DO: Remember It’s Not About Price
When you’re planning Christmas shopping list, it’s ok to set an amount you’re willing to spend on each person and stick to it – even when you receive a more expensive gift from someone. “Avoid trying to match spending, because that’s when gift-giving is driven more by pressure than by thoughtfulness,” says Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. It’s likely that a family member or friend who gifts luxury items is doing it out of kindness and isn’t expecting something similar back. Instead, gift them something thoughtful that shows you’ve put a lot of effort in, that too can be just as precious. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
DON’T: Buy For Yourself
When browsing for presents for loved ones, remember it’s about what they would like and not what you would like. While you might be drawn to a scent of a new fragrance, it may be the case that it turns the stomach of the person you’re thinking of buying it for. When it comes to presents with a personal touch. it’s always best to check with someone close to them, be it a partner or friend, before you start splashing the cash. Guessing something they might like may lead to disappointment – for both you and the recipient.
DO: Keep It Simple
If in doubt, there are certain products that will always be a hit with every woman. Diptyque, Aesop and Jo Malone never disappoint or go out of style. Similarly, foodie fans will always be thrilled with almost anything from the food halls at Fortnum & Mason or Harvey Nichols. It’s a good idea to stock up on these little people-pleasers so you have some on stand-by gifts should you need one.
DON’T: Buy A Personal Gift For Your Boss
While it’s nice to show your boss you appreciate them, etiquette expert Peggy Post says it might be a tad inappropriate. “It can be misread as an attempt to curry favour. But there are exceptions to this rule: if the gift is from a group, or the giver has worked with the boss for several years. In either case, the present should not be overly personal or extravagant.”
DO: Include A Gift Receipt
Why make things awkward? Include a gift receipt in with your gift to save having an uncomfortable discussion later on. It doesn’t necessarily mean your present isn’t to their taste, but they might already have something similar
DON’T: Buy Clothes For Someone Else
Unless you’ve been given specific details, steer clear of buying clothes or anything size-related and trend-led. You could get it very wrong and it can be a hassle for the receiver to return. They’ll be cursing you in the returns/exchanges queue.
DO: Look Pleased
Sometimes you’re bound to get a gift that isn’t quite to your taste, but it’s important to still show interest in the gift even if you’re not. Professor Karen Pine, psychologist and gifting expert, has teamed up with bespoke gifting company Build My Gift to put together a list of non-verbal signs to try as you unwrap:
1. Spend a little longer looking at the present. Hold on to it. Feel it. Inspect it closely. Take your time and find something positive to comment on, such as the colour, packaging or smell.
2. Place the gift in sight. Yes, you want to hide it because you can’t stand the sight of it. But instead, deliberately keep it in view, or display it. This will send positive signals to the giver.
3. Show the gift off to others. Holding it aloft, like a trophy, will send the message that you think you’ve struck gift-gold – and nobody else will guess the truth.
4. Make eye contact with the giver. Look them in the eye when you say ‘thank you’. And look at the gift too, even if it does offend you. Repeat the look, from giver to gift and back, three times.
5. Love the wrapping. If you suspect a bad gift lurks inside, spend time gushing over the wrapping. It’s a long shot but this might help you work up some enthusiasm for the disappointment that’s to come.
DON’T: Feel Pressured To Buy Something Back
If someone buys you an unexpected present, just be honest and tell them you don’t have one to give back to them. “Be genuine,” says Schweitzer. “Say you’re touched and delighted and slightly embarrassed you don’t have anything in return.” Whatever you do, don’t grab something out of your present cupboard and pretend you had something for them all along – Schweitzer advises that most people will see through this straight away.
DO: Re-Gift – But Only If You’re Careful
We’ve all been tempted to pass on an unwanted present – particularly with non-personal gifts like candles or bottles of wine, which might be more appreciated in the hands of someone else. But you need to carefully check such items for tell-tale signs they’re a passed-on gift. If it’s something that could have a sell-by date, then make sure the product is still within a reasonable date of expiry, and ensure everything is in its original packaging.
The etiquette experts at Debretts also advise thinking twice before separating products that came as part of a set: “If you’re not a fan of the pâté or pickle from an otherwise delectable hamper, it may be tempting to regift individual components of a multi-part present, but a lonely jar of English mustard is an instant deconstructed-gift giveaway. A bottle of wine or box of shortbread are more acceptable.”
DO: Give Vouchers
There are just some people whose taste is completely unpredictable – like teenage nieces and nephews, for example. Give them a voucher and let them choose something they actually want this Christmas instead of trying to get into the mind of an adolescent, it’ll save you a lot of hassle in the long-run.
DO: Say Thank You
"The handwritten word may be on the decline, but encouragingly, a third of us still send thank you letters. Doing so will reinforce your gratitude for a present or hospitality, showing time and care taken,” says Debretts. “If you know that you’re unlikely to locate a pen, paper and a stamp much before 2021, give your benefactor a call to thank them instead. WhatsApp or a text message are the least preferable options, but for the 11% of us who revert to them, a digital thanks is better than no thanks at all.”