Christmas songs playlist

AD | How to Shop for the Awkward People in Your Life This Christmas

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When it comes to Christmas shopping, my family are a bit of an Awkward Bunch.

<Short pause and uncomfortable silence as every family member reading this gets up and flounces out of the virtual room in offence. Sorry, guys. It’s true, though, you are ALL AWKWARD and you know it…>

My parents, for instance, have everything they could possibly need. EVERYTHING. In fact, my dad prides himself on being able to almost instantly lay his hand on literally ANY item you ask to borrow, and if he doesn’t have it “in stock” he will immediately go out and buy it. Trust me, I have put this to the test, and it’s true: you cannot catch that man out.

<Further pause as Amber’s dad returns to the room to enthusiastically agree with this statement.>

My mum is much the same, but adds the endearing trait of Keeping Things for a Special Occasion to her particular brand of gift-recipient awkwardness. I remember one year, we gave her a bottle of champagne for her birthday in April – IN APRIL, PEOPLE – and she opened it for us ALL to drink on Christmas Day that year. And by “one year” I mean, “I can’t even count the times this has happened, seriously”. (Yes, she does like champagne, trust me on this.)

Terry, meanwhile, is so awkward that we entered into a No Gift Pact many years ago, choosing to give each other the (very welcome) gift of Not Having to Buy Each Other Gifts, instead. That at least crosses HIM off the gift-buying list, but then there’s Max: who, at two years old, already owns four ride-on sports cars, several toy houses and also every single toy that’s ever been invented. He’s like a toddler Leonardo DiCaprio, basically: just give him a yacht and send him to St, Tropez with some models already…

< Yet another pause for me to frantically scribble the words “toddler yacht?” and “models?” onto my Christmas shopping list. Look, it’s been a tough year, and I am OUT OF IDEAS, OK?>

Christmas tree 2020Now, before I go any further here, I can sense some of you thinking, “Well, OK, but I bet YOU’RE awkward to shop for too, Amber,” and OK, yes, ya got me. Because while I can think of at least 438 things I would absolutely LOVE to get for Christmas, right off the top of my head (TRY ME), the truth is that not many of them can be found on any one of the hundreds of ‘Christmas Gifts for Women‘ lists you’ll find floating around at this time of year: or, if they can, my requirements will be so annoyingly specific that the chances of someone randomly guessing what they might be are very, very small.

So, how on earth are you supposed to shop for all of these awkward people, I hear you ask?

Honestly, I’m damned if I know: why are you asking me? Oh yeah, because of the post title, in which I confidently implied that I have All The Answers. This IS awkward, isn’t it?

OK, OK, I may not have ALL the answers – or even specific product suggestions – but I do have some top tips for you. Such as…

Christmas songs playlist01. Find the one thing they ALWAYS use, and buy that, even if it isn’t a “traditional” gift item.

I know no one needs me to suggest perfume/ aftershave as a gift idea, because you’re capable of thinking of that all by yourselves, obviously, but, as gifts go, if there’s something your recipient uses AAAALLLL the time, then you’re onto a winner, no matter what that thing is.

For instance, I know it doesn’t sound very exciting or “Christmassy”, but I’d much rather be given a tube of my favourite mascara (Which is somewhat pricey), which I ALWAYS need, and will definitely use, than something like a beauty gift set, say, filled with a bunch of stuff that probably won’t get opened. (Who DOES need a collection of shower puffs, though? Or even USE shower puffs, for that matter, because I only ever seem to see them as part of gift sets at Christmas. They’re as Christmassy as mulled wine and mince pies to me, tbh. And I HATE mulled wine and mince pies…) Similarly, I cannot possibly have enough bottles of my favourite perfume, or that expensive shampoo that probably seems like a terrible idea for a gift (I mean, SHAMPOO, seriously?), but which I absolutely love, and just can’t justify buying on the regular.

02. Be wary of personalised items.

There is a certain train of thought in regards to Christmas gifts which suggests that it’s possible to turn a terrible gift into a good one simply by slapping someone’s name on it. This is not the case. If it’s something they wouldn’t use under normal circumstances, trust me when I tell you that they’re not going to suddenly love it just because it has their name engraved on it in a “fancy” font. Ditto “themed” items: I’m thinking here of my brother-in-law, John, who once idly mentioned he quite liked something with a photo of a cow on it, then spent the next decade being given cow-themed gifts for every possible occasion. And he doesn’t even LIKE cows that much. Which is unfortunate because he now has a house full of them.

(Things with cows/cow print on them, I mean, not ACTUAL cows. That would be taking it too far.)

