Visiting with gifts

You’re about to visit a friend for lunch who lives about 2 hours away.  What do you take?  What’s the etiquette for gift giving?  I’m asking genuinely because I have no idea!

We have some new friends who we have met through my husbands work.  They live quite a way away so when we visit each other we tend to stay over.  When they come to visit us we receive a bottle or two of wine, flowers or a potted plant, a gift for Pickle and a gift for The Monster.  To me, that feels a bit overkill.  It’s a lovely gesture, but is that really the norm?  We see each other about 2 or 3 times a year, so maybe that’s the criteria.

3 x visits + 2 hours journey + overnight stay = 4 gifts

Of course what it means is that every time we visit them I have to find a similar number of gifts.  A sticker book or book or small dinosaur for their child and some flowers and wine for them.  Still, I’m not doing it because I want to, I’m doing it because I always try to match the recipient previous for visitin

We have other friends who live about 45 minutes away.  We don’t see them that often, maybe twice a year despite their proximity.  We usually get invited to their first bbq of the year, the only invitees, for a proper catch up.  When we visit them for lunch we take a bottle of wine.  That’s it!  When they visit us I think they give the same. Maybe once or twice I’ve got flowers. I really can’t remember.  I guess we’ve known them a long time.

2 x visits + 45 min journey + old friends = 1 gift

Then I have a friend nearby and we try to catch weekly or fortnightly. Our daughters are friends as well, both parents went to secondary school with my husband and it takes 10 minutes to get there.  We don’t give them anything, except if they are hosting dinner or lunch and then it’s a bottle of wine. Occasionally the visitor brings dessert to the others house.

40 x visits + 10 min journey + old friends = no gifts

So, it got me thinking.  What is the etiquette for gift giving when visiting people. Is it really something that you can work out mathematically?  If I’m doing the first visiting and we aren’t there for a meal, we generally take nothing, unless it’s a housewarming and we probably take a pot plant or something similar.  Then what happens is they visit us with gifts for our children, something for me and I end up feeling a bit guilty, make a mental note and copy them for the next visit.  It shouldn’t really work like that, though, surely?  When did arriving with copious volumes of gifts become so normal?

I’m visiting a work colleague on Sunday. I see him every day at work but we only visit each other about once a year.  They had a baby in February and this will be the first time I’ve visited them since.  I’ve given them a card and present for their daughter’s arrival, but as they arrive at ours with a gift for me and gifts for my children, I HAVE to arrive at theirs with similar. So I have reluctantly bought their children a book each and will take 2 of my tomato plants over.  That’s alright isn’t it?  That’s acceptable? We aren’t going for lunch.

When did this become so darn difficult?  Am I the only with complicated gift giving when visiting?


About freefallinginto40

I am 40 years old. I blog about how I'm coping with my "new" age at . I'm a married mother to two after years of infertility. I have a 6 year old called Pickle and a 3 year old called The Monster. I work 4 days a week. We are also planning a move to the country! I blog about that at
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12 Responses to Visiting with gifts

  1. avenue57 says:

    I always take something – a bottle and/or flowers for the host.
    My friends who come to me always bring fresh eggs from their farm or home made pickles – mmmmm

  2. It really does depend who it is – sometimes I take little cakes, sometimes a bunch of flowers/wine. Lots of hand-me-downs get exchanged when we go to see people so there’s the advantage of something new with minimal effort. It’s a hard old one to balance….

  3. mummybarrow says:


    I take a bunch of flowers for the hostess. And generally that is it. Or as you say, you could be doing it for everybody. Or a nice box of biscuits for everybody to share.

    But it is really hard, there should be a manual for stuff like this

  4. hattydaze says:

    Love this. Great present algebra going on there! Definitely not presents for the children unless they have just been born or it’s their actual birthday party. The more you like and know people I think the less you give them – so just stick to booze/flowers/cake. If you can make something, even better – home made stuff is always gratefully received.

  5. Ruth says:

    Ooh it’s tricky, isn’t it? My general rule is to always take *something* even if it’s only little, but if it’s a good friend the expectation is that the gift is something to share in the course of the visit. So if I’m going for coffee at a Kate’s house, I’ll bring biscuits or a cake. If I’m going for dinner I’ll bring a bottle of wine and maybe also chocs/flowers. And if I’m staying overnight they get nice wine/whiskey plus something for the kids.

  6. Grenglish says:

    I don’t tend to take anything for the kids, unless it is their birthday/Christmas/Easter. If they are feeding us, then we’ll always take wine and I’ll probably bake something. I really don’t expect people to bring anything to us, unless we are cooking, in which case wine is always welcome!

  7. Mummy Plum says:

    Wine/Flowers/Chocolates if it’s lunch or dinner. If it’s dinner I’ll up the number of bottles I take, but then, I do like a drink so that’s only fair! I never take presents for the kids unless it’s a birthday. If I’m feeling ultra generous I might take some (shop bought) gingerbread men or kiddie biscuits for them to share.

    My son recently had a friend over for a play date and she bought him some stickers. The next time she bought another small gift. I was like *oh no presents for a play date?!). She is Chinese and her mother explained that in their culture it’s deemed very rude to visit anyone without bringing a gift. I like the sentiment but I’m not sure what to do in that situation now, every time he gets invited there, I feel I have to reciprocate and send him with something!

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