Episode 14: Global Gift Delivery FAQs – How to Make Gift Delivery Simple During Christmas

Hello and welcome to another episode of “Long Distance Short” — GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast where we talk to real people about the triumphs and tribulations in all kinds of long-distance relationships. Your host is Ally Winters, an international gift consultant who’s found success in her own long-distance romances and friendships.

And here’s today’s topic: How to Make Gift Delivery Simple During Christmas. The holidays are a lot of fun, but they can also be very stressful – especially if people you love are far away during the celebrations. Today, we’ll take a look at how to deal with Christmas away from your loved ones including pro-tips on choosing great gifts for them.  Let’s jump right in, Ally!

ALLY

Ho, ho, ho! My name’s Ally, and our December episode will be 100% dedicated to Christmas in long-distance relationships. Our experts today, as was mentioned, are Katrina Shelton, a customer order processing representative, and Natasha Kvitka, the international brand manager from the gift delivery company GiftBasketsOverseas.com. These ladies know how to celebrate Christmas over distance — and enjoy it in full! So I’m super excited to get some tips from them, as it looks like I will have to spend this Christmas with my partner over Skype again. Hello, ladies!

KATRINA

Hi!

NATASHA

Hi!

ALLY

How are you doing?

NATASHA

Fine! Good!

KATRINA
Great, thank you.

ALLY

That’s great. So, since you’re here, I guess that you’ve had experience, at least once, of a moment when you needed to spend Christmas with your loved ones over distance, when you’re far away from each other — so, how was it?

KATRINA

Well, my husband is Belgian, and I’m Russian, so we always need to get a visa — either for him or for me — when we want to be together, therefore we have to spend quite a bit of time apart when waiting for a visa. So we celebrate a lot of holidays online, and a lot of Christmases and New Years were spent on the phone. It’s kind of common for us to celebrate holidays over WhatsApp, Viber or Skype, but I would just like to mention the most memorable and recent moment when there was a party for our wedding in Belgium, and I didn’t get a chance to be there as I hadn’t gotten my Belgian visa, so I was celebrating my wedding over Viber.

ALLY

Oh no!

NATASHA

Sounds frustrating.

ALLY

Yes, it’s really frustrating! But, I mean, they didn’t warn you about the party in advance, or did you pre-plan it but just failed to get a visa?

KATRINA

Well, actually, the plan was to go to the UK, as my father-in-law had invited us, and then we would go to Belgium by car; and there was supposed to be a party, but we were informed that it was a party for his retirement. So it was a complete surprise for us, and by the time I went to the UK, I realized that my visa was still not ready. And my husband had to go to Belgium, and I had to go back to Irkutsk, and at end of the day, at the “retirement party…”

ALLY

So to speak, “retirement,” right?

KATRINA

Yes! The sort of retirement party, — my husband arrives, and a waiter comes over to him and says: “Congratulations on your wedding!” My husband got a little bit confused and was wondering why people were congratulating him; then he saw some pictures saying: “Congratulations to Andy and Katrina!” — so it was clear what the party was about.

ALLY

Yes, really confusing when you realize that a lot of people you don’t know, know about your wedding.

KATRINA

Yeah, exactly!

NATASHA

Well, actually, we had some experience with long-distance relationship while being already married: several years, about eight years ago, my husband moved to Japan for work, and we couldn’t join him at the beginning of that contract. So he moved there, to Tokyo, exactly around Christmas and New Year’s time, and we had to celebrate the holidays over Skype and on the phone. So it was kind of very new, and at that point, a very frustrating experience because we really missed each other; we are not used to being apart, especially during the holiday season.

So, because during the holidays, he didn’t have to go to the office, and I was also at home all the time, we literally spent, like, eight to nine hours a day being on a call. So I was just doing my usual things at home, and he was doing the same, but we were still able to talk to each other, and now the memory about this experience is quite good. But at that point, we were really missing each other hard.

ALLY

So you’re saying, for example, you’d wake up at 9 AM, you’d open Skype, and…

NATASHA

Yeah!

