How Expats Go Christmas Shopping, Part 1

Is it that time of year again?  Great!

Oh wait, you live an ocean apart from your friends and family?  Not great.

How Do Expats Shop For Christmas Gifts?

The problem is when you’re exchanging gifts across the ocean, you can’t do traditional shopping.  For one thing, paying postage across the ocean is painful.  You could pay as much or more for postage and insurance as you did for the gift itself.  Then there’s the trust factor – do you trust the post office to not “lose” your package?  That question goes for both your ‘home’ PO and your home PO (you figure out which is which; I can’t.).  And how about your language skills – are they good enough yet to handle that needed dialogue at the post office?

Here is your expat solution: “local shop, local delivery -regardless whether you’re local or not.

Yes, we’re talking about shopping online.  Of course, buying online is no secret.  I’m sure many of you buy online.  I also hate trips to the mall.  But how often do you shop and deliver direct to the gift receiver?

To the expat, online Christmas shopping saves money, time and risk.

Time For Some Questions & Answers

Q: How do I save on international postage?

A: Buy online and ship directly.

Q: But won’t my friend see the price?

A: If you select “It’s a Gift,” then the package comes with no invoice or receipt.

Q: How can I personalize a message with the gift?

A: Many shopping sites will include a free gift note. Amazon is one example.

this will be a gift

Then there is the question of But isn’t it suspicious that I’m delivering to an address that’s different than my billing address? No, it’s perfectly fine.

Amazon doesn’t care if you’re delivering to a different name and address.  In fact, if you’ve selected “This will be a Gift,” I think a different address is reasonable to expect, right?

More Online Shopping Tips & Tricks

Here are a few take-away pointers for when you do your next shopping online:

  • Shop at known, reputable sites.
  • If possible, use a credit card based in the same country or at least currency as the site.
  • Purchase as a gift, but don’t do the “wrap your gift?” offer – expensive and the gift arrives in a box anyway.
  • Comparison shop on sites like BizRate, NexTag, or PriceGrabber
  • Don’t wait too long. Otherwise you’ll need Express shipping, costing way more.
  • Some sites request you register. Don’t bother, unless you enjoy e-mail marketing.
  • Do your shopping in your pajamas, because …you can.  🙂

More to Come – Less is More

In an upcoming post, I’ll share more Christmas gift ideas (read: alternative gift ideas).

For now, while you shop and deliver online, consider how much you saved on postage toward another vacation.

Published by


An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.

4 thoughts on “How Expats Go Christmas Shopping, Part 1”

  1. Great tips! We’ve been very fortunate to be able to return to family once a year (usually in the summer to avoid that white stuff) so we bring presents at that time. This actually allows us to bring some more unique or region specific items. Sure it is a bit different not to have anything on the big day, but it is nice to actually be able to get out and enjoy the season without having to worry about shopping. Of course the size of the gifts are necessarily small due to luggage restrictions, but I do enjoy the face-to-face gift giving.

    Other people I’ve heard have agreed to make holiday donations in lieu of gifts. Maybe sponsoring a small business via Kiva or donating to Breast cancer or Alzheimer’s or … If the spirit of the season is to give I think it doesn’t matter so much that you give to each other so long as you’re giving.

    looking forward to part twee! 🙂

  2. Time consuming, but making a photobook or calendar with one of the online companies like Snapfish or Shutterfly is very personal and can be shipped direct to family or friends.

    1. Thanks Carolyn – I appreciate that suggestion. My wife and I have made a tradition Snapfish calendar of seasonal pictures of our kids for their grandparents.

      It’s a 4-year tradition now since, after the first calendar, the grandparents requested (read: demanded) it for each Christmas following.
      Grandparents can be so demanding! 😉

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