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Help me make the best Christmas package ever!
November 11, 2010 11:46 AM   Subscribe

What are some quintessentially English, non-food items that I can easily mail back to the U.S?

I guess my question is similar to this one. Christmas is coming, and I'm making care packages to send to friends and family back in the States. I have more than enough sweets & tea, and now I'm looking for other things to fill out the packages. What are some small, lightweight, and inexpensive trinkets (or, even better, useful items) that I could include? I'd like them to be things they couldn't easily find in the States if possible. I'm in London, but don't mind ordering things online if need be.
posted by bibliophibianj to Shopping (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christmas crackers!

My British grandmother used to get her extended family to send over a whole bunch every Christmas and we'd all have so much fun wearing the paper crowns and trading the little toys and games that were in them. "We all" includes the adults - my favorite picture of my grandfather has him wearing a bright pink paper crown from one of them. I didn't realize until I was much older that this wasn't an American tradition.
posted by CharlieSue at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


You say you're full up on sweets, but Kinder Eggs are the one thing I ask from someone going somewhere that they have them.
posted by cmoj at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely second the xmas 'hats'- the photos of everyone at the dinner table afterwards with their crowns on are hilarious! I also like the smarties in the UK because I think the colors taste different and ...I also love all the newspapers and magazines. And maynard wine gums. Those are the things I request. Draft door snakes? Handkerchiefs? Otherwise most things are similar here and there I think...send them a copy of your tv license- that should be good for a laugh!:)
posted by bquarters at 11:58 AM on November 11, 2010


How about seasonal novelty tea towels?
posted by pickypicky at 12:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


A CD of Slade's Xmas song that gets played ad nauseum every year on the radio here?

Kinder eggs aren't quintessentially English - or English at all
posted by idiomatika at 12:04 PM on November 11, 2010


British stamps might be fun. I like the British Design Classics and Classic Album Covers.
posted by vickyverky at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2010


There are some great kid's comics that come out with hardback annuals for Christmas. Beano and The Dandy should be available at bookstores and at Amazon.co.uk. The Broons & Oor Woolie are the Scottish variants. They are occasionally slightly offensive, but I find that part of the charm. It marks their foreignness. Viz is like Mad Magazine, similarly puerile.

Tea cozies are kitchy fun but I'm told they're harder to come by these days. It's a hat for your tea pot. Routemaster double-decker bus tchotchkes are funny.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harrods tote bag, London bus apron, or tea-for-one teapot and cup set?
posted by hot soup girl at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2010


Also, what football team is close by? Fulham, Arsenal, Chelsea? Send scarves. Steal beer mats from the pub and send a few home.

Take your picture near the sign for platform 9 or 10 @ King's Cross station and frame it for Harry potter fans. Non-readers get of photo of you with an immobile bear-hatted royal guard.

Who wouldn't want a can of spotted dick from the supermarket?
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2010


M&S underwear. That's more of a gift for British expats, but there are novelty versions this time of year alongside the old standards. On the "trinket" side, then there's always Hawkin's Bazaar, though I think you might do better to trawl the charity shops for old Ladybird books. I like the idea of DC Thomson annuals, which have a retro charm: this year is Oor Wullie (who alternates with The Broons).

A CD of Slade's Xmas song that gets played ad nauseum every year on the radio here?

Usually packaged up in a "Now That's What I Call Christmas" combo with Wizzard and other artists who now survive on their Christmas-season PRS cheques.
posted by holgate at 12:22 PM on November 11, 2010


Finally, these mugs with funny British slang are sensational. The missus and I are bird and bloke. But they have chav, chippie, chancer, guv'nor, muppet, posh totty, and other things that don't make much sense in the US.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2010


Seconding tea towels. I brought back a few sports team tea towels as souvenirs after my first trip to the UK, and I received numerous requests for more when I was packing for my next journey. The tea towels (made in a size and thickness not readily available in the US) apparently made excellent golf/bowling towels and were handy in the kitchen as well.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2010


Christmas crackers and tea towels both sound like things I would LOVE to receive. Football scarves or pint glasses (from a local pub or a particularly British beer) also seem like fun souvenirs, but perhaps those are too expensive/heavy?. Depending on the recipient, perhaps some Doctor Who or other BBC paraphenalia? If you have a favorite recording artist who isn't really popular in the US yet, you could make a family member super cool by sending them a CD before their friends have heard it. Or a mix CD of popular songs.
posted by maryr at 1:07 PM on November 11, 2010


My friend loves it when I bring home gossip rags - Grazia, Heat, OK!, Hello!, Look, Closer, etc...
posted by like_neon at 1:13 PM on November 11, 2010


Thrupenny bits are traditionally what you put in Christmas puddings for children to find. My grandfather kept an extensive stash just for Christmas and then had an "exchange rate" every year at which you could swap your thrupenny bits for proper currency. Brilliant fun.

