I think the question I get most often is one that many of us have wrestled with over the years… What to take along as a “Mitbringsel”? In other words… What are the best Gifts for a German Host Family? While you can never go wrong with flowers or a nice bottle, it is nice to bring something special or different. Over the years I’ve packed a lot of presents into my suitcases for family and friends.. and I figured out some things that work, (and some that fall flat). Now, together with a lot of contributors from the German Girl in America Facebook page, I’ve put together a list of American gifts for Germans. (And yes, these ideas will work for Canadians, Australians and anyone else who needs to pack along a gift or two).
Gifts for a German Host Family
This list is in no particular order…and it is not in stone. Some things may be more relevant to your situation than others. (For example, I have an uncle who loves to snack on raisins, so I always bring a bag of Jumbo Raisins for him. But I don’t know a single other person who would appreciate this gift). Different parts of the country have different specialties. And obviously, if you know the person you are visiting collects or loves certain things (like Willow Tree Angels), then you may already have something in mind. Take a look, and let this list be a springboard for ideas.
American Gifts for Germans
Show off Your State or City
Cutting Boards in the shape of your state, Tea Towels with Maps, or insulated coffee mugs with your city’s name. Can’t find anything perfect? Why have something something personalized …
Personalized Engraved Wooden Cutting Board With State Shape Choose from Walnut, Maple Or CherryCity Living Glass Serving Plate Cutting Board for new urban apartment or city homeChristmas tree ornament with ANY STATE with heart over city. Personalized with name or Family Name and topped off with copper star
Food Gifts are Always Popular
Is there a special food from your region? Is your city famous for its Peanut Brittle or Taffy? Do people flock to your area for the Spice Rubs? Maybe there’s a special local Honey that you love? Take some with you! If you like it, chances are, your hosts will like it too! Give people a taste of your world.
Many people suggested Almonds or other nuts. (If you are from Hawaii… grab up some of those Macadamia Nuts!) Smoked Almonds or Almond gift packs aren’t to expensive (or heavy). Also, a nice package of assorted nuts can be tied with a ribbon, and makes a nice gift.
Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, even Salmon Jerky… all have a unique and tasty America flavor. Plus it travels well…. Try a variety pack. Again, it’s lightweight, and doesn’t take up much luggage space, and people do enjoy a savory treat.
Bricktown Jerky Soft & Tender Beef Jerky Gift Basket – REGULAR SIZE – 5 – 1.5 oz. bags – Great Gift for Guys! – Original, Honey Pepper, Sweet BBQ, Teriyaki and Spicy Beef JerkyBuffalo Bob’s 10 Piece Gourmet Exotic Jerky Assortment
All you New Englanders and Canadians, here’s your chance to show off! Real Maple Syrup is a great and very welcome gift. Throw in some pancake mix, and promise to cook them an American breakfast.
Pure Vermont Maple Syrup Pint Log Cabin Tin (Grade A Medium Amber)Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast Baskets and Sets (3 Piece White Birch Basket)Organic Maine Dark Maple Syrup – Arnold Farm Sugar House 8.5oz Glass Bottle – 100% Pure, Wild-Crafted in Small Batches with Grade ‘A’ Robust Flavor | Maine’s ONLY Organic Maple Syrup on Amazon!
I’m not completely sold on this idea… but apparently, a lot of people get requests for jars of peanut butter from their American visitors.
You can always tell if there was an exchange student who went to America at some point, they will ask for Oreos. Go nuts, get the Double Stuffed.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Supplies
My cousin spent a year in the US, and developed a liking for fresh baked Chocolate Chip cookies. Every time I head over, I pick up a big bag of chocolate chips, a bag of brown sugar, and some vanilla extract for her.
Bar B Que!
A few people told me they get requests for American Bar B Que Sauce. Since every corner of the US loves different styles, maybe there is a special flavor from your region. Also, some people love A 1 Sauce. Don’t want to mess with bottles? Why not bring a special local spice rub for meats?
Saddlebag of SauceKansas City Barbecue Sauce Deluxe Gift Basket Box Set – 18oz Fiorella’s Jack Stack KC Original, Fiorella’s Jack Stack KC Rub, 18oz Gates BBQ Classic Sauce, Gates BBQ Original Rub, 18oz Arthur Bryant’s Original, 18oz Cowtown Original Bar-B-Q SauceThe Ultimate Texas BBQ Sauce Gift Set
Also for the Grill- S’mores Fixings
I know, S’mores aren’t for everyone… but Kids (and I) love them. So if you are bringing BBQ sauce for dad, why not throw in Marshmallows, Hershey bars and Graham Crackers for the kids? It will be a messy and memorable dessert.
