Sending gifts in the post.

All men writing to a woman in Russia or a similar country want to send gifts in some form or other to their love. In this section, I do not attempt to write about what sort of things you should choose. Rather, I want to make some comments about the practicalities and mechanisms of posting gifts to a woman in another country.

The first thing that you must realise is that, with very few exceptions, any package sent from one country to another is liable to be opened and examined by customs officials.

This is not special to the countries of Eastern Europe. When Amazon send me a parcel of books from the US to Germany, it will be opened and examined. This is done for two reasons. First, I must pay duty on the value of the goods sent to me. Then customs staff examine the contents of the box to see if they match the declared contents and to see if the value of the books agrees with the value on the paperwork. Also, they check for prohibited materials. In the case of books coming into Germany, they are of course checking for books like Hitler's Mein Kampf which is illegal here. That is why books shipped to Germany from the UK are also subject to customs checks despite the fact that no duty is payable.

Now, you should understand that duty can be very high in some countries in Eastern Europe. There have been cases reported on the RWL of men sending a parcel full of expensive gifts only to hear that the woman had to pay a months salary just to receive the package. That is of course very inconsiderate of the man concerned.

So, what can you do to minimise the duty that must be paid on gifts that you send?

There is an exemption that means that items of low value may be allowed without duty provided that they are gifts. So, the first lesson is to break up your parcels and send just one or two items in each package. Secondly, make sure that you do describe the goods accurately on the outside of the package. I cannot give you an exact value and promise that anything worth less than (say) ten dollars will be fine. The problem is that it varies depending on the countries involved, the current legislation and quite frankly the mood of the customs officer.

The next thing to worry about is prohibited goods. I am sure that nobody reading this is thinking of sending a gun of drugs to a woman in Novosibrisk but they are not the only things that can cause problems.

The first one, and perhaps the most surprising is food. There are two reasons for this. Agricultural products are very commonly subject to restrictive tarrifs or even outright bans. These tend to be applied and relaxed very frequently so it is hard to know what will be allowed. The other reason for this is that the food items that you want to send may actually not be allowed in the country to which you send them. For example, many countries have now banned all food of genetically modified origin. Others have banned such food unless it is explicitly labelled. Almost any item of processed food from the US is liable to contain some quantitiy of GM components. This has in the past lead some countries to say "no foodstuffs from the US allowed unless there is full documentation to show that the product is of non GM origin."

The next area of prohibited goods that you may run into is medicine. The law is quite simple. If a medicine is available only on prescription from a doctor then it is an offense to try to obtain that medicine from another source. This law is common all over the world. It is most widely seen in the case of, for example attempts to sell Viagra over the internet of to import experimental unlicensed anti HIV drugs into the US. But, it can just as well apply to a man sending anti-biotics or something like that to his fiancee in another country.

A small proportion of the things that you send will also just go missing. I doubt that there is anything at all that you can do about that. It is going to happen. Live with it.

The last matter to consider is one of psychology. Most women will be just as happy to receive one unexpected gift whatever the value. The thought process is not so much evaluating the value of the gift but that her man has thought of her and has gone to the trouble to go out and select a gift and send it to her. Also, consider the value of unexpected excitement against the disappointment or even guilt of not receiving a parcel that was sent.

So, to sum up. You should send small items of low value frequently rather than one larger consignment and you should avoid high value items. Also, never give advanced notice, just allow for a steady stream of little surprises.

Before Maria was able to join me permanently in Germany, I tried to send two or three items in separate packets each week. Nothing elaborate, a small box of chocolates, a cassette of her favourite music, a toy for her son, a small ornament, some photos or a postcard when I had visited someplace.

So, each week, she would receive at least one little surprise and sometimes two or three.

That worked very well indeed for us and I would recommend this to anyone.

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