Present culture

The thought that confounds

Catriona Miller
December 4, 2014

A gift need not be extravagant to be cherished, for, as the saying goes, ‘It is the thought that counts.’ But for those living between two cultures, the thought behind the gift is sometimes hard to fathom. What might seem the product of cross-cultural differences may simply be a difference in tastes; evidence of the male-female divide; practical vs. romantic sensibilities; or just people being, well, people. However, while disappointing, inappropriate or just plain weird gifts may provoke tears, laughter or head scratching, they are memorable. (To wit: the lump of Cheddar cheese a flatmate once gave me.) So, for a bit of festive fun, we asked TF’s Facebook fans to tell us about the strangest gift they’ve ever received from a Florentine friend, relative or beloved. We leave it to you to ponder the thought behind each.


Georgette: Pink pyjamas with a teddy bear on top. And an iron.


Bruce: Every single year ... that horrible stuff everyone seems to love but me: panettone.


Diana: Cute granny panties from my boyfriend’s aunt. I am 29 ... I totally wear them, by the way.


Nikki: A hideous seashell-emblazoned straw handbag.


Donna: One Christmas, my (Italian) husband gave me a plastic wastebasket for underneath the kitchen sink.


Diana: A cheap, knockoff perfume from the mercato.


Harriet: My husband gave me something he called a ‘chiave a stella.’ It’s for changing tires. He’d even wrapped it. Another year he gave me a ladder.


Carrie: House shoes, house tracksuit/lounge suit thing ... Pepto Bismol pink fleece with incorrect English across the front.


Cath: Cellulite cream.


Carole: My husband bought me an electric grill for our first Christmas as husband and wife. I was so disappointed when I opened it. I got electric shocks it too.


Janet: A gold chalk photograph frame on a half-metre-long stand decorated with cherubs.


Carrie: My first Christmas here, my in-laws gave me lingerie. Sheer black lingerie. With sequins.

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