You want to go for silver ones for the Christmas pudding. They are not that expensive. I know you asked for non-food items, but a small luxury Christmas pudding, plus a few thrupenny bits, plus instructions and a bit of history, might make a nice package.
posted by greycap at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2010


Whoa.....there's no Kinder Eggs or Christmas crackers in the U.S.? That's crazy! FYI we have both these commodities in abundance up here in Canadia.

Seconding the Harrod's tote bag. I've also seen (and coveted) smaller Harrod's lunch totes.
posted by Go Banana at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2010


The tea towels (made in a size and thickness not readily available in the US)

Actually, how about bar towels (and maybe a few purloined beermats)?
posted by holgate at 1:54 PM on November 11, 2010


Sports fans might appreciate football team scarves, even if they don't follow the sport themselves.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:57 PM on November 11, 2010


Yes, there are Kinder eggs in the US. Not everywhere, but certainly in big cities. More in specialty shops, but I believe my corner shop here in a somewhat unsavory part of Brooklyn carries them. The whole line of Kinder chocolates, even.

Christmas crackers, though, we do not have. Sometimes you find them in the holiday section of places like Dean & Deluca, but it's definitely a British tradition we don't have here.

We also have beer mats - is there something special about British ones? Ditto bar towels.

Nthing tea towels. Good kitchen towels can be hard to find here, and if they've got a quintessentially British pattern on them, all the better.
posted by Sara C. at 3:15 PM on November 11, 2010


When I visited London in the late 90s, my prize item upon return was a white coffee mug with the Underground map on it.

(It was an item much coveted and remarked-upon by my officemates. I was very sad when I dropped it on a tile floor and it exploded into hundreds of tiny shards.)
posted by ErikaB at 3:17 PM on November 11, 2010


I don't know if this is easily obtained for the average Brit, but here in New York subway station attendants will give you a free map of the subway system if you ask. Maybe paper maps of the Tube? Swag from famous British institutions like the British or Ashmolean museums, the Tate Modern, Oxbridge schools? Or something like that from a less stereotypical place I don't know about?
posted by Sara C. at 3:21 PM on November 11, 2010


(Slight derail* for ErikaB: there's one on Ebay right now!)

*Pun intended
posted by ceri richard at 3:26 PM on November 11, 2010


Nthing Harrod's tote bag. Useful, easy to mail, and terribly English!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 10:20 PM on November 11, 2010


No Christmas is complete without Cliff Richard.

By the way, if you want some cool, bespoke items from British designers and craftsmen, I would highly recommend going to Cockpit Arts' open studios in Holborn or Deptford, 26th-28th November (Holborn) and 3rd-5th December (Deptford).

Among the small, reasonably inexpensive stuff there is great printmaker and some quirky textile makers too.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:32 AM on November 12, 2010


Other quirky or low volume stuff that is British, or mostly British:

- Not On The High Street
- Pedlars
- Rose and Grey
- Cox and Cox
- Graham and Green

Gadgety-type stuff:

- Firebox
- I Want One of Those

Also, don't forget Lakeland as a source of curiously British things that might not be available in the US.

If you are going to, or based in, London then Selfridges is often the best of the big department stores for Christmas, IMHO.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:44 AM on November 12, 2010


Who wouldn't want a can of spotted dick from the supermarket?

British people, it seems - I've never eaten this in all my years!

If you're in London, go to one of the independent markets in Greenwich, Portobello or Spitalfields - very cool handmade things. Pedlars is nice but can be a wee bit expensive. Also, museum shops! The V&A is great for design fans, and the Science Museum is nearby too. Seconding Lakeland - a lot of useful stuff in there (your nearest store would be in Brent Cross or Richmond).

Also, how about a shopping bag? Not necessarily a Harrods one, but a bag for life? And if I moved abroad I'd miss very British stores like Boots, so if you have any ladies or metrosexuals send them some nice bits.
posted by mippy at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2010


We also have beer mats - is there something special about British ones? Ditto bar towels.

Depends on which beers they're for? A lot of British breweries don't export to the US, and of those that do, not many export their paraphernalia. (Brains or Landlord, for instance.)
posted by holgate at 10:40 AM on November 12, 2010


Whoa.....there's no Kinder Eggs or Christmas crackers in the U.S.?

Christmas crackers, though, we do not have. Sometimes you find them in the holiday section of places like Dean & Deluca, but it's definitely a British tradition we don't have here.


I've found Christmas crackers in both Costco and Target in NYC and northeastern PA. My aunt also bought some in the holiday section at T.J. Maxx or Marshall's (she forgets which one).
posted by Majorita at 9:30 PM on November 12, 2010


Thank you all! The market & museum ideas are excellent, and I'll definitely be hitting them up. Tea towels are good, too, because I can use them as padding, as I can tote bags.
posted by bibliophibianj at 12:18 PM on November 13, 2010


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