Bring a Bottle…
Wine or Spirits from America are a nice gift. Something special from a local distillery or winery is even better… but you really can’t go wrong with a bottle of Jack Daniels, Makers Mark, or a nice wine from California. You can pick these up at Duty Free on the way through the airport, to save having to pack it… or, do what one person suggested… order it online from Amazon.de, and have it shipped to your final destination. You don’t have to carry anything that way.
I know… Germany has lots of teas, and Germans drink a lot of tea… but why not bring them something they don’t have. One person suggested the Celestial Seasonings Zinger Teas. I think the Blooming Flower teas are just lovely (and you can include a clear tea pot!), and the Tea Forte assortments are very nice.
Primula Daisy 40 oz Glass Teapot Gift Set – Includes Infuser, 24 Variety Flavor Flowering TeasTea Forte Presentation Box Sampler with 20 Handcrafted Pyramid Tea Infusers – Black Tea, White Tea, Green Tea, Herbal Tea
National Park Merchandise
I think it might be fair to say the Germans really like American National Parks (don’t believe me… go to one during the summer and just LISTEN… you’ll hear them). Luckily, the National Park Service has LOADS of great merchandise that makes a great gift to take along. Calendars, Coasters (Germans also love coasters), Tea Towels, Shopping bags and even Cutting Boards.
Sports Team Merchandise
T Shirts, hats or mugs from your favorite home sports team can be fun… I don’t know that your Oma would want a T-shirt, but the 20 somethings would…
Native American Gifts
Quite a few people suggested bringing Native American gifts along. Arrowheads, Dream Catchers and Beaded Jewelry. Perfect if you live in an area where these things are easy to find.
Do you live in Arizona or New Mexico? Tea Towels or place mats done in a South West style. Silver and Turquoise or Coral Jewelry.
Picture Books or Calendars
Is your area particularly picturesque? Why not bring along a picture book or calendar that shows off your part of the world. For example an Ansel Adams or Rodney Lough book would be perfect for Californians.
Teens are tough to buy for, even if you KNOW them well. I’ve always taken along T-shirts from my home town, or from local sports teams. Also, take along a few ball caps…
For girls, maybe an interesting piece of jewelry, like a bracelet, made by a local artist. Card Games, cute tote bags or bath bombs are great too.
(FYI- If you have a teenager in your home, let them help you make the selections)
Unisex Adjustable Multistrand String Surfer Bracelet with Hematite Stones in Tan, Aqua, White, Rust and Metallic Gold: Handmade Rope Friendship Beach Surf Bracelet by Rumi SumaqHanes Men’s Graphic Vintage Cali Collection T-Shirt, California Wave Light Steel, MediumAlabama Crimson Tide Football Yea Alabama Logo Boys Rock Punk Caps Cool Flat Bill Hip Hop Hats
Kids like toys… they like art… they like to play…. And you generally can’t go wrong with sweets.
Large Drawing Stencils Set for Kids (49-Piece) – Perfect Travel Activity and Creativity Kit, Arts and Crafts for Girls and Boys with over 300 Shapes, Educational Toys Age 3 to Teen, Ideal Kids GiftsMade By Me Create Your Own Bead Pets by Horizon Group USAKing of Toys World Racing Car Take-A-Part Toy for Kids with 30 Take Apart Pieces, Tool Drill, Lights and Sounds
I know… it seems like bringing Candy to Germany is a bit like shipping Ice to the North Pole…. still, there are candy flavors that we have in the US that you just don’t see in Germany. And kids LOVE them. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfinger Bars, all the different M & M flavors, Junior Mints, and a few people even recommended Hershey’s Kisses (again… think of the kids).
Speaking of Candy… my cousin’s little girl can not get enough of Jelly Belly jelly beans. I once brought a variety box, and she had the most fun sorting and tasting her way through the selection. The next time I brought a jar of little bags that are the perfect size for her mom to keep in a purse. Yes, they have Haribo, but only Jelly Belly makes wild flavors like Toasted Marshmallow, Pear and Root Beer.
Just pack a few Tupperware lids in your suitcase… or maybe hand them a set of keys to chew on. (Kidding… sort of). Babies are probably the easiest beings in the world to satisfy. Something soft or something to hold will generally do it. That said. A few people suggested bringing along Osh Kosh overalls or cute Jeans diaper covers. You might want to ask the parents if they have any particular wishes.
Hopefully this list was a good starting point for you. When in doubt, think local… what does your town have that can’t be found anywhere else.
(And remember, any gift you take over will make room in your suitcase to bring something back!)
If you are still stuck, don’t panic. Bring flowers, and maybe ask your host family out for a meal. This will be appreciated.
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