ALLY

And in the evening, you’d turn it off before going to bed…

NATASHA

Yes! Yes. You know, at that moment, we were so grateful for having technology with us, because the phone bill would have been equal to the budget of some small country, were we to do it over the phone. But with Skype and other means of communication, we would actually see each other during the holidays, so it was amazing.

ALLY

At least something!

NATASHA

Yeah!

KATRINA

That’s some nice romance.

NATASHA

It took us five or six months to get together again, so we were in a long-distance relationship for several months.

ALLY

And did you do this kind of ritual every day, every single day?

NATASHA

Well, not exactly: during the holiday season, and then on the weekends, yes, because of the time difference; on the weekdays, we couldn’t get that long on the call, because he needed to go to work, and when he returned, it was quite late for him. I was able to be on the call, but he needed to go to sleep, because it’s office again in the morning. So, no, it was quite difficult to do during the weekdays, but on the weekends, yeah, we tried to catch up.

ALLY

Yeah, and in my experience, it’s about six or seven hours, yes? The time difference with Japan. Yes, I think when we have, like, 4 PM, they are ready to go to sleep. It’s really weird, yeah — I totally understand your feelings. I talked with my Japanese partner for — three years, I think? Almost three years — in this particular pattern.

Right, and to talk about spending Christmas specifically and maybe New Year, because I know that New Year is a very special holiday in the CIS countries, the post-Soviet countries; maybe you have any special rituals that you have with your family, or maybe friends, or partners?

NATASHA
Yes — you know, actually, for us, gifts and preparing gifts, and now, sending gifts; because now my family — we are reunited with my husband and my son, thank God, but we’re apart from our wider family because we moved to Canada last year, and they are still in Ukraine. So now, not only preparing, but also sending gifts to them is kind of our most beloved tradition. And gifts have to be a surprise for us, it’s part of our tradition — I know many families prepare for this time of year asking direct questions: what would you like to have for Christmas, or for New Year — because for us, the more gift-giving holiday is New Year in particular, not Christmas.

And for us, it’s usually a surprise, so I try to collect ideas from our family members, and from friends to whom I want to send a gift during the holiday season, all year round. And, you know, it’s all about communication, so if you have a conversation regarding anything, a person can mention something that they want, or that they need maybe, and if you have this written down on your special Christmas list, then you can make a nice gift, a nice surprise for them.

ALLY

As in: “Oh, how I would like a BMW…”

NATASHA

(laugh) Yeah!

ALLY

“I wish somebody would give it to me…”

NATASHA
…And even mention it in July or maybe in August — and if they have this memorized, then probably you will get a nice little surprise during the holidays.

ALLY

And usually, during the year, how many gifts do you send to your family?

NATASHA

Nice question; usually, we try to send all the gifts in one package because of the delivery fees, but if we use Gift Baskets Overseas to send surprise gifts to our family — and we actually do this — then it will be a personal gift to each part of the family, they’ll receive this tasty and savory gift for their holiday. But when we are sending gifts like toys and books and this type of thing, we try to send one large package to the family, and then they just exchange these gifts, along with their own gifts, during their New Year celebration.

ALLY

Makes sense. And you, Katrina?

KATRINA

Well, we generally have two options: either staying in Belgium if everything is okay with my visa — which is not usually the case, as I told you; or we stay in Russia if everything is okay with my husband’s visa. But in any case, we’ve got one part of the family more than 6,000 kilometers away, so since it’s a bit difficult to ship something from or to Siberia, where it’s −40° Celsius outside very often, we just try to…

ALLY

Oh no…

KATRINA

Yeah, it’s a little bit cold, especially during the Christmas season.

ALLY

“A little bit” — I love this.

KATRINA

A little bit, yeah. Very often we just try to find something that can be delivered locally through our website, and it’s a little bit easier for us this way, and we don’t have to worry that the gift will be frozen before it arrives. But for people who are staying next to us — for example, we are in Russia, for my mom — we can usually get something out here, and go and give it to her. Or, for Andy’s family, we find something out there and give it to them, so we always just try to do it as locally as possible, to avoid these shipping issues.

