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DH going to Europe

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monarch64

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on vacation to Amsterdam, Belgium, and Germany with a good friend...probably Brussels and Brugge (sp?)...what should he shop for as far as a gift for moi?

The trip won''t happen until next fall, however, he''s asked me what I would want him to bring back home for me, and I have no idea. He made mention of a stop by or through Antwerp (but he doesn''t have a trained eye as far as diamonds), and Cologne, Germany (?) I would really love to have a Louis Vuitton handbag for a Christmas gift next year, but I know that there really aren''t "good deals" in Europe as far as LV''s go, right? He has said he''s thinking of getting us matching watches from overseas but really has no idea what to look for, and also he might like to get me a handmade handbag that no one would ever recognize (as far as designer labels) here for a good price...what do I ask for?

I''ve been to Mexico and Jamaica with him, but I''ve not been to Europe and honestly have no idea what direction to steer him in as far as a great gift! Help!

(They are not stopping in France at all, if that helps. More Amsterdam, beer/marijuana thing/Germany/history, etc.)
 

Larissa

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With the way that the American dollar is in tatters, I'm not sure that anything will be a "good deal" in Europe. The current exchange rate is 1:1.3. Also, there isn't much in Europe that you can't get in the US. My family was thrilled to come over for our wedding, but quickly realised that everything is expensive and not much different. Prauge was a good place for the most off-the-wall things, but most of Westernized Europe is pretty same-old, same-old as far as shopping as far as I can tell.

Munich has a couple of nice leather stores, but I don't recall the shopping being great in Berlin - although there is a really huge Starbucks which I admired on a daily basis. I've never been to Cologne.
 

starryeyed

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Hi Monarch64. Gifts from Europe, hooray!!

It's too bad you aren't going with him! The Europeans are far more fashion-forward than we are. We have the Gap and Banana Republic - stamped out, mass produced utilitarian clothes made in China - whereas they have Italian fashion, Spanish shoes, etc. Unfortunately, he'd be taking a guess about size.

I guess I would want something where there wasn't a lot of size risk. No square scarves either - I don't care if they are Ferragamo, Hermes, or what - I never wear them. Now an oblong scarf for your shoulders or a small neck scarf from one of those fab European designers would be great.

I'd also take leather goods or textiles, maybe even a Belgian tapestry. What's great is that he can get the VAT back, which helps to defray the FX.
 

monarch64

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Thanks for your replies, Larissa and Starryeyed!

Starryeyed, could you explain what VAT and FX are? I''ve never been to Europe, only Mexico and Jamaica, and really know nothing about declaring things or getting through customs with goods purchased overseas...

DH is wanting to add to his watch collection, he''s been wearing Tags and has gotten me one, but wondered if he found a beautiful timepiece in Europe if I would like the matching ladies'' one. I think I''d be just fine with that, lol!

Oh, and he did say they''re going to Antwerp and wanted to know if he should look for diamonds there (I''d love some studs of diamond hoops) but he does not have a trained eye nor a smidgeon of the knowledge I have as far as diamonds and i''m worried he''ll get taken to the cleaners.
 

Larissa

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VAT = Value Added Tax. In England it''s a 17.5% included-in-the-price tax on goods, but the VAT amount differs slightly in each EU country. It helps to pay for just about everything that we have that Americans don''t...like the National Health Service (NHS in England).

From what I remember from when we were dating you can claim VAT back as you aren''t a EU resident, but doing so is pretty tricky. You pay full price, including VAT, at the store, but ask for a receipt. Depending on the store you may ask for the form to claim back VAT there...I know the airports I''ve been through have never seemed to have them on hand so if the store doesn''t have them, I have no clue where to find them.

In order to claim VAT back you must carry-on the items when travelling, have your receipts, and the necessary form. That''s as far as I''ve ever gotten because they make it so tricky and I always forget and put at least one of those three things in my checked lugage rather than my carry-on. I have no idea how they actually re-issue the money as it would have been claimed in a foreign currency.

Basic explanation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_added_taxhttp://www.ascotdrummond.co.uk/resources/library/vatintro.asp

If you google it you should be able to find out more detailed info on how exactly the claiming it back process works!!
 

starryeyed

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FX = Foreign Exchange Rate

Larissa gave you a great explanation of the VAT. In terms of the logistics of actually getting your money back, here''s the general procedure. The VAT refund form has instructions also.

1. Buy item from store that participates in VAT refunds. Most stores that regularly deal with tourists, have the forms. Smaller Mom & Pop stores can be more difficult, and forget street vendors. You will need to ask for the form and it will add 15 minutes to your transaction.

