This is topic Gift ideas for my host family? in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by aiua (Member # 7825) on :
I'm leaving for Germany next week to stay with a host family for just over three weeks. I want to get them all something really special for a variety of reasons. One, they're opening up their house and their lives to me, two, that's a really, really long time, three, it's me they're having to deal with [Big Grin] , and four, I like getting people presents and such.

Only problem is, I don't know what to get them. The father is a protestant pastor, the mom is, as yet, undescribed, the brother is in his 20's, there's a 16 year old girl, as well as her 13 year old sister.

My parents thought that I should bring food. I wasn't so sure about that. Yay, the fat American is bringing food. [Frown] That and I am looking for something a little more lasting. (Which is not to say that I'm not bringing any food. My mom said I should take chocolate chips and box cake mix and salsa. Anyone know what kinds of things you can get here but not in Germany?)
I'm also bringing a CD with pictures of my family, friends, school, house, random little things, etc, in addition to some t-shirts from my school.
I asked the girl what she would like from America, but all she says was, "Anything would be nice. Or, something from your region.." I'm from Wisconsin. My first thought was- cheesehead! But I ruled that out because they're ridiculously expensive and would be a beast to pack.

So, I turn once again to the wonderfully creative minds of Hatrack and ask, "What would you bring, were you in my place?"

PS: I'm sending you all a postcard. Be excited!!
Posted by erosomniac (Member # 6834) on :
McDonald's/Walmart/Starbucks gift certificates!

Non-perishable foods would do good. I've also found that everyone - Americans and foreigners alike - is fascinated with foreign music, so bring some CDs (not burns! actual CDs with all the American literature and packaging!).
Posted by ElJay (Member # 6358) on :
I have a friend from Germany, who moved here a while back and visits her family there a couple of times a year. I'll send her a note when I get home tonight asking what she'd reccommend. I would shy away from things like chocolate chips and cake mixes. . . I've never met a European who liked American chocolate. I'd only bring salsa if it was from a local company and was unique to your area. I'm from Minnesota, and tend to bring people from other places wild rice, with a wild rice soup recipe, and local honey or maple syrup. Something they can't get there. Most national brands they'll either have or have something very similar to.
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
Things local to your area, post cards, those pointy banner things, sports memorbilia.
Posted by El JT de Spang (Member # 7742) on :
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
JT has a point, there is a 20 year old brother.
Posted by aiua (Member # 7825) on :
Uh, right, JT.. I'll get right on that. I'm sure the pastor'd enjoy it.
**And I don't think the brother's actually going to be there. Apparently he's off on some world tour.

Local foods - can't think of any at the moment, but I like that idea.

CDs - Any suggestions? I listen to German music and 80's rock, I haven't got a clue about all this modern stuff

Post cards - check

Pointy banner things - I'm working on it.
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
I'd say cheese (from where your profile says you live) but I'm guessing that doesn't travel well.
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
What about crafts from local artists? Or memorabilia from local landmarks? For instance, my mom went to Alexandria, MN and brought my brother back something Viking-related from their "Vikings were here first" museum.
Posted by signal (Member # 6828) on :
Don't bring chocolate to Germany. You're supposed to bring German chocolate back. I actually thought cheese was a good idea, but it takes up a lot of space and wouldn't work too well if you had a weight restriction on your luggage.

American clothing and similar wearable items I've heard are big in other countries. Nothing size specific, but maybe like a baseball cap, tshirts, jewelry, or something.

If you're into cooking or baking, you could bring a few items that you might not be able to get so readily over there and cook/bake something for them.

When I was in Wisconsin a long time ago (or was it Ohio?) we got this popcorn that was made from the locally grown corn. It was pretty good.

If you have a lot of music, a few mix cd's isn't such a bad idea. I had a friend visit from England once and she brought some burned cd's that were pretty cool. There wasn't anything on it that I had heard before.

Also, since they're religious, maybe try a christian book store? They might have some ideas.

I hear Germans dig David Hasselhoff. You could get them Baywatch dvd's. (j/k)

I tend to find that useful gifts stay around longer than stuff that serves no purpose. (Except the really nifty useless stuff, of course.)

Hmm, those are all the ideas I have at the moment. I guess try to find stuff that reflects you. Good luck.
Posted by Jhai (Member # 5633) on :
I lived in Germany for nine months so...

No, you can't get chocolate chip cookies in Germany (at least not like ours). Really, you can't find any cookies like the ones we have. That'd be good, esp. if they were homemade. I'm not sure about cake mix...

If you cook at all, you could possibly make either a Asian-style stir fry or tacos/burritos. There's *some* Asian cusines in Germany, but I've never, ever, seen a Mexican place. Does your host family live in a large city, or somewhere a bit more rural? I know the family I stayed with (I was an Au-Pair) really enjoyed the American-style meals I made them.

For mexican, just bring some taco/burrito mix and taco shells and burritos, as you can't get (non-stale) ones in Germany. Maybe some salsa. The rest of the ingrediants (sour cream, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatos, onions, etc) can be found in German stores. Your gift - besides cooking the meal - could be extra spice packets and recipes.

I wouldn't suggest bringing any sweets other than cookies, and absolutely no bread or cheese (unless it's a special local variation). The bread and cheese in Germany is *amazing.*

Other gifts could be books of your area - with lots of pictures.

I'll give it some more thought.

Have fun in Germany - it's a great country to visit. Have a lot of broetchen (little bread - i.e. rolls) while you're there. If the world cup is still going when you arrive, expect a lot of people tied to their TVs in the evenings.