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ALLY

Of course, we need to be wise.

KATRINA

Yeah — a lot of different things that may influence and bring a bad result instead of a good surprise.

ALLY

Yeah, totally! From my own experience with my Japanese partner, we just had this ritual of celebrating New Year first in his time zone, and then my time zone. And honestly, I wasn’t working for GiftBasketsOverseas.com yet when we started our relationship, so what we did, we, of course, sent each other some gift baskets — well, not gift baskets, but maybe just some small letters or small packages; usually, it was chocolate which was quite resistant to temperatures — if we, let’s say, sent it during the winter time, right? But in summer, it was really inconvenient to send such things.

Moreover, there are always some restrictions: like, you cannot send tea, or you cannot send coffee, or… some things that seem to be, like, — why? But they are restricted, so yes, I wish I knew about this company earlier. Well, nevertheless, I can kind of catch up with that right now — if needed, of course.

KATRINA

Oh yeah — good knowledge usually comes only with experience.

ALLY

Yes, totally. But still, I hope that we will live together as soon as possible. (laugh)

KATRINA

That’s always the hope!

ALLY

Yeah — and then it will be even easier.

KATRINA

But still, you’ve got family who live in another country.

ALLY

Yes! There’s always… the other side of things. Okay, and, when selecting a perfect gift for your family and friends, what criteria do you use for yourself, usually? Like, what are the most popular gifts within your community?

NATASHA

You know, as I mentioned, it’s all about communication — so, first of all, when you try to give something really useful and desired to your loved one, family member, or a friend, you need to listen attentively when you have a conversation with them, no matter if it’s the holiday season or not. They might mention their dreams, desires, ideas for something that they would buy themselves.

For example, I love journals — by the way, my family knows this and actually uses this knowledge during the holiday season, so I usually have a lot of journals to write in. And when I start preparing my holiday lists, I have a page dedicated to each family member, where I just note everything that they mention during the year that they want. So I start this list for my mother, my father, my husband, my son, parents-in-law, and friends — not long after the previous holiday season, actually, in order to have as many ideas as possible. So, throughout the year I collect a lot of such ideas, and I can be really creative with these Christmas or New Year gifts for them.

ALLY

What was the wish of your parents, say, for this Christmas?

NATASHA

I won’t mention that, actually, because we still have the holiday season ahead of us, and my mother might listen to this episode — so… (laugh) But, let’s say, last year, as we’d just recently moved to Canada, we wanted to send something local back to our parents — something about Canada. And we prepared a nice gift box for them, with toys that represent Canada — like moose, and beer, and raccoons — which is not very much loved in Canada, but they are very, very special for Canada, for Toronto… So there was a lot of stuff: toys, some snacks, and the most special part of that package was supposed to be maple syrup — which is, like, Canada’s symbol, we even have the maple leaf on our flag, the Canadian flag.

ALLY

So it’s red, right, the maple syrup?

NATASHA

Yes, and maple syrup is a really tasty thing, something you want to have for your breakfast, so we decided to send them all in one package. That didn’t go well — because, during the transportation, for sure, the bottle of maple syrup got broken, and all of our books about Canada, and the stuffed toys, and all the snacks — everything was dipped into maple syrup. So, yes, they appreciated our attention and our desire to give something very special, something that they can share with us, something Canadian, which was very important to us, but the practical side of this gift… wasn’t practical. (laugh)

ALLY

It was the syrup that spoiled everything — what irony! (laugh) That’s sad.

NATASHA

So, next time we decide to send our friends something edible, we’ll just use Gift Baskets Overseas — it’s not for advertisement here, it’s just common sense that we now have after that experience, sending edible things along with non-edible things. So now, when we want to send books, and cards, and apparel from Canada to some of our friends, we never combine such a package with something edible.

ALLY

Yeah, of course — what would happen to the books, right, if you send them.

NATASHA

Yeah. Well, we know what actually happens to the books.

