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Present Perfect!

A global guide to the gifts you should give this holiday season... and, if you're lucky, the ones you'll receive.

Author Adam K. Raymond Photography John Lawton

It’s not easy to tell you this, but you’re a bad gift giver. Remember that time you gave your sister an electric egg scrambler? The good news is you’re not alone. Most everyone is terrible at giving gifts. Sure, there are exceptions. Some people strategize in July, shop in September, and in December, when the rest of us are lacing up our cross trainers for a sprint through the local mall, they’ve got it all wrapped up. For people who can admit their weakness, there are gift guides, attempts by the knowledgeable to recommend presents that could defy the odds and spark a genuine “Thank you.” That’s what this is-with a twist. These gifts span the globe, and each is tied to the place it comes from. In the end, our hope is that you give your loved ones something they couldn’t get at the mall, something with a story. Which means no more egg scramblers-please.

UNITED KINGDOM

THEY BUILT THIS CITY When the toy company Hamleys set out to create London in a Bag they had two choices: shrink the city or create a really huge bag. Wisely, they chose the former. / $21 / www.culturelabel.com

1 USA

FACE IT / Samsung has finally released a digital camera with the U.S. in mind. Recognizing Americans’ penchant for turning the camera on themselves, they’ve put a screen on the front, allowing some accuracy with that vanity. / $350 / www.samsung.com

2 DENMARK

TIME’S UP / In 1971, Arne Jacobsen, father of the modern Danish aesthetic, designed this clock for the Danish National Bank. Now he’d love to see it on your wall. / $370 / www.ameico.com

3 AUSTRALIA

AW, NUTS! / The macadamia shell has long existed in the shadow of the tasty nut that resides within. No longer, as the Husque bowl, made from ground shells and polymer, gives the outer layer its due. / $200 / www.productswithstyle.com

4 USA

NERVE CENTER / Two MIT graduates started N-E-R-V-O-U-S “to explore a design approach that relates process and form in a context of interactivity and openness.” Of course, you don’t have to understand that bit to enjoy their necklaces. / $75 / www.n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com

5 TAIWAN

OM / These salt and pepper shakers impart a zen-like effect on your kitchen. So the next time you spill something, you won’t even care. / $32 / www.sfmoma.stores.yahoo.net

6 SWEDEN

RED PHONE / Land lines are on the way out, and we’re not pretending otherwise. But if anything’s capable of reversing that trend, it’s the ScandiPhone. / $65 / www.sfmoma.stores.yahoo.net

7 SWITZERLAND

IN THE RED / With four drivers and a 100-watt amplifier inside an eye-popping red exterior, this Geneva sound system (with CD player, iPod dock, FM radio) sounds just as good as it looks. And it looks spectacular. / $980 / www.genevasound.com

8 FINLAND

TURN IT ON / With just a cord, socket and bulb, this E27 Pendant light from Finland deconstructs the lamp to its core elements. It’s quite a turn-on. / $85 / www.dwr.com

1 FRANCE

JUST SAY SNOW / These superversatile Rossignol skis can handle packed snow and fluffy powder. Don’t be fooled by the fashionable design-they’re not for the dance floor. / $800 / www.backcountry.com

2 SWITZERLAND

ON WATCH / This Franc Vila timepiece is big, heavy and full of delicate moving parts, just like the man who’d love to receive it. / $25,000 / www.francvila.com

3 SWEDEN

SCREEN TEST / Texting and driving is never okay. Not even with the Xperia Pureness and its completely transparent screen. / $33 / www.sonyericsson.com

4 NETHERLANDS

GOLD SOUNDS / With all the attention given to high-definition picture quality, plasma, LCD, etc., television sound has fallen by the wayside. Philips’ latest soundbar corrects that. / $300 / www.philips.com

5 GERMANY

PEN AT WORK / With no ink to run out and no lead to break off, the Beta Inkless Pen will last a lifetime. As long as you don’t lose it. / $28 / www.jzpen.com

6 SOUTH KOREA

CURVE APPEAL / South Korean company Cowon sees no reason why Apple should be alone in emphasizing design. And its aptly named media player, the S9 Curve, performs even better than it looks. / $263 / www.amazon.com

