Visiting Friends – To Gift or Not to Gift?

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Visiting old friends is one of the great joys of life as we age.  Whether you are getting together for a day of action or simply plan to sit and reminisce, the visit is sure to pack a heavy dose of nostalgia.  While getting together is it’s own reward, bringing along a gift or two can help set the tone for a fun time.  Is this really necessary?  Probably not.  But, then again, maybe it is.  It really depends on the situation.


Time of year

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the time of year.  If you are visiting near the holidays, it can definitely be a good idea to bring a gift.  This can be helpful in avoiding the awkward situation where they give something to you, and you have nothing to offer in return.  The reverse situation is not so awkward – if you get something for them and they don’t reciprocate, they are still the ones hosting you.  That means you will likely be eating their food, drinking their beverages and so on.  On that note, the gift that you bring doesn’t have to be a big ticket item.  A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates will do the trick.

Oh, and if you happen to be visiting close to your friend’s birthday, and you actually remember this fact, you’re three steps ahead of the rest of us.  Bring something along to show them you remembered, and they will be touched for sure.

How long are you visiting?

The trouble with house guests, Ben Franklin once famously remarked, is that, like fish, they begin to smell after three days.  This little gem is worth keeping in mind when planning a visit to begin with.  If you are planning to catch up for a few hours and be on your way, you can get away without bringing anything.  On the other hand, if you are staying the night or for several nights, a gift can be a nice way to say “thank you” in advance.  You might even save your present for day #2 or #3 when some form of tension inevitably arises.  This is particularly true if you are bringing guests of your own (i.e. spouse & kids).

A significant other or kid(s) change the dynamic entirely

If your friend has gotten married or has a child or three, then getting gifts for family members can be a great way to warm up the room.  Has your friend’s significant other always been a little stand offish?  Let’s see if they stay that way after you present them with a token of your fondness for them.

Kids on the other hand are an easy audience.  They love to get presents, and if you get something for them, their parents appreciate the gesture almost as much as the kids do.  As an added bonus, if you get toys for the kids, it will keep them entertained while you shoot the breeze with their parents.

The right gift for the right moment

Sometimes a visit is super casual. Maybe the plan is to sit around the living room holding a bull session, and if you get ambitious splitting a pot of coffee.  But, if you have something more planned, perhaps it’s an opportunity for a gift tailored to the occasion.  Getting together for a round of golf?  Perhaps a new golf glove or a box of golf balls is in order.  Planning on blowing it out with a big feast?  Bring a bottle of wine, dessert or an hors d’oeuvre.

Less is more

Unless there is a very good reason to go big, small things are best in these situations.  If you go all out and break the bank, it might create a strange dynamic when your friend has nothing to offer in return.  On the other hand, if you go small and they go big, at least you are both exchanging something.  When in doubt, go with something edible!