Compact hostess gifts?

Does anyone have suggestions for something worthwhile/thoughtful (and compact/light) to take along from America for friends/family in Europe that one won't be seeing until the end of a 3 month journey with small pack? I want to be able to take something from our country and not just buy flowers/food and such in Europe. Ideas?

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

Perhaps a small state flag & a brief history of your state/town?

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Where is Lavelle? Is there something unique to your town, county, or state that might be meaningful? I'm from Iowa, and I can think of any number of things that are quite unique to this state. And even in my own home town, as an example, we have a very unique clothing store in a trendy area of the city that specializes in edgy tees. It's been written up in NY Times and other places, and there's literally no place quite like it anywhere else in the U.S. I've purchased tees for foreign friends there before...huge success. Try to stick with something local if you're looking for meaningful.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Well, I will be thought a curmudgeon, but if a visitor from a small town in, say, Austria, brought me a copy of the town history and an Austrian flag, I would be less than impressed. Don't you really think that a bottle of wine or an invitation to lunch would be received with more genuine pleasure?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

Why would you bring wine to Europe? Besides, not everyone drinks. Agree about the flag and history, not many people are going to enjoy getting that. What would they do with it? A calender with photos of your area might be more welcome. What is Lavelle famous for?

Posted by Margaret
Nashville, TN, USA
451 posts

How old are the family/friends? Any special interests?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

I would go with the wine or a nice liquor - that you would buy once you are near your hosts' hometown. True, not everyone drinks, but odds are that they will be able to use it.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Hmm. A gift that is worthwhile and thoughtful. Something from America that is compact and light. Something that can withstand being hauled around in a small pack for 3 months before it's given to me. The only thing I can think of that fits all those requirements, is a nice piece of jewelry. The most "American" type that comes to mind is a piece of genuine SW Native American sterling silver workmanship. How many gifts do you want to bring? Even jewelry could get heavy in higher quantities. And yes, I know: jewelry isn't commonly considered a "hostess gift." But it does meet Sally's criteria. And I'd much rather have a nice bracelet than an obscure local flag and the history of somebody's home town, unless maybe they live in Hollywood.

Posted by Kathy
San Carlos, CA, USA
204 posts

Let's cut Bob some slack. He's from Gettysburg and his town has some real history.

Posted by Troxstar
Eugene, OR
13 posts

We are going to Germany in a few weeks and staying with some friends we met last year here in Oregon. We had the same dilemma on what to get. We went with a Pendleton blanket that has the Oregon connection. That US labor is spendy and wool blankets are bulky. But it's something that is too nice to buy myself but I have always wanted. Worst case: they hate it and I take it home...which is a worst case.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Jo asks, with reference to my post, "Why would you bring wine to Europe?" I wouldn't. I would arrive at the friend's house with wine I bought in Europe or at the Duty Free. My invitation to lunch would be in a local restaurant, too.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"Does Quebec not make a maple syrup wine?" Fermented sugar sap... wouldn't that be the same thing as rum?

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Instead of jewelry: how about music CDs? Are there any American artists whose CDs the gift recipients might appreciate? A CD in its case ought to travel well in your pack without adding much weight or bulk. (DVDs are a problem because America uses NTSC formatting and they have PAL in Europe, so unless your hosts have region-free DVD players, they wouldn't be able to play a DVD you brought from the US. Music CDs don't have that issue.)

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Good god, why overthink this thing? Anything unique to your area and kind of special to you personally would be a welcome gift with a personal touch. In the end, you really can just bring whatever you wish. In many cultures, a small gift of any kind is sort of expected but only reluctantly accepted. And you'll probably get a gift of your own in return. It's the thought that's important, not the item itself. But if there's something special to your area, that makes more sense to me than some abstract "thing from America". If I were Bob, I would definitely bring something relative to the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg if visiting a foreign friend this year (or maybe a copy of Django Unchained for an abstract "gift from America"). Great film, BTW!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

How compact is the hostess? But "whatever", surely Michael is right - it is the thought that counts not the present.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

I think in your situation it's impractical to pack something from home for 3 months. I'd go with flowers and/or a bottle of wine - those are always polite hostess gifts. If that's not enough, order something online and have it shipped to her address.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

We sometimes go to our chamber of commerce or city hall. They have small pins or some such items that are representative of our town. They give that stuff away.We take those to give. We have also taken Sakagawea one dollar coins to give away. The last I asked, my bank had rolls of them.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2847 posts