2. When filling out the VAT refund form in the store, you will need to give your passport number, so bring the number with you. Because of pick-pockets it''s not a good idea to carry your passport with you.

3. When you fly out of the EU, allow an extra 45 minutes or so at the airport to process the VAT refund.

4. You can get a refund on items in your checked luggage, but it''s a process. First get your boarding pass and let the airline rep at the ticket counter know you need to get a VAT refund on stuff in your luggage that you are planning to check. Do not check your luggage at the ticket counter.

5. Go the the VAT refund/inspection area. The lines/wait times can vary. You will need to show the inspector your passport, your boarding pass, and the merchandise you purchased. He/she will stamp your refund form (s).

6. The next step differs from airport to airport. You will need to get the refund and check your luggage. In some airports, you go to another desk (pre-security) and they will issue a credit your your credit card and take your luggage. In other airports, you have to drop your luggage back at the ticket counter and go to a VAT refund desk after security. You can get cash at these post-security desks, but they have very poor FX rates. A credit to your credit card is better.

7. You can also carry your item (s) with you, which makes the whole process a little easier.

8. Keep in mind that technically you are suppose to declare your foreign purchases and pay US customs duty on anything over (I believe the new limit is) $800. Customs has the right to search your belongings, so VAT refund forms and receipts can be incriminating if you fail to declare a purchase.

I bought a watch in Europe, but the big draw for me was that the style was not yet available in the US. The price was not that different after converting to dollars and accounting for customs. You can get great deals in the US on watches, so if price is your motive, I don''t think it''s worth the VAT/Customs hassle.

Regarding diamonds in Antwerp, I haven''t been, but I would assume you need to know what you''re looking at to really understand if you are getting a good deal. I don''t think Antwerp would be any different than going to 47th Street. There are probably reputable dealers and not-so-reputable ones too.

I hope you get a fun gift!
 

monarch64

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Wow, very interesting and informative! Thank you both so much for taking the time to explain those terms. I will certainly share the info with DH.
 

winternight

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Louis Vuitton is definitely cheaper in France, but I don''t know about the countries your husband is visiting. Maybe you can search bags you like on their european site (in euros) and see what the equivalent bag would cost in dollars - you should also get VAT back on that purchase. It might be cheaper in Europe and besides if that''s what you really want just ask for that. Try asking the girls re. LV on the purseforum blog in the LV thread - they''ll know if things are cheaper in Europe.

I''ve shopped in Amsterdamn & Belgium (Antwerp actually) and frankly its better for home items or fashion forward items - think modern slightly ''goth'' designers Birk Brikenberg, Anne Demuelster, etc. (my spelling on these names is surely off). For home items I remember lots of cute cups, pens, salt and pepper grinders, little housewares, fabulous chairs and furniture, etc. I think it would be very difficult to have your husband figure out what to buy you there unless your style is pretty modern. If it was me I think I''d just pick out a couple of things from a designer I liked and ask for one of those. Don''t forget that he won''t be able to return anything.

You can also check out which duty free shops he''ll be seeing in his airport - you don''t have to fill out a VAT refund form, you just get the duty free. I just flew out of Rome and got a good deal on an item from Hermes. Of course he''d have to have an idea of what you wanted. In Rome there was a Gucci, Loro Piana, Prada, Hermes, and some other stores. They don''t carry everything in those stores though and not even everything in the current season. Honestly I didn''t really see much in the way of handbags when I was in Rome and Paris recently in terms of no name ones that were well made - well made ones by Goyard, Vuitton, Gucci, etc. sure they were around. Also lots of Longchamp totes in Paris.

If you decide you want a LV bag, I would just print out a 1, 2, and 3rd choice, along with directions to the LV store for your hubby - but that''s just me.


Hope you get something that you love!
 

Independent Gal

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The cheapest place in the world to buy (genuine) luxury goods is Italy, but it looks like hubby isn''t going there? What a shame! So, I think you should grab a friend and up and go YOURSELF!


BTW, in case any of the rest of you is going to Italy in the near future and thinking ''shopping!'' in addition to just generally being less expensive (particularly for homegrown stuff like ''Furla'' and ''Max Mara''... which are like half the price in the high street shops of what they cost in the US) Italy also has a lot of amazing factory stores and outlets. The Prada factory store in particular is like heaven... It''s huge and stuff costs between 10% and 50% of what it does in the states. Think leather Prada bags for about $200-300. Shoes for $50. Blouses for $80. It''s about half way between Florence and Rome. I can look up the name of the town if anyone''s interested.
 

monarch64

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Thanks for the tips, winternight and independent gal!

