Having lived in three countries and a half-dozen cities, I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to discover different cultures and lifestyles. As well as opening my mind, this has opened my wallet to different and unique shopping opportunities.
It used to be a source of incredible excitement and pride to buy whatever you couldn't get at home - wherever that may be. I remember on a school trip to New York City, I once bought a pair of fingerless gloves (ala '80s Madonna) from Bloomingdales and then gloated all the way back to New Jersey. Similarly, on my first trip to London I rehearsed in my head how I would tell friends about the cool bracelet I bought on Portobello Road, and I could hardly contain my zeal when I returned from somewhere in possession of items with any sort of foreign language written on them. This included cosmetics from Marionnaud, France or a t-shirt in Portugese from a market in Madeira.
Then came the internet and everything changed. It took a while, but e-commerce has slowly evolved into a plane ticket to all of those places you dreamt of without having to leave home.
In years past, it's been awesome enough to never have to leave the house and elbow through crowds to tick off that Christmas list. With all of the deals on shipping, I've increasingly been able to leave it to the last minute too (thank you, John Lewis!), but now...gasp....I can shop most of the world, blowing wide open the gift giving options.
This year on our site, ShopStyle.co.uk, we have retailers from dozens of countries. Want to grab something from Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom's in the US? Done. How about cool boutiques in Germany such as MyTheresa? France, Sweden, Italy, Canada. Done, done, done.
Global shopping has gone mad, and we are all the beneficiaries this Christmas. A few things to remember: read the fine print and make sure they ship to the country where you reside. Remember that outside of Europe, anything you buy is subject to Customs, Duties and VAT. The great news is that some of the big US retailers on ShopStyle work this into the cost as part of the sale...so you don't skip a beat in receiving. And don't forget to consider the expense of shipping; the further away the shop, the more likely shipping will be a bit more costly. Finally, read the fine print about returns - it's a lot harder returning something to Melbourne, for instance, than Manchester. From there you are good to go and should take advantage of the new breadth that the internet is offering.
Follow Shannon Edwards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/crystalline_uk