Suggestions for gifts for host families abroad

<p>My D2 will be doing a semester abroad this fall. She is a rising junior in college. Her program, approved by her school, has students living with host families. It is suggested they bring gifts for the hosts that are local or American in origin. D2 will be living in, or close by to, Geneva, Switzerland.</p>

<p>Ironically, D1 did a semester abroad in Geneva last fall. Different University and different program. She said it was difficult to find maple syrup (or it was very expensive) and impossible to find chocolate chips. We could easily find some good local maple syrup and Hershey chocolate chips.</p>

<p>I thought I'd ask CC folks for suggestions. Items should be easily transportable and fairly inexpensive. They certainly do not have to be food.</p>

<p>Any ideas?</p>

<p>What part of the country are you from? What's regional and not perhaps well known? Local sports teams' hats and shirts pack well, local jams or honey? Local wood-working small desk things, notecards with local photos? As the host parent, I assure you that the gifts are more about giving something interesting instead of the monetary value.</p>

<p>A t-shirt from her college.</p>

<p>We're from the northeast. We live in NY. Her school is in PA. </p>

<p>Love the idea of her college t-shirt. Unfortunately, at this point she does not know people she will be living with--their ages and sex. Hopefully she will learn this in time to order college t-shirts from her school's bookstore.</p>

<p>And we thought of sports stuff. But would they really care about our local sports team? Americans love football and baseball. European's love soccer.</p>

<p>My family has hosted about 15 long term and short term exchange students, and my two children were each exchange students twice, so I have a lot of experience with both giving and receiving host family gifts. Food is always a good choice, but it's also nice to include some small personal items. Some of the best things we've received include: a bottle opener from Brazil with a carved wooden bird for the handle, small pieces of folk art to display, a mug with a famous landmark, and books with photos of the region or country the student comes from. </p>

<p>It's nice to bring a small gift for each member of the family, if possible. If your daughter knows something about her host family, it makes it easier to choose. American team sports logo items like t-shirts and hats are popular, or even key chains. I found small framed original watercolor landscape paintings of famous Oregon sights for around $15-25. A scenic 2011 calender will keep her in their minds for a year after she leaves.</p>

<p>Here's an idea for the chocolate chips. Bring 3-4 bags along. Early on, bake a batch of cookies for the host family. If they love the cookies, she can teach the family how to make them. It's a good bonding experience. Your daughter might want to save a bag of chocolate chips for near the end of the exchange, when the longing for familiar things get strong. </p>

<p>I hope some of this is useful for you.</p>

<p>Here are some host family gift ideas that my son received from his program director when he went abroad:</p>

<ul>
<li><p>Photo album (of your family, college, daily life activities, hometown, etc.) You can add more photos during your time in the program, such as those taken with your host family</p></li>
<li><p>Picture books/photo calendars of the U.S., especially the area in which you live</p></li>
<li><p>Cookbook from your region</p></li>
<li><p>Small college/hometown logo items (pens, mugs, other knick-knacks)</p></li>
</ul>

<p>On the chocolate chip cookie idea...I have put all the ingredients (except eggs and butter) measured in a Ziploc for cookies. Then your daughter only needs to add the butter eggs and chips to make cookies. She might also take a set of measuring cups and a favorite cookbook or a few recipes for things she likes or she would like to share.</p>

<p>I found some great one-handed wooden salad tongs at a craft fair (they are hinged and flip around). You might be able to find them on-line. They are American made and take up very little space. I think they cost about $15. They were a huge hit in Japan and I sent them to Germany as well.</p>

<p>Our towels are a little larger and a little thicker than what Europeans often use. And this is a bit goofy, but our German friends liked mint dental floss although it may be available in there now. Our peanut butter is better too.</p>

<p>PLEASE do not bring Hershey chocolate chips to people in Switzerland! As a chocolatier, I beg you. I can assure you that they have ample access to excellent chocolate, and do not need an inferior product from this country!</p>

<p>Maple syrup is an excellent idea. My S brought some to his host family in France, and they reportedly enjoyed it very much. He brought a few other "made in Maine" food products, such as wild blueberry jam. I don't know what part of NY you are from, but if there are some local specialties you could bring those.</p>

<p>I have no experience with the Swiss, but decades of experience with Germans and they LOVE our chocolate chips and especially our cookies.</p>

<p>Just be aware that if you want to make chocolate chip cookies while in Switzerland, it's very difficult to find brown sugar there.</p>

