We all know it is better to give than to receive - but that does not make shopping for the perfect gift any less of a chore: what to buy? How much to spend? Will they like it? Throw in gender and the shopping headache becomes infinitely more painful. For men, shopping is typically a drag. For women, it's more likely a joy to be savoured. How does the difference in male and female values and shopping styles affect perceptions of presents? Hazel and Simon Parry recount how they grappled with the task of buying for each other, their hits and misses, and how they rate the gifts they have received from each other. Hazel's story After 12 years of marriage, you would think I know Simon well. I do, except for when it comes to choosing presents. As a result, it can take me days, weeks even, to choose an appropriate gift - and even then the chances of getting it right are slim. What I do know is there are things I should not attempt to buy him, and which are a real waste of money: clothes, jewellery and watches. There is also nothing metrosexual about him. Grooming products, man bags and expensive cologne are just not his thing. But gadgets, books and anything to do with Liverpool Football Club are a safe bet. Armed with this knowledge, you would think choosing a present would be easy. Not so. Take, for example, buying him an iPod. What colour? How many gigabytes? Should I get it engraved? What with? Simon often produces very thoughtful gifts: a specially bound wedding album for our 10th anniversary and a surprise trip to my dream place on my 40th birthday. He also has taste in handbags and clothes, and chooses the right colours. Where he fails is size. Maybe it is because, in his eyes, I am still the slim, young girl I was when we first met. I'd like to think so, anyway. Simon's presents Perfect: Engagement ring Hazel says: It was Christmas Eve, 1997. We were on a moonlit beach on Koh Lanta, Thailand, listening to BBC Christmas carols on an FM radio. It was then that Simon produced my Christmas present: a silver ring with a gecko engraved on it. It was obviously inexpensive, mass-produced for tourists and perfect. It came with the wedding proposal, which you can't put a value on. He later replaced that cheap silver ring with a gold-and-sapphire one, but to be honest, that silver one is worth far more to me. Simon says: It is the best HK$50 I have ever spent, chosen on a quick trip to the shops while Hazel was having a swim. Disaster: Kettler exercise bike Hazel Says: Of all the presents Simon has bought me, this one has brought me the most grief. It's not that I didn't appreciate the gesture. In fact, I encouraged it. 'Buy me some exercise equipment,' I had told him in one of those moments when I was overcome with a wave of good intention to get fit. It was a great success - initially. I would ride that bike every day; but then one day, disillusioned that I still weighed the same, I stopped. Now it just sits there in the far corner of the bedroom draped with the odd piece of clothing like an old hatstand. It is the first thing I usually see when I open my eyes, staring at me accusingly. Simon says: Choosing a present that does not offend your wife can be a minefield. Anything that suggests she needs more exercise or that she should spend more time in the kitchen or learn to cook something different runs the risk of being horribly misinterpreted. I was pleasantly surprised at Hazel's reaction to the exercise bike and went on to buy her a rowing machine and a step machine for future Christmases. All too soon, they became rusting obstacles to bang my shins on as I navigate the bedroom at nighttime. Simon's story Children are easy. Parents, sisters, brothers-in-law are relatively easy. Wives, though, are incredibly difficult to choose the right gift for. Hazel's problem is that she is annoyingly selfless when it comes to personal possessions. While I always have a huge list of shiny new things I covet - iPods, CDs, books, laptops, camera parts - and shamelessly drop hints about them for months in the run-up to Christmas, Hazel is the opposite. Ask her what she wants and the answers she gives are about as much use as a pair of swimming trunks in Lapland. 'Just get me something nice,' she will say in response to the umpteenth plea for a clue on what to buy. 'Make it a surprise,' or worse still, 'I could do with some new clothes.' Now imagine going out in Hong Kong and finding a dress in the right style and size compared to ordering the latest iPod online and you know why the potential for Christmas shopping disasters is immeasurably greater for men than it is for women. Ironically, the present-buying process itself for me is incredibly fast. Into the shop. Out of the shop. Job done. But the pondering-what-she-wants process can begin in early September and drag on until late after dark on Christmas Eve - and because of that reassuring, selfless smile I always get on December 25 when I hand Hazel her present, I'm never quite sure if I've got it right. Hazel's presents Perfect: iPod Simon says: Perfect in every way - and it even came with headphones to shut out the din of the children on Christmas morning. This very first iPod was probably the best Christmas present I had been given since I got an Alba tape recorder at the age of 12 and used it to do covert recordings of my older sisters gossiping about boyfriends in their bedroom. Hazel says: It was one of the easiest and most successful presents I have ever bought him. Though it has not been so satisfying for me. It was the first model Apple brought out and as such was a real gadget lover's dream. He loved it, of course, and that was the problem. He loved it too much. When he wasn't showing it off, he was listening to it - and not me. It was his new love, the other 'woman' in his life and I felt rejected. Over the last few years, I have come to accept this other woman in our life and I take comfort in the fact that he has replaced that first model with two younger, more modern ones since. Thankfully, the same is not true of me. Disaster: A French Connection shirt Simon says: Men's shirts are a very personal thing. You don't go out looking for them - they find you and the moment you spot the right shirt in the shop window, you know you have to buy it. The male shirt-buying process is a mating ritual and no one else should intrude. Having someone buy a shirt for you is like being sent on a blind date, and almost invariably leads to disaster. Hazel says: I have no idea what Simon likes when it comes to clothes. He likes striped shirts, but it has to be the right stripes and the right colour. I suspect I have bought him countless items he has hated. On this occasion, I thought I had got it right. It took me ages to choose, as I had to pop into several stores to make sure it really was the best one. I immediately knew I had got it wrong when I saw the look of amusement on his face when he opened it. So I've given up on buying him clothes.