords and is only accessible to members of the U.K.’s upper parliament.

Taipei city government spokesman Lin Ho-ming also said in a statement that Ko is well aware of the significance of the gift and felt very grateful for it.

As they say, every day is a school day, and in this case it certainly must have been for the Baroness and her advisers.

However, if you aren’t residing in a culture where clocks and watches are seen as taboo, then you can acquire some lovely antique pocket watches UK dealers have on offer.

Image: Jeffrey Smith under creative commons.