7 USA

EAR SUPPLY / It’s not enough that Dr. Dre is one of the greatest rappers and music producers of all time-but now he’s released a pair of world-class headphones. / $300 / www.beatsbydre.com

1 USA

PADDLE POWER / Used to be that only 12-foot-tall men could carry kayaks on their backs. Then Folbot and its completely collapsible kayak came along and changed the game. / $1,200 / www.folbot.com

2 NETHERLANDS

HOUSE OF CARDBOARD Designed by a Dutch couple in their “test lab of imagination,” the MobileHome is easy to put together, easy to carry and easy to look at. / $39 / www.hipfromholland.com

3 KENYA

WILD BUNCH / This logic game uses pieces handcarved in Kenya and handpainted in Germany, making a truly international game. Take that, Risk. / $190 / www.ameico.com

4 MEXICO

HEAD LOCK / Don’t let these piggy banks from Mexican designers DFC scare you: These wrestlers are tecnicos (those are the good guys). / $55 / www.dfcasa.com

5 USA

BOARD SILLY / These skateboard decks might be a little too pretty to actually skateboard on. Better to just hang them on the wall and admire. / $400 / www.testcollective.com

6 GERMANY

WHEELS UP / In 2000, German shipping-pallet company Sirch decided to start producing toys. The result: the Flix Push Car, which is made of molded ash plywood and is pretty much the BMW of kiddie cars. / $190 / www.ameico.com

7 JAPAN

THE MASK / Generally it’s hard to get excited about tape, but tape generally doesn’t look like this. Made from Japanese washi paper, this sticky stuff isn’t for the outside of gifts, it’s the gift itself. / $12 for a set of 3 / www.dwr.com

1 JAPAN

CHOP CHOP / This Miyabi knife from Zwilling J.A. Henckels is made of 32 layers of steel wrapped around a core of CMV60 steel. Translation: It’s really sharp. / $100 / www.cutleryandmore.com

2 FRANCE

BOOZE BROTHERS / It was almost 500 years ago that monks in France created Bénédictine, an herbal liqueur. The recipe is still a closely guarded secret, and those monks aren’t talking. / $27 / www.wineanthology.com

3 USA

GIMME SOME SKIN / This cowhide and tanned leather iPod sleeve from Florida company Southern Brand allows country boys to carry fancy gizmos without looking like city folk. / $29/ www.southernbrand.com

4 HAITI

BOWLED OVER / Hand carved from obeechi wood in Haiti, this bowl and servers won’t make your salad taste any better. But it’ll sure look delicious. / $175 / www.tenthousandvillages.com

5 ARGENTINA

KNIFE SKILLS / This “alpaca” steel and deer horn carving set goes perfectly with traditional Argentine grub straight off the parilla. / $365 / www.calypso-celle.com

6 JAPAN

BEAT BOX / Twenty years from now, when teenagers are making weird music of a not-yetinvented genre, it will be with the Tenori-On, a Japanese instrument with a 16-by-16 LEDbutton visual musical interface. And it will rock. / $1,000 / www.tenori-onusa.com

7 BELGIUM

WHAT A CROCK / Demeyere’s Atlantis sauté pan is constructed from seven-ply material combining silver, stainless steel and solid copper, all hermetically sealed in its base. It’s almost a shame to put food in it. / $302 / www.bloomingdales.com

1 GUATEMALA

HANG OUT / Naps are always nice, but naps in a handwoven Guatemalan hammock are so much better. / $135 / www.tenthousandvillages.com

2 USA

HEART FELT / If you think felt is worthy only of kids and glue-sticks, allow this tote from L.A.-based designers Gräf & Lantz to change your mind. / $180 / www.graf-lantz.com

3 LEBANON

IN THE CLUTCH / Egyptian pop icon Umm Kulthum didn’t have blue hair, as this purse depicts. But no one buys bags for their historical accuracy. / $90 / www.diadiwan.com

4 NETHERLANDS

OVER THE TOP / Rather than give the Mini 110 a bland silvery sheen, HP sent its newest notebook off to Dutch designer Tord Boontje. He sent it back with subtle flowers and animals on the shell, specifically for “the environmentally conscious women.” Finally. / $400 / www.hp.com

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