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March 5, 2009 9:04 PM   Subscribe

What are some interesting, US-specific things I can mail to a friend abroad?

A friend in New Zealand and I have started a little exchange - I send him peanut butter m&ms and he sends me a type of hot sauce I can't get over here. I like to include little extras in there - a chocolate-bacon bar, a bottle of Dogfish Head beer, that sort of thing. But I'm running out of ideas! What would be interesting to a kiwi, something they specifically can't find over there. We're both mid-20s, I live in Washington DC.
posted by troika to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dunno how the selection is that far north, but some good barbecue sauce.
posted by Seeba at 9:13 PM on March 5, 2009

Malt liquor.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:16 PM on March 5, 2009

How about exchanging Dvd's of shows that aren't broadcast over there?
posted by tylerfulltilt at 9:30 PM on March 5, 2009

Virginia is famous for peanuts and ham, both of which are portable. While I'm sure he can get both over there, the Virginia versions are special. Well, the peanuts are. I can't speak testify to the ham.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:38 PM on March 5, 2009

Skittles. My friend in Germany is always asking for Skittles.
posted by halogen at 9:46 PM on March 5, 2009

Root beer, birch beer, and sarsaparilla? Popular candy bars and snack foods tend to be country-specific, can you get oreos everywhere in the world? Nutter butters? Suzi-Qs? Yodels? Sno-balls? (and so on).
posted by zippy at 9:56 PM on March 5, 2009

Marshmallow Peeps!
posted by babysingsing at 10:09 PM on March 5, 2009

Dr. Pepper
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:33 PM on March 5, 2009

I'd hop onto a site that's local to where they are (or as close as possible) that sells imported American foods. I just ran a quick Google search and didn't immediately find any such stores in NZ, but in Australia there's USA Foods, which you can browse for ideas of what's not available there. Website seems to be down at the moment though (no wait - back up ...?). In any case, it came up mentioned on a domain here.

Skors are damn good and not available in Oz except through expensive import stores, so I bet the same would apply for NZ. I'd personally kill for a Jones Soda. Skittles, though, we have a-plenty.
posted by springbound at 10:40 PM on March 5, 2009

How about the Chesapeake Bay Crab seasoned Utz potato chips? Those are both unique and delicious, and definitely not available anywhere else. Actually, could you send me some too?

The bag might pop if shipped airborne, but you can prick a pin hole, push out a small amount of air, and then re-seal it with tape...

Whenever I travel I always bring back potato chips... to my frustration, I find almost all chips outside of the US to be much better than the ones we have have here. Why, oh why, can we not get All Dressed chips here?!
posted by pkingdesign at 11:20 PM on March 5, 2009

I would kill for good country ham and pickled beets.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:35 PM on March 5, 2009

Seasonings might be interesting. A1 sauce. Chili kits. Old Bay. The odd rice-and-bean foil sachets. Cans of boiled peanuts. Cereals, especially the weird and wonderful ones. But also something like Honey Bunches of Oats. Tang.

Wintergreen candy: that's something very American. Cinnamon, also.

Things with retro styling, too: there's often a 50s sensibility about American groceries that isn't found in the rest of the Anglosphere. Or think of things that have cultural references, like Teen Spirit deodorant, which I'm sure only stays in business because of people who send it abroad to gloss the Nirvana song.
posted by holgate at 11:47 PM on March 5, 2009

When I arrived in the US, I bought poptarts. I tried to get a familiar cereal, Special K, and it turns out it's made of rice here!? I took a photo of an m'n'm dispenser with a million colours, and my friend took a photo of cinnamon flavoured toothpaste. I haven't yet been brave enough to try the bright orange cheese, and I know there's a ton of other stuff that I saw in the grocery store and stared at in amazement. If I remember, I'll keep an eye out when I go shopping this weekend and mention the stuff I see.

(Of course, this is not a definitive answer as I am Australian, and I am living in Seattle, so there are probably slight regional differences between the two US and antipodean locations in question).

