Photo credit: Randy Son Of Robert via Visualhunt / CC BY

Holidays abroad: tips for gift shipping


Every year my dad asks me what I want as a gift for Christmas and my birthday (24 Dec). Last year I asked for pink flamingos since I had a new klein garden and wanted to make it my own. I was proud to find some original ones for $10 online and sent him the link.

He said they were on their way and we both waited for the box to arrive. No box. No box. No box.

Then I got a form from the post office in Taucha. I really didn’t understand it. Did I have to go to Taucha? Ugh! Finally I called, but I was too late. They had sent them back to the States. I still don’t know why. Did they think they were real flamingos?

But I found out something important: If the box has a value of more than €30, you have to pay import tax. I made sure to tell my dad to put “gift” on the description and I got them safely in time for Valentine’s Day, which was fine because I didn’t take them to the garden til spring.

My pink flamingoes and the fox gloves I bought to put beside them. Thank you Daddy!
My pink flamingos and the fox gloves I bought to put beside them. Thank you Daddy!

Another holiday, I was freezing and wanted flannel pajamas. I found some half price, with matching slippers on the Victoria’s Secret website. I thought it would be easy to just have them sent straight to me. I’d save my Dad the boxing and wrapping and trip to the post office.

When they came, I had to pay as much in import tax as he’d paid for the gift. I still wear and love them (except for the slippers which wore out a long time ago). Another lesson learned.

I actually stopped buying and sending gifts a long time ago.

I just couldn’t afford it. My Dad likes for me to have something to open, so he and his wife still send me something each year. My stepmother sends me money and then I tell her what I bought. I usually need something that I need help with. One year I got a coat, one winter snow boots. I’m thinking of finally getting new kitchen counters this year.

Over the years she’s transferred the money and sent it via Western Union. They both cost a lot, but saved her from going to the post office. Now we just use Paypal. It’s perfect! Fast and sometimes free.

Those are my only gifts. I have a new way of celebrating the holidays that includes lots of dining with friends and a fair amount of dancing. I treat it more like a 4 day celebration of my birthday. I have a lot of missed ones to make up for.


I’m sure those of you who are not going home for the holidays will want to send something home. You’d better get on it to get the best rates for shipping.

Maybe it’s good to think about what you want to send, not just what you want to get somebody.

Think about size and weight. Maybe that comforter is not the best choice. Here’s a link for packages in the EU. If you are shipping farther away, it will cost more.

When I sent my absentee ballot to Kentucky, they said it would take 5 working days. Of course that fell during a holiday here and I ended up sending it by air, which they said would only take 2 working days. It cost me €60. If you are shipping abroad, I’d send it soon. Even within the States, things get backed up this time of year.

Important tips to remember include that it’s better to have a plain box with easy to read address labels. In the past we’d wrap things in brown paper and string, but paper and string get caught in modern mail service conveyor belts. Glass is safer if wrapped in 2 layers of bubble wrap.

U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail During WWII, Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution via Visual hunt / No known copyright restrictions
U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail, WWII. Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution via Visual hunt / No known copyright restrictions

This time I had an idea. If I were to shop, I’d get stuff online for my family. There is usually free shipping and they can return it if need be. There’s nothing worse than getting something fabulous to wear from Germany and not being able to wear it.

So far this year, when I see something perfect for someone, I take a picture and put it on their Facebook wall. They know I know them well and am thinking about them. Isn’t that what gift giving should be about?

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

Previous Story

Body Awareness review: us under the microscope

Mao. Public domain image
Next Story

On democracies and dictatorships - a reply

Latest from Lifestyle

About photographs

Indigo reflects on the unique powers that photographs hold. She shares how these manifested memories can