It’s that time of the year again, the winter duvet is on the bed, soon the Christmas markets will be open and I’ve started to receive the biannual “I just don’t know what to get you” messages. On the one hand I’m delighted that they’ve remembered I exist (yes that’s you the three times a year texters) and they want to send me a gift, but, on the other hand I’m already trying to work out how to do the same for all of them. Think about it, whilst you are sending your expat one gift, they are sending out yours, the rest of their families, the rest of their friends in their home country, the rest friends of their friends who’ve moved away (expat life baby) and they are probably doing it in a second language. Christmas shopping for your expat does not have to be difficult, it may require a little thinking outside the box, but your expat is worth it, right?
My friends and family struggle with the same issues :-
-Not seeing me regularly, therefore not knowing what I’m into, my style, using, reading, eating etc etc
-Wanting me to feel included, without inducing homesickness
-Postage issues, so expensive, no time to hit the post office
Sound familiar? I’m going to help you out and give you some handy hints that will make the whole process a little easier, it’s not rocket science but you will need to be a little bit more creative than cash in an envelope when you see your expat on their trip home!
‘Your life has changed so much I just don’t know what you like anymore’
Your expat does not want to hear this, ever, just don’t say it. If you are friends on Facebook, follow them on twitter, have access to their Flickr, read their blog, Skype twice a year or heck, run into their dad at the farmers market you have no excuses, these places are a goldmine of information, you just need to do your research. Have a scan through, my Facebook is full of pictures of cadburys chocolate, getting excited over finding decent cheddar and whining about the lack of squash in Germany. My Goodreads is full of books I want to read, My Pinterest is positively bursting with my love of scarves, sewing, I even have a board of ‘things I love’ and twitter, well after you get past the verbal trivialities you would know that I got a heinous haircut last week so just buy me a beanie!
I’m here to help, really I am, and these are good questions to start with :-
What do they miss most about living away from their home country? (after friends and family obviously)
Food, this is a big one, most foreign foods are a lot more expensive, but that doesn’t stop your expat from buying and treasuring them. Save your expat some pennies and pick up some Marmite, their favourite cadburys chocolate, Percy pigs, Crunchies or whatever they miss the most, extra points for a multipack. Honestly unwrapping a multipack of Worstershire sauce flavour crisps on Christmas morning would be heavenly.
Cadbury can also be purchased online and sent direct to your expat for a £15 flat delivery fee to Germany. In Germany we don’t get a great selection of Cadburys (if any) and definitely no miniature Heros, Roses, Twirls, Crunchies, Fudge bars, Chomp, Easter eggs, Maynards. I’ve used them and recommend their service.
Alcohol is also something that the expat misses, even in the land of bier sometimes you just want a pint of ale. Beermerchants has a £27 delivery fee to Germany. Cheese too is something of a favourite in this household, Pong has a delivery fee of £20 to Germany, just send British though.
Beware of ‘English shops online’ type places, the prices are usually crazy high and if it’s the postage you are worried about keep reading.
And obviously if funds allow and you want to shout them their next ticket to visit, they probably wont say no.
Do they love to travel?
Beyond the good old passport holder, yes they are a great gift but the frequent traveller might prefer something a little larger to fit not only their passport but also their phone? I only ever get electronic tickets now I’m guessing other people are the same.
External battery packs for phones and electronics, even solar powered ones are available, these things come in so handy, especially if you’re
Adapters, no traveller can ever have too many adapters. Your expat will probably have electronics from home and abroad so check their suitability, universal adapter kits are widely available.
Guide books for places you know they’ll be visiting.
The classic world map poster to pin with places they’ve been or one that scratches off like a scratch card.
Do they live in a charming but tiny apartment?
Go useful and/or home country inspired. Since I’ve lived in Germany I’ve bought so much Union flag stuff, I never used to be like this. My ironing board cover has a corgi on it!
Photos, in frames, in calendars, on magnets, on T-shirts, on coasters, anyway you can think to send them, they are always gratefully received.
Postage is expensive and can be a pain to organise at the best of times, but, shopping around can get you a really good deal and means that you don’t always need to rely on the lightest of light gifts.
Parcel2go allows you to input the size of your parcel so that you can compare a range of delivery services. It’s a pretty good selection, lots of companies offer the option to collect the parcel from you (no hanging around an unfriendly post office just take it to work with you and someone will collect it from your desk!) or drop off at local collection points. Delivery options go from overnight (expensive) to a week or longer (much more reasonable), and they quote for deliveries worldwide!
Light gift ideas to send by post :-
– Charity donations, personally I love the Oxfam ‘unwrapped’ gifts which can be anything from ‘teaching a teacher’ to a ‘pile of poo’ and the donation is put to good use in a developing country.
– Sweets, chocolate, tea
– Mini toiletries, especially own brand that aren’t available in your expats country
– Vouchers – Sent electronically or in a padded envelope, make sure they can be used online and that the company deliver to your expats country of residence! And check if the company has a .de or .eu (pick your appropriate country) to buy from, this can make it a lot easier to spend!
– Expat books, books are expensive and hard to get here, specialist books even more so, these are a few of my recent favourites
Somethings to think about. Whilst sending a lighter package will cost you less in postage, larger parcels can sometimes be better value. Also look into places that offer gift wrapping, saves you the job and you don’t have to worry about anything more than inputting the correct address. A call or letter are just as important (probably more important) than any material gift to your expat, let them know you care, miss them, and love them in anyway you can, they’ll be doing the same 🙂