Your first British Christmas – Part 2 • 你嘅第一個英式聖誕: 第二篇

This is the second part on our series on Christmas. We hope this guidance on the culture around presents and cards will help you navigate your first British Christmas and make it special for you.


You will be surprised how much money people spend at Christmas. Every family is different, but the amount of presents can be truly insane. It’s common for everyone in the family to buy and wrap a number of things for every other member, although of course the kids get most of all by a long way. Even cats and dogs get presents. If you are joining anyone for Christmas be sure to check what is expected in terms of number and budget!

If you need to buy presents for people you don’t really know, it is okay to go for generic ideas: toys for kids, money or gift cards for teenagers, nice toiletries for women, and older guys are usually happy with alcohol, books or gadgets. No-one is going to complain.

This year most people will be doing online shopping so get started early to before the postal system gets overwhelmed. If you need to post any cards and presents do so early because the mail system gets overloaded in the weeks running up to Christmas. Royal Mail recommends posting cards by 18 December. If you are planning to send a card to your loved ones in the UK from Hong Kong, unfortunately the last date of posting was 2 December.

Christmas cheer

The real meaning of Christmas is not giving presents, consuming food or drink, but being a good neighbour to everyone else on planet Earth. In the days around Christmas itself you will hear people say Merry Christmas to each other in everyday situations.


Generally speaking it is nice, but not compulsory, to give cards to friends and acquaintances.

Your neighbours would appreciate a card and a small gift. They might even invite you round for a glass of wine, sherry or maybe a beer. This kind of thing is more important if you have any elderly neighbours, especially if they live alone or might not have much family around. 

If you know your dustbin/recycling men, postman, or if you have a cleaner or anyone like that, it is nice to give them a card with a small cash tip. You can do this by putting £5 or £10 in a Christmas card. Tipping in restaurants etc is similar – people are usually a little more generous around Christmas, but of course it is up to you. 

It is strategic to have a pack of Christmas cards at home so you can quickly write one if you need to react to an evolving situation. Small boxes of chocolates are good to go with them if you need to add a gift on short notice!

Image: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

More in our series on Christmas:
Part 1 – Early preparation, music and the tree
Part 3 – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Part 4 – Christmas Dinner and other food

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