Posted by: oysterculture | January 3, 2009

When nothing is new – the trouble with globalization

When I travel abroad, I struggle with purchasing housewarming gifts.  Obviously, I want something the recipient will enjoy, and not readily available where they live.  I try to give something that identifies where I live, not only the US, but the city and region in which I reside.  Being a foodie, my inclination is to give something food related.  I spoke to my sister-in-law at Tangled Noodle  and she had the same problem, having just returned from the Philippines, which required her to ponder gifts for her aunties and cousins.

Thankfully my purchases have been on a smaller scale, as I think my brain would implode if I had to purchase quantities  in the double digits.  She said chocolate is a winner, and I certainly think it is always a great fallback.   But outside of the US, I’ve seen the marvelous chocolate that can be obtained.  When I pressed my friends for ideas, one suggested fudge and Oreos, but with the extreme temperature changes I feared I would end up with brown clumps of yuck. 



The bad effects of chocolate

The bad effects of chocolate

On my last trip to Singapore, I reconnected with my college roommate.  I struggle with what to bring, even seeking out the help of many of my globe trotting friends.  I was confronted with the fact that one of the advantages, or in this case, disadvantages of globalization is that nothing is new.  If you are of the mind, you can find it.  On a recent trip to Italy, I thought I had struck gold with a bottle of maple syrup.  Its American, well North American – not a lot of maple trees in Italy.  My host expressed great gratitude.   But I felt duped – I found, after the fact, that maple syrup could be found in the smallest corner market in Italy. 

An unexpected winner, proved to be a box of  jellybeans for my friend’s daughter.  She admired the packaging and the variety of colors.  She was still enjoying the aesthetics of the box when I left, but I heard that she loved the flavors – all 50 of them. 

jelly beans

jelly beans

 Liquor is another perennial favorite, and high on the list of suggested articles by my friends.  In some countries whiskey is the expected gift exchange.   However, for this trip to Singapore, I could not remember if my friend drank, and did not want to take a chance, so I held off.  Also, traveling with bottles of wine gets heavy, especially if the intended recipient does not live at your initial destination.

Here’s my ideas for future trips.  Sso if I happen to be visiting, you will not be surprised:

  • cookbooks  (I was shocked at how expensive books are in other countries)
  • food themed paper products such as plates and napkins  (my sister-in-law pointed out that these items were hard to come by in the Philippines)
  • unique cookware
  • chocolate (in San Francisco we have some wonderful chocolatiers)
  • US candy (Twizzlers, Starburst)
  • wine from Napa or Sonoma (but only if  the recipient is on the first stop)
  • local coffees or teas

non-food related

  • books
  • American CDs
  • American brand clothing

Do you experience these challenges as well?  What do you bring as gifts?


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