What awesome gifts should I bring to India from the US in 2008?
November 11, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

What awesome gifts should I bring to India from the US in 2008?

My boyfriend and I are attending an Indian friend's wedding in Bangalore this February. Reading this question gives me MP3 players, cologne/perfume in fancy bottles, flash drives, PDAs, digital cameras, designer clothing/purses, Bic lighters and cheap pens.

However, that question was answered in 2005 and I imagine that things must be more available now.

So, what are the hot, must-have items in India these days?

(As an aside: any gift-giving customs I should be aware of?)
posted by nessahead to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about some Obama flair like buttons and t-shirts? I have no idea what it's like giving gifts in India, but I imagine that anything historic from the election would go down well, especially with a younger/more globally-savvy/politically-aware crowd which might value the novelty/coolness factor more than the value of the item itself.
posted by mdonley at 10:57 AM on November 11, 2008

Flip Video camera (bonus: can be used to record + youtube the wedding?)
posted by Arthur Dent at 11:13 AM on November 11, 2008

Over the three months I spent living in India, I had no real problem finding any of the things on your list, except genuine, western, designer clothes.

Some people, certainly, get a kick out of something inherently foreign and different, like the Obama suggestion, but keep in mind that this would be somewhat similar to getting a gift from India commemorating this guy. No, it isn't exactly the same, but it also isn't a million miles away.

One thing to keep in mind is that India has extremely high import tariffs, to the point where many things wind up costing more than double their US price, in India. This is especially true for things like Scotch, and French wines. Personally, I would aim for something in that vein.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:13 AM on November 11, 2008

MP3 players, PDAs, digital cameras, cologne/perfume in fancy bottles, designer clothing/purses will also still work. I wouldn't give flash drives or Bic lighters or cheap pens, because they are cheap (for a wedding gift). No offense meant to 'mdonley', but definite NO for his idea (obviously, as mdonley said ) "I have no idea what it's like giving gifts in India".
Other things come to mind are camcorder, iphone. Electronics items are pretty hip in india, after jewellery and clothes. Also electronics items are relatively cheaper (w/good quality, brand) in US compared to India. Before you buy an expensive electronics item, I would find out if they already have it (e.g. camcorder, PDA, iPhone, etc). I envy you, you are going to have a lot of fun in Indian wedding :)
I'm Indian. But otherwise I doubt you will find a lot of Indian people on this website. And I think you should ask Indians about indian wedding gifts. You could discuss this with your other Indian acquaintances. Indian wedding is a favorite topic for any Indian (especially Indian women), I'm sure any Indian (even if you talk to someone at random on the street, in the bus, restaurant) will be happy to talk about Indian weddings and wedding gifts. :) Best of luck for gift search! Have a fun (I'm so jealous of you, and I'm not even woman :)).
posted by tvjoshi at 11:14 AM on November 11, 2008

I was there in 2007, and I wish I had brought more pens for the kids. Also, as requested by my little nephew, I took along a stack of Pokemon cards that the kids went absolutely apeshit over.
posted by nitsuj at 11:14 AM on November 11, 2008

Try posting question on answers.yahoo.com or sulekha.com - forums.
posted by tvjoshi at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2008

As token gift ideas to friends/family/people you meet in general:

1. chocolates, liquor from duty free shops in the airports depending on preference
2. most families in India love to have unique (useful ?) home/office/kitchen items -- think bed/bath/beyond and you can usually pick up a ton of stuff
3. Big yes on designer clothing, perfume, beauty products and electronics if your recipients are into those kind of things (fashionable teenagers)

as someone mentioned, check with your friend and you will get a better sense of what you might want to take. have fun !
posted by cusecase at 1:23 PM on November 11, 2008