Do you speak much German?

ooooh - Germany *just* won against Poland.
Posted by Jhai (Member # 5633) on :
One thing I just thought of - Germany doesn't have "regular" popcorn. When you're in the movie theaters you get kettle corn. You could bring some microwave popcorn, or regular corn and teach them how to pop it in a stove top pan.
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
The popcorn was more likely Ohio, or possibly Indiana, a huge percentage of popcorn comes from Indiana.
Posted by CaySedai (Member # 6459) on :
I was an exchange student in Germany when I was 17. I took an American cookbook, and measuring cups and spoons. I had a problem with the one recipe I tried there - where we use vanilla extract, I couldn't get that idea across, and my host mother got a vanilla bean. I can't remember how the cookies came out.

I think the idea of bringing stuff to cook Mexican or Chinese is good.

Crafts by local artists/artisans is an excellent idea. In my area, for example, is a guy who makes kaleidoscopes.
Posted by ElJay (Member # 6358) on :
I just talked to my friend, and she said definitely NOT to bring any food or drink as gift items. We didn't talk about the possibility of cooking American meals for them, but she said between the fact that almost everything we have here is available there and not knowing what people like, it didn't make sense.

She seconded the something local idea and the sports clothing idea. She said you can't get American sports stuff there at all, and Packers, Brewers, or University of Wisconsin t-shirts or hats would be unique there and appreciated.

Good luck!
Posted by Jhai (Member # 5633) on :
It probably depends where you're going to be - the bigger cities have stores that catar exclusively to foreign tastes - you can get all the peanutbutter and tacos shells you want there.

The smaller towns - you'll be lucky if there's a shelf of "American food." In that case, your host family might appreciate being exposed to other foods.

I don't suggest bringing peanut butter, since most Germans don't have a taste for it at all...

I'm from California, so if I ever go back to Germany again, I'll bring a bottle of California wine with me for my hosts... I wouldn't suggest bringing American beer, though [Wink] (Can people under 21 have alcohol in their luggage when traveling?)

Sorry - right now I can't get off the food topic - maybe that's a clue it's time for dinner. [Smile]
Posted by Tante Shvester (Member # 8202) on :
You know what would be nice? An American cookbook. Like that Fannie Farmer one, that's a classic. I think it would be cool if a German visitor brought me a German cookbook with traditional German recipes. Anything I made from there would be "authentic".

A book of Ansel Adams American photography is also a nice gift. America is a cool and gorgeous place, and Adams captures that in a way that your hosts may not have seen before.

I think something that represents our American culture is an ideal gift.
Posted by MidnightBlue (Member # 6146) on :
The camp I used to work at had a lot of international staff, and one of the German counselors was obsessed with Mountain Dew. Apparently they used to sell it in Germany, but don't any more.
Posted by Jhai (Member # 5633) on :
The only problem with an American cookbook is that some of the ingredients we take for granted here in the states don't exist in Germany. For instance, brown sugar can't be found, nor vanilla extract (in our standard liquid version). Or chedder cheese.

Also, there's conversion problems - Germans use grams for everything, not volume measurements. And even if your host family speaks pretty good English, it's unlikely they'll have learned standard cooking terms.

I had a lot of aggrivations trying to cook in Germany. 'Course, now I miss all the particular spice combinations and ingredients you can get there but not here. [Razz]
Posted by Lupus (Member # 6516) on :
Kool Aid

I knew a girl from Russia that thought it was the most amazing thing ever...and said that they didn't have it over there. I don't know if they have it in Germany...but it might be interesting to bring it over.
Posted by Lissande (Member # 350) on :
ElJay has good suggestions, listen to her. Germans won't like your sweets, but they probably will like something (T-shirt, etc) with the name of your town or state written on it.

Jhai - sure you can find those things. You just have to be willing to search a little and pay a lot!

My husband was impressed like nothing else with canned soup - "So how do we cook this?" "You mean we don't add anything?" "Not even butter? Milk? Water? An egg? NOTHING?!?!?" "WE MUST MOVE TO AMERICA NOW" (He's also a fan of Kool-Aid, btw [Smile] )

Though Germany might be ahead of us in the canned soup department. Local flavor is the way to go.
Posted by pH (Member # 1350) on :
When we had a German exchange student, he brought us this really pretty book (a really thick book, too) with all these gorgeous pictures of the area in which he lived. And he brought some really, really nice olive oil for my mom.

Just so you have an idea of what kinds of gifts they give. [Razz]

Posted by aiua (Member # 7825) on :
I'm working on translating (measurements too) a recipe book with all of our family's favorites. My mom lived in Germany for a few years and we've got friends there, so she's got a good idea of what's available in stores. We're making some adjustments as we go. Our friends, however, have skewed taste buds- they love Hershey's, peanut butter, Captain Crunch, etc. So what they like is probably not what anyone else would.

I was also thinking of bringing a few of my favorite books. I've got a little German library in my bedroom and thought they might enjoy that too. On my list I've got Ender's Game (duh! [Big Grin] ), Scarlet Pimpernel, Rebecca, Harry Potter, and Artemis Fowl.

My dad suggested that I bring A.) A bottle or two of wine. I'm not too worried about the legal aspect of it. We've got good packing techniques if it's going in my checked stuff- I'm not actually in possession of it; my dad's there until they haul it away, then when I'm in Germany, I'm old enough to have it. And, B.) A can of aerosol cheese. Thank god combustible stuff is not allowed on planes. [Big Grin]

Can you recommend any new CDs? I'm looking for something that's got a mix of different artists, but is mostly fast paced, happy stuff you can dance to. None of those sappy love songs.

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