The lesson here? If you’re buying something personalised, you still have to go back to point #1 and make sure it’s something the person will actually use. Notino, for instance, offer an engraving service, which allows you to personalise a fragrance bottle or beauty product with the words of your choice: so you pick out that bottle of Versace Dylan Blue, say, for your husband, and then you can have the words, “Terry, why do you never change the toilet roll?” engraved on the front. Or, you know, something actually appropriate, like just his name, ‘Happy Christmas’ or, well, anything other than what I just wrote, really.

03. Don’t turn your nose up at vouchers.

A lot of people think gift vouchers are terrible, cop-out gifts: the kind of thoughtless, last-minute thing you only buy if you don’t really care what you’re getting someone. These people are straight-up wrong, though. Gift vouchers are literally the BEST GIFT EVER for awkward people. They are the gift of SHOPPING. The gift of Things You Really, Really Want, But That No One Would Ever Guess. (I mean, you all know I like clothes, for instance, but how many of you would be able to find the EXACT cardigan I want to buy right now, out of all of the millions of cardigans in the world? Exactly. I would rather have that one cardigan than anything else, but the chances of someone knowing that, and picking it out, are slim to none.) (Mostly because there IS no cardigan: I just made it up as an example, don’t message me, mum.) They are awesome.

BUT! Important caveat incoming: they are ONLY awesome if they’re for a store the person actually likes. So, again, you really need to do your research here, and find out where they like to shop. Then, if all else fails, get them the damn voucher, and don’t feel bad about it: if they’re anything LIKE as awkward as I am, they’ll love for allowing them to pick something out for themselves, rather than giving them something they might not use.

04. Normalise asking people what they actually want for Christmas.

One of the most awkward things about Christmas – and gift-buying in general – is that annoying dance we all do, where you ask someone if there’s anything they’d particularly like, and they pretend there isn’t, even though there SO OBVIOUSLY IS, and then you end up getting them something that ISN”T that thing, which they then have to pretend IS that thing, even though there was never really any chance of you guessing what That Thing might be.

Here’s an idea, though: how about we all just stop doing that?

I know, I know: it would be terribly un-British of us, and could generate quite the scandal in certain circles, but wouldn’t it just make everything SO much easier? I mean, wouldn’t it, though?

So, let’s normalise asking people what they actually want for Christmas. And telling anyone who asks us. Let’s do it for the awkward people amongst us: I promise they will love us for it.

Alternatively, please feel free to give me some of your best ideas: what do YOU buy for the awkward people in YOUR lives?

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  • Fiona


    And this is why everyone in my family makes an Amazon wish list every year! No more guessing. Exact items they’d like including size and colour. (And not limited to just stuff on Amazon obvs). I mean I go off piste now and again but I don’t have to if I don’t want to.

    December 15, 2020
  • Fi


    ???????? Me, I use shower puffs! But I agree, they are always included in Christmas gift sets and no one would ever buy one separately as a gift I don’t think.

    I always ask my sister and best friend if there’s anything they specifically want for Christmas and birthdays and they do the same with me. H just hands me a list…

    December 15, 2020
  • Alison S


    We always ask each of our family what they want for Christmas makes life a lot easier. PS your hair looks amazing in that photo.

    December 15, 2020
  • Alice


    I have a “no present pact” with my partner and family too. My parents like to give my daughter a present so they make donations into her savings account. Previously we used to specify exactly what we wanted and where to get it (eg the website that stocked the particular CD) but now we just don’t buy gifts.

    Eventually we will get our daughter presents of things she specifically wants but this year all she wants are chocolate coins so we will give her that, and probably some useful things like a mini tube of toothpaste etc. She doesn’t need more toys.

    I completely disagree re gift vouchers though. They tie you into a particular shop or shops, and often don’t get used (and they decrease in value year by year even if you don’t spend them, I think they are a complete con). If you were going to give a £20 gift voucher isn’t it more useful to give £20 cash?

    December 16, 2020
  • Myra Boyle


    I’ve discovered that people always give presents they want to receive so take a note of what they give you and reciprocate. After Raymond gave me a Hoover one year and a lady shaver the following year I gave him a list of things I’d like so he could choose something off my list. This worked and it was still a surprise as to which item he gave me on the day and I definitely wanted it.

    December 16, 2020
  • Tanya


    I used to struggle finding the perfect present for my nieces and nephews when they were little. Now they are teenagers, I give them what I desperately wanted as a teen… Cash in a card, the universal voucher.

    December 16, 2020