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Unique, Thoughtful Gifts to Give Your Host Family Abroad

You’ve packed your clothes, guidebooks, dictionary, camera and other essentials you’ll need from home; you’re going abroad! Whether you’re planning to spend winter vacation studying abroad for school or you’re participating in volunteer work in a developing country, it’s likely that you’ve been perplexed by the million dollar question faced by many other travelers: should I get my host family a gift?

The answer to the question is quite easy. Yes, you should definitely get a gift. In addition to expressing your appreciation for your host family’s hospitality, gifts are the perfect way to break the ice and start conversation with your new family.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking out the perfect, thoughtful gift for your host family.

Start a Conversation

Look for a gift you can use to start a conversation, but also one that shares some detail about you. Choose an item that showcases where you’re from and who you are. Picture books about your favorite attractions in New York City or framed pictures are timeless, inexpensive, and go a long way in terms of teaching your host family something about you and your life at home. You could even practice saying a little bit about the gift in your host family’s native language. Making an effort will really stand out to them. Très bien!

Be Unique

Think outside the box and get creative! Chances are some of the gifts you’ve considered are items that your host family has already received. Think about the items that mean most to you in your home country and consider their relevance and/or use in the other country. If you’re from Vermont, you could bring local maple syrup. For those traveling to a developing country on a mission trip, perhaps a gardening tote and tools set would be both practical in your efforts but also equally thoughtful and unique to those you meet in Africa.

Is It Portable?

Before you solidify a purchase, be sure to determine if the gift will make it through airport security both ways. If it’s too much hassle, perishable, or comprises a large amount of your luggage space, choose something else. For example, a gourmet caramel popcorn tin would be a delicious and entertaining gift for all, but may not fit or survive the trip in your suitcase.

Be Mindful of Cultural Differences

It should go without saying, but items that dance around the line of inappropriate are 100% off limits. Cultural differences and language barriers can risk your gift being interpreted in a different way. Choose the family-friendly angle and opt for an item that everyone will enjoy.  For example, you could bring a copy of a few of your favorite movies or a deck of cards and enjoy a family night with the clan.

Cook Them an American Meal

Another great way to bond with your host family is to offer to cook your favorite dinner on the first night of your stay. Bring items that you won’t be able to buy in your new country and then purchase the rest when you arrive. Cooking an American meal for your host family will allow you to showcase your skills in the kitchen, indulge in some nostalgic grub, and share a part of your culture with them! Here are some ideas to get you started.

Don’t Break the Bank

If you’re going abroad, it’s already evident that you’re dropping a pretty penny to spend time overseas. Don’t fret when it comes to finding the perfect gift for your host family; it doesn’t have to break the bank. Many online gift finders can assist you in discovering a gift to match your budget or you can always take the homemade route and make something extra special.



Whichever route you decide to take, remember the simple truth that bringing a gift to share with your host family is a nice way to say thank you for their hospitality, but can also serve as a reminder of all of the great memories that each of you shared during your visit.