In the days of globalism, there are very few American things you cannot get in Europe. We live on a rapidly shrinking planet where influences and cultures mix, and we all buy our couches from Ikea. What is distinctly American, anyway?
I asked these questions before heading to Europe, wanting to bring thoughtful gifts to my hosts in Scotland, Alsace, and Provence. What to bring that will be unique?
A legend in our office has it that an apartment host on our Provence Untour invited a guest into his pantry once to show him a shelf full of jars of peanut butter. “The guests just bring it and bring it for me. I don’t know what to do with it.”
So what then?
Here are some other ideas. (By local, I mean local to where you live.)
- Locally made artisan soap or candles. Beware of strong scents.
- Locally made chocolates or other quality sweets.
- Postcards from your hometown or cards featuring local artists to leave as thank you notes.
- Children’s books (if there are kids involved) with simple English.
- Handmade items. Do you knit? Sew? Paint? Brew?
And here are some tips.
- Think of something that is useful to the receiver.
- Even if it reflects where you are from, will they really want to keep it in their home?
- Bring something they can consume and enjoy.
- Don’t underestimate the delight quotient of little things.
I once baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies to take with me to Italy, knowing I had a dinner invitation early in my stay. An American expat joined me in our host’s villa. When she heard about my cookies, she baked a loaf of banana bread to bring.
Our hosts went crazy for both. “Questi biscotti sono deliziosi!” And they were delighted to save some banana bread to eat with their espresso for breakfast.
Sometimes it is the little things that have the best impact. Anything given with thoughtfulness is appreciated. Happy travels!