<p>Hence my suggestion to bag all ingredients (post #7).</p>

<p>There is brown sugar, but it is granular (doesn't pack.) You can also buy chocolate chips, but they are mini-chips, and fairly expensive.</p>

<p>Our friends in Germany like Rootbeer flavored things - like chap stick, or hard candy. They like PayDays. They enjoy mixes for things like banana bread or Magic Cookie bars. </p>

<p>Some nice non-food things we've taken - Braves paraphernalia. Quilted things (I even found some wooden brooches at an arts/craft shop that looked like mini-quilts.) Wine totes. We have a lot of different woods available than they do, so wooden items go over well.</p>

<p>If the host family hosts your college often, don't bring usual college stuff. My D is just finishing her quarter abroad and her host family has a kid from Dartmouth every quarter. The host mom is awash in maple syrup.... Nifty bath supplies were suggested. D knew the woman liked to cook before she arrived so she picked up some speciality oils (hot chili oil and one other I forget), but Western (we are from CA, but think Texas) items are fun. Consumables are better than "more stuff". </p>

<p>I agree with the premixed cookies, maybe in a airlocking canister. Or ingredients for a meal (lasagne, chili?) if the kid can cook. My D made pies, but used local ingredients (and cleaned the kitchen after!!!) </p>

<p>My thanks to all who host kids, both here and abroad!</p>

<p>Not a suggestion, but 20 years ago my husband I took a trip to Mexico. One day it was a bit rainy and I wore a cotton lined poly windbreaker. Well, I wish I had brought 50 along! So many people who were working in the shop wanted to trade something in their store for my windbreaker (unsolicited)! If I had only known how popular that item would be at that time, I would have packed up some extra ones!</p>

<p>I remember a thread like this from several years ago and was going to suggest PayDay candy bars, but binx beat me to it! They travel well and I've never seen them in Europe.</p>

<p>I always recommended that my students take a coffee table book about the US. I first got this idea when "A Day in the Life of America" had come out. But there are others on national parks, for instance. Or if you're from a big city, a book on the city.</p>

<p>We hosted a boy from Germany a couple of years ago.</p>

<p>Things they sent us: t shirts & hats from their 'pro' teams, lots of chocolate, a cookbook, "coffee table" book with lots of facts & pictures, snow globes, magnets, hot wheel sized cars of their car (small smart car) and their ambulance (husband is a paramedic), for our daughter who was 10 they sent "diddle" the mouse stuff (A famous mouse in Germany), a calendar with motorcycles for our son.</p>

<p>I made a scrapbook of his year here for his family (they came to the US and spent a few days with us when he went home). I also gave them a collection of recipes for his favorite foods while here.</p>

<p>When my D went to France a few years ago she brought a small piece of Turquoise jewelry to the mom and daughter. We thought this would be fun since the pieces we selected were Native American in style and represented a heritage of the indigenous culture. This sounds more expensive than it was. We went to TJ Maxx (lots of them in the Boston area) and found very reasonably priced bracelets and earrings. For the teenage boy in the family my D picked out some American rock bands and bought the CD's.</p>

<p>Oh, the CD reminded me..our movies come out quicker on DVD here than in Europe. I think the technology is the same now, so a movie or two might be fun.</p>

<p>Thank-you for all the suggestions. I left town yesterday and just got back and was pleased to see many great ideas. </p>

<p>I'm still thinking maple syrup w/ maybe a or waffle pancake mix. (D1's idea) I love the idea of the chocolate-chip cookie pre-mix, and bring a few bags of Hershey chips. (As an aside, did you know Toblerone, famous Swiss chocolate, has been owned by Kraft Foods for 20 years?!?)</p>

<p>Books and calendars are good ideas, if I can find a 2011 calendar. Inexpensive wood products are often made in China or the Philippines. Finding locally made products will be a challenge because they are made by artisans and often have a high price tag. My D2, and/or, I will have to look around. (I say and/or because she is working many hrs. this summer and I have the luxury of July and Aug. off.)</p>

<p>Do you think it is appropriate to bring NYC stuff (a Yankee hat or tee, a Statue of Liberty mug, etc.), given we live in up-state NY? </p>

<p>Please keep suggesting. You are giving great ideas. By the way, what is something that is truly American? (Inexpensive , that is.)</p>

<p>Please keep the suggestions coming.</p>