Actually I'm grappling with this problem right now as I'm going home for the holidays and deciding on gifts for all my relatives. In general, the Indian market has opened up tremendously since 2005 and many items on that list are ubiquitous now:
MP3 players are common and most everyone in the middle to upper-middle class who wants one probably has one. Ipods are common, though I'm sure no one would object if you wanted to give them one. MP3 players are probably not wedding gift material though.
Cologne/perfume usually goes down well, though it's a very cliche sort of thing to bring back home after you go abroad.
Flash drives are really really cheap in India now and not worth bringing from the US. I plan to stock up on them when I go home.
PDAs and digital cameras are widely available, but PDAs especially are not horrible as gifts. If you do go this route make sure that you check that the PDA will work in India since electricity in India is 240 V.
Designer clothing/purses: I think a nice leather purse would go down well, designer clothing maybe not as much. Most people don't really get the huge premium placed on designer items in the West since tailoring is cheap and a lot of people get most of their wardrobe made to measure. I think it's a very hit-or-miss sort of thing -- some people will be absolutely delighted, but others might be completely unaware of the label.
Bic lighters: Am not really sure about this or about their availability in India. Didn't really know any smokers.
Cheap pens are ubiquitous now but they're so light you might as well take some along.
Hmm, so after all this, what can you take as presents for people in India? If you know some of the people well, you could get them books that would be hard to find in India and which you could order odf Amazon. One of the irritations of living in India was that Amazon shipping took forever and cost an incredible amount. Thus relatives who were in the US for short periods of time were often tasked with bringing books home. This is probably not a good idea if you don't know their tastes in reading material and is definitely not wedding gift material.
For any kids you might meet, art supplies or books from the Klutz series would make good gifts.
If you know that some of the people you will meet are diabetic (and it's a good bet that they will be), they might appreciate sugar free chocolates, cookies or jams. Those were things that were always a little hard to find in India. Other food items would also be much appreciated -- chocolates or candy are always a hit.
For the wedding itself, it is traditional to usually give gold or silver jewellery or silver plates/glasses/utensils. These are of course things that would be much cheaper to buy in India. Other common gifts include glassware/utensil sets/pots and pans. Maybe a good quality nonstick pan like a Calphalon one. Keep in mind that many people don't have ovens or only small ones so stovetop pots are probably a safer bet. A nice set of napkins or a warm good quality blanket (if it's cold where they live) would also be appreciated.
Your best bet would be to think of the things on a typical wedding registry and buy something from that list that's easily translated to an Indian context.
posted by peacheater at 3:50 PM on November 11, 2008

cusecase above reminds me -- yes to liquor, liquor, liquor, though be careful who you gift it to as many people don't drink. But women (and lots of men as well -- Indians have a healthy sweet tooth) usually love bottles of Bailey's Irish Cream and men like scotch whisky. Specialty liqueurs would be good too.
posted by peacheater at 3:55 PM on November 11, 2008

Maple sugar treats.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:48 PM on November 11, 2008

..for the kids and Niagara ice wine for the grown-ups.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:49 PM on November 11, 2008

Be weary of the alcohol suggestions if you're going anywhere in the state of Gujarat.
posted by spiderskull at 9:32 PM on November 11, 2008

Here are the responses I got to a similar question I asked late 2007.
posted by Rykey at 6:36 AM on November 12, 2008

Actually, if you can afford it, my Indian hosts were all excited when I described my coffee maker (I have the kind that grinds the beans and makes the coffee, all in one, that you can start with a timer set the night before). So maybe that would go over well if your hosts are coffee drinkers.
posted by Rykey at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2008

Seconding both the Bed Bath & Beyond and coffee maker / home appliance suggestions. Of course, those are suggestions for any adults/homeowners you'd be giving gifts to. I got back from India last weekend, went for a wedding and seeing family, and was amazed at how many electronics items are available there. Culturally, mp3 players aren't in every single kid's ear like they are here, but they are available pretty broadly. I would think that in Bangalore, a technology hub, this would be even more apparent. My family there is upper middle class and they have just as good tvs and cellphones as similar families here. What they don't have is stuff like nice dishes, any kind of modern design (if that's what they're into) or cute/original home accessories. My cousin had a fancy coffee grinder espresso maker machine which she loved to use, nicely displayed in the living room.
posted by sub-culture at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2008

After thinking a little more about this, keep in mind Indian customs regulations when you do travel. In general, most travellers are only allowed to bring in 2 liters (or two bottles) of alcohol. Also, customs duty on anything over a ridiculously small amount (US$500) is about 36%. That said, things that have gone over well:

- cute pens/pencils. The gel/sparkly ones were specially liked by kids.
- microfiber kitchen towels.
- LED lights (something like these)
- RainX
- Book lights (bonus: can be used as emergency lighting when the power goes out!)
- Miracle Grow fertilizer spikes (seriously!)
- Cheap CZ jewellery
- dried fruit (cranberry+raisin mix was a hit) and nuts (pistachios, with shells on)

You can never tell what will be a hit.
posted by Arthur Dent at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2008

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