Small handcrafted items make nice hostess gifts - and you don't have to make them yourself. Crocheted items, coasters,cloth or painted bookmarks, doillies, napkins, or napkin rings (maybe carved from wood in your area), placemats, etc. Or Christmas ornaments (handmade or not)- even the die-cut metal ones- maybe in the shape of your state or the USA. A dresser scarf, or table runner out of her favorite colors (you can make them out of woven ribbons if you want to do it yourself) would be very nice. Or a scarf to wear. Maybe a small embroidered or painted picture of your state flower or bird in a nice frame. Even just a nice picture frame makes a good hostess gift. Oh- a set of small notecards- hand designed or not. Any of these (and many other similar items) would take up very little space. Or perhaps you could pick up one or more at a market while on your journey.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

How well do you know the family? If they are long time friends, what about building a collection of images of home, family, the US on a flash drive? You could really make this personal to you, your town, and the US. Let them see the real America through your eyes. I would love a gift like this from my Scottish friend. I would pop it into my digital photo frame. ; )

Posted by Sally
40 posts

Great ideas, all. Thank you so much. I will likely utilize many of these along this journey. By the way, anyone with tips on choosing wine in general, I'd appreciate it as I don't drink and believe this could be a good option for those I know less personally. Thanks again to all of you.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

Jeanine, thanks for that great David Lebovitz link... so interesting! And useful next time I visit friends in France, his list includes things I never would have known would be welcomed gifts.

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
278 posts

I took a box of assorted Jelly Bellies purchased at Target to a family in Morocco an they seemed to like it. There were 3 children in the family. There were approximately 20 varieties of jelly beans in a reasonably flat
box and it was an inexpensive gift.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

"Who would bring wine to Europe?" Well any of my family and friends, because I request it. I miss California wine, the selection of New World Wines in Europe is often really depressing. But obviously it's not a good idea for this situation.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

California wine was one of David Lebovitz's suggestions... saying the French especially appreciate getting it.

Posted by Bets
1970 posts

We found Kentucky Bourbon was well appreciated as a gift.

Posted by Mark
Berlin, Germany
319 posts

Regarding the link: I'm always skeptical when I hear that something makes a good gift because it's "not available there." By that logic horse meat would make a good gift for Americans (apart from custom rules banning animal products). What "you can't get X in Y" really means (provided that X is mass produced and easy to transport, like foodstuffs, and Y is a reasonably wealthy market economy) is "X is so unpopular with Y's consumers that you can't make money by importing it."

Posted by Laurie Beth
Was MN, now TX
638 posts

Last year I was visiting a friend in Hungary at the end of a 3 week trip. I am lucky to live near the Mall of America which has a Minnesota store. I purchased a lovely white kitchen towel emroidered with the state flower and a key chain with a moose on it: both of which said Minnesota on them. They packed easily and were well received. They were useful, but also absolutely something they couldn't buy in Hungary.

Posted by Penny
Tulsa, OK
276 posts

Well, I'll be a geek to Norma's curmudgeon - if I had a visitor from abroad, I would be much more impressed by something representative of his/her hometown or region than by a bottle of California wine which I could buy for myself. But, like I said, I'm a geek; I like "boring" bits of history, especially if a friend has some connection to it. Have you checked any local museum shops, Sally? They often have a nice, unique, locally made items, etc. @ Keith - LOL! I was going to say, "As opposed to gifts for a lanky hostess?", but you got there first. :D Gotta love the English language.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

My cousin from the Netherlands came to stay with us for a few weeks over the summer and she brought the usual "dutch trinkets" but the best present? She cooked us a wonderful typical Dutch meal Enwtensoep (traditional dutch split pea soup).She made it from memory but all you would need to carry for 3 months was your Favourite 'home cookin" recipe.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

My cousin from the Netherlands came to stay with us for a few weeks over the summer and she brought the usual "dutch trinkets" but the best present? She cooked us a wonderful typical Dutch meal Enwtensoep (traditional dutch split pea soup).She made it from memory but all you would need to carry for 3 months was your Favourite 'home cookin" recipe.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

Sylvia, a friend of my mine from the UK did something similar for our Scottish friend. Ours wasn't particularly, English or American, but our friend isn't a fan of going out, so we did a nice dinner for her and her husband. It was great. We had fun making it and fun eating it. We did Ginger Chicken, my mom's recipe that I know from heart, June made the most incredible roast potatoes I have ever eaten, and then we veg and desert.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

When we go abroad we bring Swiss Army Knifes, Swatches and Swiss potato peelers - so what is the American equivalent of one of these???