I am writing this blog post at Christmas time when the heat is up, at least in terms of present-buying in bulk. However, present-buying headaches for relatives abroad can happen at any time of the year.
There are perhaps two issues for the resident wanting to treat their loved ones back in their home country. Firstly, finding the products that you want abroad and secondly how you make sure that they arrive at their destination.
In comparison to some European countries, Spain can seem to have relatively little choice when it comes to variety of high street stores. Although the same names seem to predominate in all cities whatever country you are in, the stranglehold of the few can appear even more evident here. You can very quickly seem to exhaust the options that are available.
Added to this, unless your family are coming out to visit then you will need to wrap and post your packages too. Although there are options available for tracking your postage from Spain to other countries, it can feel a little unnerving to rely on the efficiency of the post between countries, especially around Christmas time.
Online shopping has become increasingly popular and widespread wherever you live. Even those back in your home country who live within minutes of a shopping centre can find themselves lured by the attraction of the virtual shopping basket.
Almost without moving a muscle you can select from a range of stores, hover over your purchase and click, avoiding queues and diminished shoe leather. However, what you might save on time and effort is perhaps matched by what you lose in atmosphere and risk from impulse buying.
Restricting yourself to shopping online from Spain means you are also less likely to think out of the box. The direct route you can take to your desired virtual product means you are not browsing down aisles, or viewing a store’s floor plan from the escalator. Your meandering through departments can give you ideas – the department store banks on this.
Not all the online shops in your home country will deliver in Spain. Some of the larger ones, such as Amazon, will deliver most items but there might be some that have restricted delivery particularly when you are buying in the ‘market place’.
You might find that the store has an alternative Spanish site that is a better option if your relative will be visiting. For example, Amazon.es makes delivery time in Spain quicker but watch out for additional VAT payments that might not show until you come to check out.
Of course you have the option of ordering from a site in your home country and then having the item delivered straight to its destination, cutting out the middle person – you. This is probably one of the easiest and most assured methods but it can feel rather clinical. It can also be complicated if your gift is being delivered to someone who works during the day and will have difficulty in collecting it.
Perhaps as a last resort, you can always ask family back in your home country to simply buy something on your behalf or giving money is another alternative. Neither are ideal and are perhaps least satisfying from the point of view of the giver. Vouchers are more personal than giving money but, equally, restrict choice of purchase and might be just as difficult to get hold of in Spain.
Booking a short break in a hotel, tickets to a show or a music or film voucher might all be reasonable last minute alternatives. You will still feel distanced from your purchase, but in the end, it shows that you are thinking about them and you care. What buying presents is all about after all.