Gift Guide for Expatriates, 2018

Not all expatriates are diplomats or educators or in the military. Many are, or start off their expat experience as, immigrants and refugees, students and season employees.

So when you think about gifts for the expatriate in your life, let me challenge you to think about the new refugee kid in your child’s classroom or the new immigrant employee in the office or the foreign exchange student at the college in your town.

If the expat in your life is someone you are physically close to, invite them over for a holiday dinner. Better yet, invite several over and make it a potluck. Global potlucks are the best. If they are a brand new arrival, invite them to do a local holiday highlight event: sledding, Christmas caroling, a holiday parade, a gingerbread extravaganza, the lighting of the city’s tree, a musical concert (loads of colleges and universities have free choir and band concerts at this time of year).

Use the holiday season as an excuse to open up your heart and life to the new arrival in your neighborhood, workplace, school, or church. That gift of relationship, to be cliche, will give back to both of you the whole year through.

Now, for actual gift items…

A language learning app, like Rosetta Stone.

Carry-on luggage. There are some really cool carry-on bags these days, including smart bags that include USB charging ports or bags with apps that connect with your phone so you’ll never lose it and you’ll know when it arrives at baggage claim. Personally, I’m in favor of expandable bags as we often travel with gifts or return with bags full of produce or other items, so it is nice to be flexible.

Kindle. I love my Kindle. From eliminating half the weight in my luggage due to books to accessing library books and ebooks, Kindles have been one of the absolute best inventions for expatriates. I know a lot of people can read on their phones, but phones are so dang small. I still use my Kindle for most of my reading. It is about 8 years old now…

Travel pillow. I’ve never had a travel pillow. Still don’t. Always wish I did but have never just sucked it up and bought one. I’ve probably spent weeks of my life on planes and nary a neck support. Do your expat one better, gift them a high quality travel pillow.

Portable hard drive. With all of our photos, movies, research, educational materials, etc, on these devices, expats are often in need of a new one.

Scrubba laundry bag. I haven’t personally used one of these, but several friends have brought them on camping trips or on globe-trotting trips from country to country.

Subscriptions like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime…

Photo calendar from your family or of their favorite passport country places. Same goes for personalized mugs or notebooks or coasters…Use a service like Shutterfly.

Food from home. Anything from packaged pumpkin spice (I can’t get it in Djibouti) to the fudge that somehow manages to come to Djibouti year after year (thank you Karen!) to a bag of Starbucks.

An experience, or contribution toward an experience in their host country. Maybe SCUBA diving or whale sharking, maybe a night out an expensive, splurgey restaurant…make the offer and let them choose.

Expats, what have been some of your favorite gifts over the years?

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*see this page for 2017 ideas