15 Gift Ideas for Americans in Europe

After gobs of requests for the perfect gift to send to Americans and Canadians heading off to start a life in Europe, I’m here to dish out the goods… err make it easier for all of you hunting for the perfect goods to send to your expat buds and overseas friends.  My good pal, Katie (an American expat holding down the fort in Berlin), helped me brainstorm the items we’d love, love, love to find in our mailboxes in Germany.  Please feel free to chime in on anything we’ve forgotten.


For the kitchen

  1. Measuring cupsMost Europeans measure ingredients by weight.
  2. Peanut butter cupsI think I mentioned these treats at least a hundred times on Making This Home before Martin and I got back to the US.
  3. Beef jerky for the guys
  4. Dried ranch dressing packs
  5. Poptarts or other packaged food - while an orange is an orange anywhere, packaged food just ain’t the same.  If Poptarts or another packaged food is your pal’s cherry in his fruit cocktail, you’re pretty much sending edible gold.  It’s the perfect way to guarantee that you’ll be The Most-Loved Pal for all times.
  6. Sugary maple syrup like Log Cabin and Mrs. Butterworth – Only pure maple syrup is available with a friendly little Canadian flag on it.
  7. Vanilla
  8. Chocolate chipsI prefer to chop my own for this chocolate chip recipe for Germany, though it could be another one of those edible bits of gold for some people.
  9. Energy bars, soy shakes, & Emergen-C
  10. Macaroni and cheeseAnnie’s is the edible gold at our house in Germany.
  11. Candy corn – Send this at Halloween, then tell them you want an amazing bar of European chocolate or something from the Christmas markets.
  12. Mustard and mayo – Okay, we know how weird that sounds.  But if your expat craves the classics she grew up with, mustard will seem spicy (at least in Germany), and the mayonnaise will taste super sweet.
  13. Pie pans – Trying to recreate Thanksgiving with all those new expat friends gets tough without pie, you know.  Thank goodness Katie’s grandma saved us last year.
  14. Salsa and chips – But only if you’re a master packer!
  15. Peanut butter cups - Yes I know I said that already.  They’re just that good.

Note: As far as I know, peanut butter is available at the grocery stores located at the bottom of department stores and at organic grocers throughout most European countries.

For pampering

  1. Clothes – Good quality clothes cost a fortune, and sometimes some fuzzy Old Navy pjs just really hit the spot.
  2. Lotions and soaps – The brands are mostly different of course.  Sadly, so are the prices – by a lot.
  3. Yankee candles
  4. Favorite makeup and cosmetics
  5. Preferred pain relievers – They’re 10-100 times more expensive in Germany.  Talk about a pain!
  6. Tom’s of Maine toothpaste – We’re junkies.  If your friend also is obsessed to the point where the term “toothpaste junkie” doesn’t feel incredibly awkward, send him more Tom’s.  Or one of those other brands.

For the family

  1. Baby stuff - Clothes are especially expensive, though the wooden toys in Europe are amazing.  Do a baby swap… for baby stuff, not babies, silly.
  2. Craft supplies - Art supplies abound, but craft items just aren’t so abundant.  Fill a box with pretty papers, punches, glitter, and stamps.  Katie and I agree: this gift would probably score more points for a girl than even peanut butter cups.
  3. Electronics for the guys
  4. iTunes gift cards - Can you guess how expensive it is to go see a film in English or buy a cd?  eeeh  And you know we love keeping movies and music digital at our house.  Plus mailing a gift card costs less than a buck.
  5. Books, books, books
  6. Sunday comics
  7. Hometown newspaper or favorite magazinesI was drooling over Martin’s science magazine and a Business Week that was a month or two old just because they were in English.  Just reading a cereal box in the morning is a challenge when you aren’t fluent.  Throw a few things to read in the mail or give gift subscriptions, which have varying international shipping rates.  (You’ll have to hunt if you really want a good deal.)
  8. Pictures from back in the day
  9. Frames for those pictures in #8

Hope that helps!  Now you just need to set the date when you go visit.

Okay all you lovely expats and former expats.  Help us out.  What did Katie and I forget?