U.S. Markets closed

27 Foolproof Gift Ideas for Neighbors, Coworkers, and Other Pseudo-Strangers

Liana Satenstein
1 / 3

27 Foolproof Gift Ideas for Neighbors, Coworkers, and Other Pseudo-Strangers

There’s nothing that says “I don’t know you” like a candle.

25 Foolproof Gift Ideas for Neighbors, Coworkers, and Other Pseudo-Strangers

Photo: Courtesy of NBCUniversal
Rebekah Miles ceramics, price upon request, for information: rebekahmiles.com
Photo: Courtesy of rebekahmiles.com

Ah, stuck with the task of getting a gift for someone you don’t know all that well? It may be the most daunting holiday challenge, more than finding a present for your 25-year anniversary with a spouse or for a picky teenager. For example, what do you get your coworker, the friendly one whom you admire and run into en route to the bathroom once a day? Or your just moved-in, very sweet neighbors with the sick, yowling cat? (Or is that a crying baby? After all, you really don’t know them.) Maybe you have to figure out the right tchotchke for a relatively new boyfriend’s parents whom you’ll soon meet at a holiday party for the first time.

For those truly delving into the unknown of gift giving, sticking to the basics will work in your favor. Think: kind gestures that are nonaggressive, noncommittal, and sans heavy emotions. For instance, try a pack of chicly wrapped soaps because, well, they are pretty and smell nice. (And hopefully, the recipient washes his hands from time to time.) Also, you can’t go wrong with tableware. Most people use plates and cups. Spice up their cupboard with Rebekah Miles’s ceramic cups or Botticelli’s pretty plate.

Dare to go to the next level when it comes to gifting a stranger? That calls for being a bit more thoughtful and attentive. Maybe your charming desk-mate is on a health kick? If you’re feeling extra-generous, buy her a juicer. What if she has several candles near her computer? Try a chic candle snuffer from Aerin. And when all else fails? Everyone loves—and, of course, needs—good socks.

See the videos.