ALLY

You combine it with syrup, of course!

NATASHA

Kat, and do you have any ideas or suggestions here?

KATRINA

Well, I suggest to never send maple syrup. (everyone laughs)

And, to be serious, I suggest that you always need to try and make sure the gift is personalized, and Natasha, I really like your attitude to that: to keep track of whoever wants what, and then surprise them during Christmas — I think it’s a really, really nice idea. I tried it once, but I never had a pen around, so I think I should fix that problem and keep better track with these things — because otherwise, you forget.

And also, I have to mention that any gift should correspond with the recipient’s needs or preferences; so, if they like to crochet, maybe you can get something related to that. And especially, if you don’t know the culture that much, try to spend some time researching, because some things may be very different between different countries. For example, I would never give flowers to a man or a boy in Russia, whereas for a lady, flowers would be fine or even perfect — but the number of flowers always needs to be odd, because an even number of flowers is for funerals only.

Also, it’s quite important to pay attention to the color of the flowers — especially when it comes to roses; because there are lots of superstitions around that, and some people strongly believe that red roses mean love and passion, white means purity and innocence, yellow means joy and friendship — whereas other people believe that yellow actually means separation. So, it’s quite important to take that into account and send the right color. On our website, the “Red Rose Selection” is the most popular gift to deliver in Russia, so there are a lot of loving and passionate women out here. (laugh)

And one more thing to mention about Russia and the post-Soviet republics: as you already said, we don’t celebrate Catholic Christmas, our big celebration is New Year, the night between December 31 and January 1, and the actual Christmas is on January 7, and it’s mostly celebrated by religious Orthodox Christians.

NATASHA

Yeah — I would say it is not widely celebrated; still, it’s a very large area in many countries, and there are Catholics there who actually celebrate Christmas in December — but still, the widespread celebration is on January 7. Yeah, absolutely, Katrina. So, yeah, I can second that thought about taking into account the traditions, customs, and, actually, preferences of your recipient in their location.

So, if I may use Canada again as an example, if your gift recipient is in Canada, you definitely can rely on Canadian classics. So, when I need a gift to my friends here — or from professional side of things, when I just look at the data on Gift Baskets Overseas’ most popular products for delivery to Canada — it’s basically almost always the same: chocolates or other sweets, and wine. You can definitely show your respect to local customs selecting the traditional wine for the region where you send your gift; so, for example, in Canada, it can be ice wine — it is not only produced in Canada, but Canada is probably the largest producer of ice wine.

ALLY

What does “ice” stand for — real ice? Is it too cold, or something?

NATASHA

No-no-no, it’s not cold wine, it’s actual ice wine — it’s very interesting; because it’s dessert wine that is made from naturally frozen grapes while they were still on the vine. So, first frost comes in, and bites the wine grapes that are still on their vines, they are collected, and then wine is being produced. The taste itself is different — it’s so sweet… It’s really different, and it’s tasty, and it’s called ice wine. And ice wine is something very much loved, and very special for Canada. So, if you look into our most popular gifts to deliver from all over world to Canada, it’s actually “Celebrate with Wine and Chocolates” — the name of the basket itself. And it contains Canadian wine and an assortment of chocolates — and with chocolates, actually, I would say the most loved ones here are still European classics; but wine can be Canadian, it can be ice wine.

ALLY

Nice to know about the ice wine — I really didn’t know that; now I want to try it. But Natasha, do you personally prefer traditional wine, so to speak, or ice wine, or does it depend on your mood?

NATASHA

Well… I think, yes, it depends on the situation; sometimes I even prefer beer, which makes me think about another local preference, because we have… really, a lot of nice breweries, and the Canadian brew itself isn’t bad, I like it, dependent on my mood — and Canadians like it. So, I would say, if you want to send something different from wine and sweets, and the context around the gift is different from sweets, you can definitely go with beers and snacks — it should be well-received as well.

ALLY

Yeah, a guest from one of our previous episodes, David, who makes cocktails, he also, as I remember, mentioned in the conversation that beer is very good. So, yeah, I’ll try it as well.

