Sakartvelo on my mind
October 2, 2008 9:36 AM   Subscribe

HospitalityFilter: What would be a nice parting gift or gifts for a guest from (the Republic of) Georgia spending three weeks in the U.S.?

My family is hosting a Georgian woman for three weeks starting tonight. She's a school principal visiting with ~20 other Georgians on a USAID-sponsored rural education training program. She's from a coastal town on the Black Sea, and she's married and has daughters aged 11 and 8. She'll be here long enough that I'll be able to figure out some personal gifts for her and her loved ones, and I plan to put together a photo album for her before she goes, but I'm trying to think of some more general gifts that might commemorate her trip, be suitable to share with her friends and acquaintances in Georgia, and maybe even generically represent the U.S. I really want to steer clear of flags and maps and kitschy things that she can easily get elsewhere.

Her luggage space is limited, and shipping is unreliable, so small things are best. I'm not aware of any significant restrictions on bringing packaged foods like chocolates etc. into Georgia. I think the limits for her will have more to do with weight/space than content.

Any other thoughts on international hosting and/or gift-giving are appreciated as well.
posted by headnsouth to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have any local food specialties, sort of like maple syrup would be for Vermont? Processed/cooked/packaged foods are usually allowed through Customs and she can share them with the folks back home.

Here are some gifts that went over big about 20 years ago in the USSR (Russia and the Ukraine; maybe Georgia would be similar?): silk flowers and little samples of perfume and cosmetics. The perfumes were especially well-received. These were the tiny glass vials that department stores would give out as free samples. 20 years is a long time but maybe some things haven't changed too much?
posted by Quietgal at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2008

How much would you like to spend? High end make-up could be a good gift. For example, Estee Lauder lipstick and black mascara. It would cost you about $50 total though
posted by ivanka at 11:19 AM on October 2, 2008

I spent a year living in Eastern Europe as an exchange student. Pretty much anything you give will probably be accepted. Many Eastern European women love cosmetics. Little bottles of perfume are usually a safe bet. Chocolate is another one that would probably go over well.

Eastern European cultures have very strong associations with flowers, so before doing anything with flowers --- silk or fresh --- I would try to locate some information on what is appropriate. In Russia, for example, giving an even number of flowers is reserved for condolences on the death of a person. Giving an even number of flowers at any other time is considered a portend of bad luck. So, no bouquet of a dozen roses in her room when she arrives! Odd numbered flower arrangements, though, represent a happy occasion. I would imagine this to be the same for someone from Georgia or another closely associated republic.

If you plan on making meals at home for her and she comments that she really likes something or a few things, providing her a copy of the recipe might also be a good part of a gift. Be sure to convert measurements from the US cup and teaspoons to the metric versions as that is likely a system she will be familiar with.

Another gift she may like would be a little book on your regional area --- not so much a guidebook, but a book on the history of your town might be something appreciated. Eastern Europeans love to demonstrate what they know about other countries to people from those other countries.

For her 8 year old daughter, a Barbie doll would probably be very appreciated. For the 11 year old, a nice shirt or other article of clothing would be a good choice.
posted by zizzle at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2008

Europe, even Eastern Europe, tends to have better chocolate than North America IMO. Quietgal's suggestion of local specialties, though, is a great idea, as is zizzles suggestion of something to do with local history.

I'd use caution when looking at what was in demand 20 years ago. We sent many VCRs to relatives in the USSR in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays chances are they'll have an iPhone long before I do.

If she's arriving tonight, make sure you've got a good meal ready, regardless of the hour. Eastern Europeans say "welcome" to their guests by offering tons of food and drink (even if, in the end, it's not all consumed). A toast to her arrival and to success in her program would certainly be in order.

Also.. might sound cheesy but have the kids present her a bouquet of flowers when you pick her up from the airport.
posted by Kabanos at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2008

Electronics are insanely expensive in Eastern Europe! If you are willing to spend a little more money, a digital camera would be the perfect gift as it will not only allow your guest to capture the experiences of the visit, but it will be appreciated for years to come by her entire family.

I am from Bulgaria, and that's the one item that friends and family members request the most often. For instance, at $170 the Canon SD1100 sure beats books, cosmetics and perfume samples (which may ultimately add up to more money anyway)!
posted by halogen at 12:37 PM on October 2, 2008

Seconding the flowers and enormous food spread upon arrival. Hot food. Food that says "welcome," whatever that is in your cuisine.

A wedge of cheese and a few crackers is not going to cut it here. I spent a few weeks in Ukraine and Russia and the expense that my hosts went to for that first night were... obviously staggering.

Every relationship I have had with anyone from the region makes clear to me that feeding people well and often is a... theme. Start with food. Send her to the airport with a delightful meal to unpack on the plane. And recipes, yes. Definitely send her home with recipes!
posted by bilabial at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your thoughts & suggestions. It was a great visit & we'll host another visitor the next time this nonprofit has another group come through. We ended up sending her off with 600 American flag stickers for her school's students, some clothes & girly things & hershey's chocolates for her girls, a Virginia Tech t-shirt for her engineer husband, and a bunch of halloween candy & pencils for her to share with others. For her, I gave her a book on cerebral palsy for caregivers (several of her students suffer from it) and mr headnsouth's wooden chessboard, which had already been around the world & will now live with her for a while. She's brutal at chess.
posted by headnsouth at 11:42 AM on October 26, 2008

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