Oooh, I just remembered Reese's peanut butter and chocolate cereal. Send him that. It's crazy.
posted by jacalata at 11:47 PM on March 5, 2009

Talk O' Texas pickled okra.
posted by scose at 12:22 AM on March 6, 2009

Stuff related to local sports teams might work well - particularly if he is into that particular sport.
posted by rongorongo at 3:27 AM on March 6, 2009

Marshmallow fluff, especially the hot pink colors! I brought some jars of that with me when visiting some friends in Australia, and they were flabbergasted and amazed. It was hilarious.
posted by reddot at 5:01 AM on March 6, 2009

People in England like it when I bring them:

Jolly Ranchers
Cinnamon flavored anything (but especially Tic Tacs)
Fruit Loops (I've also had some success with my favorite, Cap'n Crunchberries)
Peanut Butter (Jif or Skippy or some other sugar-loaded "American" PB)
Marshmallow Peeps are also a good idea

Does it have to be food? Other good things:

Abercrombie & Fitch stuff (with the name visible)
Native American stuff (e.g. dream catchers)
Hats or shirts with sports team/university names on them
posted by triggerfinger at 6:25 AM on March 6, 2009

My sister always wants Baby Ruth bars, which you can't get in Ireland, or swedish fish, which are hard to get there.

Magazines that are wildly expensive elsewhere in the world (eg Vanity Fair), weird US-centric publications such as about guns or decent local newspapers would always go down well with my family when I lived in the states.

Articles from the newspaper about how the locals or americans view New Zealand politics/design/film/economy/whatever might be good too. When you're surrounded by your native media it's always really interesting to read how outsiders are viewing you.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:26 AM on March 6, 2009

How about ketchup in a weird color? Doesn't Heinz still make purple ketchup?
posted by lullaby at 6:48 AM on March 6, 2009

I have a friend in the UK to whom I regularly send her favorite can't-get-it-over-there cereal, Lucky Charms.
posted by alynnk at 7:13 AM on March 6, 2009

Has Hidden Valley (brand) Ranch made it that far yet? Cause that's what I take people in Spain, and they loooove it. Envelopes, though, not the pre-made stuff.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2009

A single day's copy of the Washington Post (or other major paper). If I was in your friend's position, I would find that extremely interesting and amusing.

A CD of some kind of American folk music. I assume most foreigners only get exposed to American music via pop, so some folk music would provide some interesting contrast. I'm partial to old-time Appalachian music, myself, but blues, gospel, jazz, or bluegrass would work just as well.

(I'm basing both these suggestions on the assumption that your friend is a native of New Zealand and not an American living abroad. An American already knows what it's like to live in America, so they probably wouldn't find either of these very interesting.)
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:33 AM on March 6, 2009

I had a friend from Australia that went nuts over the Pez dispenser I sent him. He had never seen or heard of it before. Although I think they are in other parts of the world, the seem to be everywhere in the US.
posted by deebs at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2009

I think ethnic groups that have a very American-slanted culture in the States would offer great things to send abroad. I had tons of penpals when I was in middle school and high school and we sent crazy stuff to each other, from letters written on restaurant menus to bags of locally made candy. The idea was that this was stuff they wouldn't get in their own country.

I would suggest you look for things that represent cultures found in the United States like Tex-Mex, African American, Cajun, and Italian-American culture. I think hot sauces and spice mixtures are great ideas (what about recipes your friend can make, using what you send)? Also great are T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers. Send him a set of those cojones they make for pickup trucks!!
posted by Piscean at 11:54 AM on March 6, 2009

This question comes up from time to time, and it's always a bit sucky.

We have a lot of American products available on our market already (and lots of other stuff - like Pez dispensers - which we've had, but which were failures here, and withdrawn due to a complete lack of interest).

If you can narrow your list down a bit, maybe we can say which we already have.

The chocolate stuff is probably more likely to be unknown than a lot of other stuff. We certainly have gun magazines - even American gun magazines. Abercrombie and Fitch? Seriously? Now suggest Golf Punk or Champion or Levi's.

Birch beer is a new one on me, but sarsparilla & root beer are commonly available.
posted by The Monkey at 11:48 PM on March 8, 2009

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