KATRINA

So, Canada: to taste some syrup — because you can’t send it — and ice wine and beers! (laugh) And if I may, I would like to add some gift-giving traditions for the US; the recipients are just about the same as in Canada, and the most popular gifts are gift baskets with wine, cheese, crackers, chocolates, and so on.

For example, in our catalog, we have a gift called “Holly and Mistletoe Gift Basket,” a gift basket with wine, and cheese, and other things that you may find attractive and tasty-looking. Also, another basket is “California Cabernet Gift Basket.” And some people may also prefer gift towers with different sweets in them, like our product, “Chocolate Heaven” — so it’s just a chocolate tower: a few nice gift boxes with all kinds of sweets in them.

ALLY

Yes, a kind of gifting classics, I guess, right?

KATRINA

Yeah. Exactly.

ALLY

And as for Europe — I actually wanted to go back a bit to your conversation about the New Year in the CIS countries. It’s really interesting that, for example, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and some other countries near Europe are also Christian, but they celebrate their own Orthodox Christmas. For example, the countries that are near Ukraine — for example, Poland, or Czech Republic — they are also Slavic, but there is sometimes a slight discrepancy, when, for example, Polish people send gifts to Russia or Ukraine for their Catholic Christmas, not taking into consideration that Orthodox Christmas is in about two weeks’ time. And this is where people can have doubts — as in, is it too early, so that’s what I would also like to note.

And basically, there is an explanation why the people in the CIS countries tend to celebrate New Year more than Christmas — it’s all because in the Soviet Union, as we may all remember, people were urged to give up their religious beliefs, and a lot of people were almost forced to become atheists and not believe in anything, so the government decided to create a kind of non-religious holiday that would be logical, in that format, to that period of time. And New Year was the beginning of something new, like a new page in people’s lives, so the idea was to give this holiday a special importance. I think people should remember that and understand it, because it’s really a holiday that’s entrenched in our everyday life, and I can’t even come up with a holiday that could be more important — except a birthday. So, yes, it’s important to know.

As for the gifts, in Europe, there’s also a range of different gifts for each taste: some alcohol of nice brands, the good brands of chocolate, snacks, something of this kind?

KATRINA

Yes, and by the way, thank you for explaining the tradition of why we have such a big celebration of New Year; I always took it for granted, I always accepted it as it is and never actually thought of where it came from. So thank you so much for letting me know and describing it…

ALLY

No problem. I was just thinking — what I got this idea from, is I was explaining it just a few days ago. (laugh)

KATRINA

Not too far apart, then.

ALLY

Yeah, and that struck me now, so I decided to share it with you and our listeners.

KATRINA

Thank you so much. Well, as for Europe, in Europe people mostly prefer getting gift baskets, as much as in Canada or USA. According to the statistics from our website, the most popular gifts are gift baskets with chocolates, like, for example, “Joyous Tidings” is one such gift on our website, or “Gourmet Selection.”

It’s not surprising that the most popular gifts are the ones with chocolates, because the chocolate industry is quite big in Europe, and there are two major countries competing for the status of the best chocolate producer, which are Belgium and Switzerland. To be honest, when I was preparing for this podcast, my husband, who, let me remind you, is Belgian, he came over to me and asked me to say that it’s really the Swiss people who claim that their chocolates are the best, while the rest of the world knows that Belgian chocolates are the best. (laugh) So I had to say that.

And I’d say that the food culture in Europe is quite developed, and people do like getting some tasty things more than flowers, according to the statistics from our website.

ALLY

And if you just go to some European country — and then to Russia or Ukraine, for example, and you just count how many flower shops there are, you will be surprised — and I was surprised! — when I realized that in Europe, there are not many of them. I mean, they’re not as common, and can’t often be seen on the streets.

KATRINA

Yeah, and my husband was very surprised when he saw that flower shops are usually open 24/7 — he just said: “Why? Why do you need that?”

ALLY

“Who needs flowers at 3 AM?”

KATRINA

Someone who needs to apologize, I guess.