Winternight, Dh isn''t going to France at all, unfortunately. He said he''s saving that for when he and I go to Europe together, which I thought was very nice of him, plus he was like "what are two guys going to do together in France? It might be weird!" LOL. We live 13 miles from downtown Chicago, and I think it would be easier for him to just buy an LV here and have a less complicated experience...I do NOT want to turn him off of buying expensive handbags, you know?


Honestly, the idea of the duty free shops in whatever airport he flies out of sound like a promising idea. I would have no problem with a nice Hermes scarf (yes, an oblong shape starryeyed, hee hee), or something like that. I have a ton of nice wool scarves but nothing in silk and definitely nothing so luxurious, plus it would be easy for him to get it into his carry on and be done with it...so I will check into that more.

IndependentGal, I would love nothing more than to take my best friend to Italy (she''s 1/2 Italian), and do a girls'' trip. I am at that age though where most of my close friends have either just had babies or are pregnant...I would even entertain the idea of going by myself but I think I''d rather share it with someone. But you have sparked a little something in the back of my brain now--life is short and maybe I need to make the girl trip happen before too much more time passes, babies or no babies. Maybe I could even tell DH instead of bringing back a gift for me, he could put some money into a new savings account to fund a future trip? Hmmm...
 

Larissa

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I 3rd Italy!! It''s the only place I''ve been in Europe where I feel I could have stocked up on fashion forward clothes for cheaper than I could have done in the States. Not to mention the vast qualities of random leather goods in the softest, most colourful leather I''ve ever seen.

Until Winternight mentioned it, I forgot all about the great home stuff in Germany & Austria. Now that''s where to get funky can-openers and fruit bowls that look nothing like you''d expect. They''re like something out of design school.
 

gail013

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I have found some of the best stuff at the dept stores in other countries. You will find everything from handbags to cool kitchen gadgets. If you pick up one of those shopping guides written for whatever countries he will be going to, those will have great ideas for what to buy in the local economy and what they are known for. It depends too on how well he knows your taste. I have never found the designer bags to be any better of a deal than they are at home, given the VAT etc that everyone talks about.

Germany does a beautiful job of decorating storefronts etc for holidays like Easter, and I bought some beautiful holiday candies etc. They also had beautiful ornaments etc.
 

Independent Gal

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Hey Monarch, you should definitely 'Just do it!' International travel isn't as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be. For instance, a flight to Italy in off season (i.e., NOT June-August) only costs about $500-600, and it gets warm and lovely there by April-ish and stays lovely till October or so (depending on the part of the country, of course).

So, it's really only $100 or so more expensive than flying from the east coast to the west coast! And only a few hours further to fly.

ETA: OK, so of course you need a passport, and there's the language thing, and you have to figure out all the little quirks of a place... like that in Italy everything costs double in a cafe if you eat it sitting down instead of standing at the bar... but a good guide book takes care of that! And the language thing nearly never causes a serious problem.

Once you get there, hotels, transport, and food are MUCH less expensive than traveling in the US, particularly if you stay in places with character like guests houses ('pensions') or... my local-colour favourite... convents! And the food is out-of-this-world!

Go go go go go go go! You'll love it! You'll remember it forever! Have an adventure! Live it up! And the whole thing for the price of a nice handbag. Which you can pick up more cheaply while you're there anyway.





It's just that traveling is the best thing EVER! And I'm jealous on your behalf that your hubby gets to go and you don't.
 

monarch64

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Independentgal you''re right, I need to just take the plunge! I think that will be a fun goal for me for the next 1-1.5 yrs, I can set aside some money and plan it out, and who knows maybe someone will want to join me! I do have 4 yrs. of high school French and a year of intermediate Fr. in college under my belt, and I think I could pick up enough Italian on my own to do just fine as far as the language thing. (DH has barely any foreign language skills--every time he travels to Montreal or Toronto I''m always trying to help him with Fr. it''s kind of funny!)

Don''t be jealous on my part--DH and his friend are most excited about the, uh, "coffee" bars in Amsterdam, to be quite honest. They''re also interested in seeing Auschwitz and some war-related things, and I don''t think I would enjoy most of that. I''m more of the romance-seeking, Paris/Spain/Italy type, so really I''m not jealous that DH is going at all since I know he won''t be seeing things without me that I would care so much about. Except maybe the Anne Frank house!
 
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