Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Baby Shower - A Taste of Expat Life for Our Families

The British generally don't do baby showers.  Friends do drop by with gifts and your coworkers usually pool money for a gift, but there's not the big party where you invite everyone, play games, and open gifts in front of everybody.

Americans do, though.  So, when my family found out I was going to have a baby,* they started asking my sister how they were going to be throwing a shower for me given that I live on another continent.

My sister worked really hard to think of a good way to do this, keeping everything in consideration - the general lack of a shower infrastructure in the UK (online registries and such, and people were requesting that I have a registry) and the problems of shipping costs and us having to pay taxes (VAT - 20% of the value of the item, and there are other costs too) on incoming packages.  And she did an awesome job.  After being poked to do so - I was slightly reluctant - I made a wish list on Amazon in place of a registry, and filled it with baby essentials only - the stuff we were absolutely going to need regardless of whether we bought it or someone else did.  My sister made invitations that included very specific instructions on how to avoid making us pay large VAT to receive packages and offers of help for those who were flustered by overseas websites.  She even arranged some kind of game, although there will be no time we all meet up online or anything for the full shower experience.  (That would have been pretty complicated!)

What's ended up happening is that we've completely inadvertently given our families a taste of expat life.  Despite my sister's efforts to make everything easy for everybody, virtually nothing has left the registry as relatives are flustered by exchange rates that cause sticker shock, sites that won't accept foreign credit or debit cards, banks that won't allow foreign purchases, foreign financial or product terms that they've never heard before, and time zone differences that make communication with companies difficult.  And just think if we'd still been in Germany when this happened!!  At least it's all in English, albeit British English.

So, sorry everybody.  We are so used to these things and how to get around them that we completely forgot.  I buy gifts off foreign sites all the time and work my way around the problems now as second nature. Never feel that your generous efforts are not appreciated; they are appreciated beyond what I could express. But hey, if you ever wanted to know what it's like to live abroad...that's a little sample for you. ;)

Anyone else ever try to hold an international "shower" of any kind before?  How did you manage it?

(*Yes, I am 33 weeks pregnant, after great, great, great, GREAT difficulties in this arena over the last many, MANY years. I begrudged - unwillingly, it was so automatic - many a pregnancy announcement during those hard times and if anyone is begrudging me now, I understand.)


  1. Congratulations to you both! I hope you get everything you need before your baby's arrival. I'm so happy for you!

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