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Online Overseas Dating and Gift Giving


While less than a generation ago very few people had even heard of it, today it is impossible for most people to even imagine a world without the Internet. The fact is that, with very few exceptions, the Internet touches (or has the potential to touch) virtually every facet of our lives and has become an irreplaceable tool which is used by both businesses and average people alike. In just a relatively few years, the Internet has opened up the globe and broken down the barriers that separated people creating both a global market and a global community. One of the more recent additions to this global community is the online overseas dating community.

It is no exaggeration to say that literally tens of millions of people across the globe are – or have been – involved in online dating. Whether the aim is to simply find a cyber-companion to wile away lonely hours with or to find that perfect someone to spend the rest of their life with, online dating and relationship building is a reality of the Internet that is growing rapidly and here to stay. To give just one example, Online Dating Magazine estimated in 2007 that over 20 million people visit at least one online dating site once a month and that over 120,000 marriages occur each year as a direct result of online dating.

One of the growing trends in the online dating world is international dating. No longer constrained by proximity or hampered by the extraordinary costs of overseas telephone calling, Internet dating has opened virtually the entire world up to single men and women looking for both online companionship and life partners. While virtually impossible just a few years ago, it is now almost commonplace for a woman in Paris to form a meaningful relationship with a man in Brazil, or for a man in Philadelphia to fall in love with a woman in Moscow. International online dating services are available which cater to every preference and combination imaginable and anyone interested in meeting people from a specific country can usually find what they are looking for with a simple Google search (i.e. Chinese Dating, Russian Dating, etc.).

As amazing and successful as the Internet has become at bringing people from different countries together, however, it does have its limitations. Communication is certainly simple, live streaming video and audio is commonplace – but it is still all directly connected to a computer. While this is certainly enough for some people, many others – particularly if an online relationship has progressed to a more serious stage – are looking to take things to a more tangible level. In most cases, just as with non-online relationships, this starts with gift giving. Whether for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthday, anniversary or “just because”, giving gifts is an essential part of building any relationship.

Whether dealing with something as simple as sending a dozen roses or giving a more complex, more expensive gift, international gift giving can be a very challenging thing for people who have never done it before. Though we constantly hear about how the world has “gotten smaller” in recent years, and how we are living in a time of “global community”, the distances between locations are the same as they ever were. It takes time for things to get from point A to point B, shipping costs vary greatly when shipping items internationally, tariffs and customs taxes may need to be considered, and some countries actually prohibit certain items being shipped internationally to their citizens. Here are a few things you will want to consider when you are planning on sending that certain someone overseas a gift.

* Buying Locally vs. Shipping Internationally – Though most of us have gotten used to the idea of shopping online, when it comes to gift giving this is not always the case. In many cases – particularly when it comes to giving gifts to those we are becoming romantically involved with – there is a lingering belief that for the gift to be personal we need to find it in a brick-and-mortar shop, hold it and wrap it ourselves, and send it off to the one we love. Romantic, to be sure – but not always practical. Let’s take our above example of the man in Philadelphia who has been dating a woman in Moscow online. Our gentleman wants to buy the woman a gift for her birthday, and has a budget of $200. Shopping at his local mall, he finds the perfect thing for her, buys it, wraps it, and takes it to UPS to ship it. The package weighs five pounds, and he wants to ship it as cheaply as possible. The good news is that, for most addresses in Moscow, delivery time will be 5 to 7 working days. The bad news is the cheapest he can get it there for will be $247.50 – over twice his original budget.

When it comes to international gift giving, unless you have an unlimited budget (and who really has that these days) it is usually better and certainly more cost effective for you to shop in the country in which the person you are shopping for resides online. The most effective way to do this is to simply ask the person you are involved with what local stores he or she prefers, and then do business with them directly (you will find a surprising number of stores all over the world have websites – most of them with an option for English). While this does tend to take the element of surprise out of your gift giving, it is a simple way to save both time and money.

* Shopping Through The Dating Service – For those who really want the element of surprise in their gift giving (or for those who have found a dating service that they trust completely) sending gifts using the service is a second, usually cost effective, option for international gift giving. The increase in the popularity of online dating has caused many of the international dating services to provide options for ordering flowers and gifts directly through the service – usually at a very nominal charge. These services will have established service contracts in the countries they serve with local merchants and florists. While in many cases the dating services may have a fairly limited selection of gifts they offer on their site, many people find that the security of dealing with a service they already have an established relationship with is worth putting up with the limited selection they may offer. Most services that offer gift giving options will deal directly with the merchants, and charge you through your account with them – eliminating the need for you to give your credit card information to anyone other than the service, who will in all likelihood have it already.

* Scams – Unfortunately, as is the case any time the Internet and money are involved, international gift givers must always be on the lookout for scams, and take whatever precautions they can to avoid them.

1. Patience – Though particularly when starting what could turn out to be a romantic relationship it is normal for most people to want to impress their partner with their generosity, it is advisable to wait for a while before you start giving gifts. Make certain that the person you are “dating” is really who you think they are (using sites which offer verified identities or live streaming video is an excellent way of doing this) and also make certain that they are not just in it for what they can get out of you. The only way you can even start to be certain of this second item is by giving the relationship time, and getting to know as much about your partner as you can. In most cases, scammers will not wait around very long to collect off you, so temper your natural generosity with patience.

2. Cash – Although there are times when cash can be a thoughtful and appreciated gift, it is best to avoid giving cash – at least at first – to international online dating partners. Should a gift of cash be specifically requested by someone you are interested in, red flags should go up immediately and you should consider finding someone else. Virtually all legitimate international online dating services strongly advise against giving cash gifts, and many ask that you report any members who ask for cash.

3. Verification – Even if you think that you can trust the dating service you are using, it is important that when purchasing gifts through either them or the services they utilize that there be some way for you to verify that the gift actually went to the person you were sending it to. This is simple enough to do on your own by simply asking the person you sent the gift to show you a picture of them holding it (or if you use webcam dating have them show it to you during a webcam session). If the individual to whom you sent a gift is either unable or unwilling to do this, it could be an indication of a scam – either on the part of the service or on the part of the person.

Gift giving is an important, and fun, part of any budding relationship – whether that relationship is with the boy next door or a girl halfway around the world. Particularly in the area of international gift giving, if you temper your natural generosity and passion with just a little common sense and caution, your perfect gift could help you on your way to the perfect international relationship.

tim zelmer is the public relations manager for http://www.dream-marriage.com, one of the largest marriage and dating services for men seeking relationships with russian women on the internet. the company has offices in the usa, russia, ukraine, and other countries, and over 120 partners worldwide.

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Listed: January 15, 2009 8:08 am