You’re fairly confident that you’re on track and organised for your exchange abroad. Plane tickets? Check! French phrase book? Check! Gift for your host family? Eh?
Finding a gift for your host family is an important part of your exchange preparation. This gift doesn’t need to be particularly snazzy or expensive (in fact, it’s better if it isn’t) but should help you to break the ice and share elements of your culture, whilst also serving as a token of your gratitude.
That’s a lot to ask from one gift, without mentioning that it needs to be fairly portable too! Luckily after a few years of practice we’ve learned a thing or two about buying presents for host families, so here are a few idea to keep in mind:
Anything that gets the conversation flowing is generally the sign of a good gift. Bringing traditional food from your country is a great way to break the ice: there’s nothing better than a block of English cheddar cheese; a jar of marmite; a box of tea; or a tin of Heinz baked beans to get the a good debate going around the dinner table. Just don’t forget to think about how well your food will travel before packing it into your suitcase!
Something that represents your culture
What is your town or country known for? This could be something that’s produced in the area; a town tradition; or a photo book of your city – the more original the better! Whatever it is, it will give you the opportunity to describe elements of your culture to your host family and they’ll get the chance to learn more about you! Hint: A good way to find a gift that represents your hometown is to think about what you’d buy as a souvenir for a friend if you were visiting the area.
Something for the whole family
Instead of worrying about finding an individual gift for each family member, why not get something that the whole family can share? Games are a great family activity and create a lively, competitive atmosphere that will help you to relax into your new home. There are tonnes of games available that can be played in multilingual environments, such as Bananagrams and Dobble (after a trilingual game of Bananagrams, we can confirm that it withstood the multilingual test, and it definitely added to the fun!). Not much space in your suitcase? Why not take a souvenir deck of cards from your hometown?
Nothing says gratitude like a DIY gift: homemade presents are not only unique but show that you’ve put in some thought and effort. Websites such as Pinterest are full of ideas for you to bake, knit, sew and craft your way to gift success! If you enjoy crafts, this is also a great way to share one of your hobbies with your host family!
Don’t over think it
Remember the gift isn’t everything and doesn’t need to be extravagant. The best gifts we’ve received have been simple, such as a paper cutting bookmark from China; spices from India; or photos of the area from France. Whatever the gift, your host family will appreciate the gesture and will be delighted to have a momento of your visit!
Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange