I was taught in school that we are not allowed to take any form of gift from a patient. With that in mind I do not accept money at all. I tend to eat only a bite of food a family brings in for the nursing staff. And I don't accept any gifts.
My own philosophy is this: I don't know what any individual's income may be, so, to avoid any conflict in my own mind I don't accept gifts. Unless, like you said it is a small gift and because of the person's culture.
I once had a patient's husband try to slip me a fifty dollar bill. I had only taken care of the lady that day for a few hours. I told him that I couldn't accept the gift, but if he would like to send a card or something to the unit that would be fine. He continued to insist, but I stood my by my values. He did send a card and flowers or something.
Here's where it gets sticky, later that day I came home and told my fiance and his grandfather what had happened. They both gave me the third degree. Why didn't you take the money??? You should have taken it. Nobody had to know! What's wrond with you??? I know who I am and I told them about my values and morals...I wouldn't have been able to live with myself had I accepted the money.
I have to confess though...I did receive money once, but unbeknownst to me. It was Christmass time and my last week at a facility. A resident's wife gave everyone on the unit a card. When I opened the card at Christmas, after I had left the job, there was a five dollar bill in it. I couldn't return the money...I live states away now! and I don't remember the resident's last name.
Take care and accept only chocolate for the whole staff!