ALLY

Yes. Because Russian and Ukrainian women, they have a temper, right, a spicy temper.

KATRINA

Yeah.

ALLY

Not a stereotype.

NATASHA

Another country that actually prefers — based on our data — to get flowers as gifts, is Japan. And I will say here, getting back to our discussion of local traditions in gifts, that you can still overdo going into local gifts for local residents. So, in order not to do that, again, you need some basic research before you select the perfect gift for your friend or your loved one.

Let’s say, a chrysanthemum is one of the most loved flowers in Japan — it is one of the symbols of the country, actually; but white chrysanthemums symbolize grief, and they are for funerals only. So, if you want to send flowers to your loved ones in Japan, a bouquet of chrysanthemums would be a good choice — as long as you consider the color, so, don’t send white flowers if it’s not for a funeral.

And another thing that, I think, we all need to keep in mind when choosing a perfect gift selection for a particular person and their individual needs: your recipient might be vegan, or they cannot bear gluten or lactose, or they just don’t drink alcohol — so you need to know this and keep this in mind when selecting a gift or a gift basket for them.

KATRINA

Yeah, for sure — Gift Baskets Overseas offers a wide range of products, taking your recipients’ needs and preferences into consideration. As an example, for vegetarians, we have a “Natural Indulgence” basket, which contains apples, ginger root, mixed nuts, and so on; or, for people who prefer gluten-free food, we have a very nicely named item, “For the Gluten-Free Guru” — it contains canned salmon, crisps, nuts, and tea, and other products. And for those who prefer a healthy lifestyle, we have the “Cleansing Crate” gift basket; and we even have a separate range of products for expecting mothers, one of them is the “Baby Shower” basket.

And, of course, if you go to our website, you can select whatever you prefer and whatever you think your recipient will enjoy best, but don’t forget that you shouldn’t select a white chrysanthemum if you want to congratulate somebody on a new achievement! So, the best gift isn’t always the gift that you think about — when choosing something, you should always think about the one you love, and who this gift is going to, and don’t forget to take their needs into account.

ALLY

Sure, I totally agree, and I personally have a lot of people who became vegans or don’t drink alcohol any more — the world is changing, we always need to catch up, right, with all of these changes, basically. Okay, and at the end, I would like to maybe ask you what advice you would give to people who have to celebrate Christmas apart from their loved ones — your key expert advice to our listeners.

NATASHA

You know, Ally, I would not call myself an expert, as I only have five to six months of experience being in a long-distance relationship, and it was quite challenging. And the only thing that helped us through this experience as a family was spending time together at every opportunity that we could find. Now that the new technology is so much more developed, you can actually go for a walk together and still be on the call with your loved one if they are thousands of miles apart from you. So, I would say, try to find every opportunity and spend as much time as possible together, especially during the holiday season.

Exchange gifts, and eat dinner together, still being on a call — and send them gifts, because it’s such an amazing feeling when something comes from the person whom you cannot see in person for some time, but they still think of you, they still are with you thanks to technology, but it’s something tangible — to receive something and take it in your own hands — that is coming from them. So think about that.

ALLY

All right, I would like to thank you so much for being here with me and sharing this Christmasy atmosphere, and just sharing the gift ideas. I’ll also think about some great gift ideas for my parents and my partner, so, yes — once again, thank you, and I hope to see you again sometime in our episodes!

KATRINA

Thank you so much, Ally, thank you, Natasha, it was a really great experience. I appreciate you asking me to join, I really hope to see you again.

NATASHA

Thank you! Thanks for having me as well. Thank you, Ally, thank you, Katrina.

Holiday Message from CEO

Hello! This is Dmitriy Peregudov, CEO of GiftBasketsOverseas.com. I wanted to take a moment
to thank you for listening to our podcast. Our company couldn’t exist without your abundant
generosity, so from the bottom of my heart I want to wish you and everyone you love the
happiest of holidays – and remember, no matter where they are in the world, we’re here to help
you send them your love, this holiday and beyond.

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