Dark nights, messy pavements, disinterested shop assistants, rude shoppers, phoney Yuletide messages and music.
As somebody said in a different context: "My dear, the noise... and the people!"
So we thought we would suggest something different for this year. Christmas shopping - over a single weekend - in the shoppers' paradise of Hong Kong. But it does need a day off work. That's right, just one day.
We have put together a special package - exclusively for readers of Open Eye - to do just that. We have negotiated with the travel trade and cajoled and concocted a trip that, bared down and pared down to the basics (four- star basics, that is), starts at only pounds 395. And it is available from next weekend until the middle of December.
Included in the deal are two nights (Friday and Saturday) at the four- star Kimberley Hotel in the heart of Kowloon's Tsimshatsui shopping and entertainment district.
You fly back around midnight on Sunday, arrive early enough on Monday for most people to go to work. Jet-lag? In my experience of quick turn- around travel, it usually just cancels itself out on the journey back.
It is an ideal opportunity not only to shop in one of the world's best market-places, but also to discover what changes have been made to the former colony since the handover. But that sounds like education, and I was talking shopping.
A weekend is more than enough to have a suit made, and to stock up with a lifetime's supply of shirts.
While the tailors are exercising their skills there's plenty of time to discover the amazing department stores, markets, boutiques and bazaars selling top brand designer items at astonishing prices which have plunged along with Asia's currencies.
At this time of year the famous waterfront is ablaze with festive lights. Then of course there's the food: Hong Kong is the modern home of Cantonese cuisine and - depending on which source you believe - there are 9,000, 17,000 or 32,000 eating places from which to choose - and here's another attraction: you will not be forced to eat turkey in any of them.
Travel is by scheduled flight on Cathay Pacific, the airline most familiar with flying into Hong Kong, leaving Heathrow late enough on Thursday for many people to get there after a day's work, and returning early enough on Monday for many to go straight to work!
No, you weren't dreaming: Friday may be the only day you need take as a day off.
The price is based on room-only accommodation for two people sharing a room, but excludes transfers, airport taxes and insurance.
Both the Hong Kong package and the Bruges/Ostend break detailed below are ABTA-bonded and arranged through Travel Renaissance. For more information, and to make a booking, please ring 01372 744455.
For the graduate who has everything
READERS who simply cannot face the prospect of travelling further than their armchair in the run-up to the New Year can solve the problem of what to give to the OU-graduate-who-has-everything by contacting the Students Association shop by telephone.
There's a terrific choice of glassware, all engraved with the OU coat of arms, to which can be added your name and year of graduation.
A crystal decanter, for example, costs only pounds 39.00, while cut crystal wine glasses are pounds 26.00 for a pair (or pounds 14.00 each). Cut crystal whisky tumblers and half-litre glass tankards are also only pounds 14.00 each. Personalisation costs a mere pounds 5.50 per item.
It seems a splendid way to celebrate the festivities and prepare for the millennium (see Letters Page for date of this momentous event) in style. Perhaps even putting the beautiful glassware around some of the cross-Channel duty-free.
More information, including a catalogue detailing the many other gifts available to commemorate your time with the OU, is available via the OUSA credit card hotline which operates a 24-hour answerphone and can be contacted on 01908 653693.
CLOSER TO home, you could explore the delights of Bruges and Ostend while loading up your car with duty-free delights. This could be one of your last opportunities to do this, because the EU wants to axe duty-free perks. This exclusive package starts at pounds 59 per person, based on a car and four people crossing with Hoverspeed and spending two nights with breakfast in a two-star hotel in Ostend. Bruges packages are from pounds 79, and extra nights in both cities are from just pounds 20.
This great value break offers the chance to relax and explore the European culture and maybe experiment with the language across the Channel.
But for those whose idea of a break is more closely related to retail therapy, Hoverspeed's on-board supermarkets can save hundred of pounds on stocking up for the festive season. They charge, for example, only pounds 10.50 for a bottle of gin, compared to pounds 16.50 in the UK; pounds 14.99 for a litre of Cognac (pounds 26.00) and pounds 16.50 for 200 cigarettes (pounds 33 at home).Reuse content