Armenians bearing gifts?
November 28, 2010 6:28 PM   Subscribe

What's tough to get in Yerevan?

My mom is going to visit some distant relatives in Yerevan, Armenia. We don't know them well, and she would like to bring a nice gift for them. She's wondering what kinds of things are tough to get there - nothing overly extravagant, just things that are nice to have that might be tough to come by there. For example, the relative mentioned that it's really hard to find insulated coffee mugs for commuting and he tries to always buy one when travelling outside the country - that's something we NEVER would have considered bringing, but apparently it's a rare commodity.

If you've lived in Armenia recently or have relatives there now, we'd really appreciate any nice ideas you have.
posted by little light-giver to Shopping (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sure - I've lived there on-and-off since '98.

In Yerevan, nowadays, you can get everything.

If you can tell me ages and genders, I can give you specific ideas.
posted by k8t at 6:47 PM on November 28, 2010

Males and females in their late 20s and early 30s, mostly, and one oldish lady.

Also welcome are ideas for things that would be expensive there, but inexpensive in California.
posted by little light-giver at 7:19 PM on November 28, 2010

Here goes... sorry for the brain dump:

Gift giving is a little iffy. I have seen too many times a whole "I live in a developed country and have nice shit. You're poor and live in Armenia. Let me give you some of my crap." (Not that you're trying to do this, but it happens frequently.) I fall victim to this too and then feel offensive later.

Generally - nice pens, Moleskin notebooks... (try Paperchase at Glendale Americana mall) - you can buy more than you think you need and either have leftovers to give to some random taxi guy or store person or have extra for a random relative that emerges. Food stuff SEEMS like a good idea until you realize that Armenian food is so superior to American food that you wouldn't want to subject anyone there to our terrible stuff.

Older lady - I'd do some lotion or a candle if you're trying to be safe. This is a non-offensive gift. Remind your mom to bring her flowers/candy too - that's standard. If you really want to get something useful, maybe a pretty awesome pot holder set from Crate and Barrel or some other sort of upscale kitchen place. It'd be useful and cool. It is entirely possible that older lady would not really end up using them because she has her own system which she is satisfied with. Personally, I'd get both or go with the perfume/lotion.

Late 20s and early 30s? I'd go with electronics. As you can read in my dissertation (or view on this video!) (which is about Armenian adoption of technology), Armenian young adults are crazy for gadgets and like to show off with them. Without a doubt, their mobile phones will be quite impressive already and anything from here pales in comparison. However, electronics are quite expensive and if you had the spare money, grabbing a few netbooks or something would probably go over quite well. Most folks access the Internet on the phones, but there are also these USB adapters that are growing in popularity.

Another option is clothing. Without knowing their clothing sizes, it'd be tough to guess at clothing, but Armenian young women are amazingly fashionable. If they were kids, I'd say get a bunch of logo-ed Gap sweatshirts. For that age, maybe your mom could pick up a bunch of cute hats/scarves that are sort of unique - like striped or something? If they totally hated them, they could probably regift them.

If any of them are pregnant, I'd also really recommend your mom bringing maternity clothes. I was pregnant in Armenia 3 years ago and the selection was terrible.

If any of them own cars (not terribly common), car accessories are sort of cool.

But, with all of this being said, if these are close enough relatives, I'd just flat out ask them "is there anything that we can pick up for you in the States?" and if it isn't too much of a pain in the ass (like hauling 10 laptops or a printer), I'd do it.

As for your mom, I'd recommend that she get some good 1st layer long underwear to wear under her clothes. Homes just aren't heated to the levels that Americans are accustomed to and while December isn't as bad as January, it does get pretty chilly! If your mom has any questions, me mail me.

Like I said, a LOT of stuff is available nowadays, it gets easier and easier to get stuff every month. There is even a shitty dollar store chain now. There is a fake Victoria's Secret and Old Navy and Gap that sell outrageously marked up clothes that were obviously bought on close out. (There are a few legit European clothing chains there now too.) Plus with so many Glendalites sending stuff over (cheaply via containers), it isn't hard.

Bari janipar!
posted by k8t at 8:19 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks! These really are not relatives we know at all - I'm actually not clear on how "far" of cousin they even are. So, it's bound to be pretty impersonal. But of course we are not looking to pawn off old things on them, they're being very welcoming and kind and my mom wants to say "thank you", same as you would do for someone who was hospitable anywhere.

You say that "you can get everything", but in your next message I see the following things are hard to find or expensive compared to American prices: maternity clothes, electronics, name brand clothes. These are just the kind of ideas my mom is looking for. Any other thoughts in that vein, for things that are just more annoying to get in Armenia?
posted by little light-giver at 8:56 PM on November 28, 2010

Yeah, I should clarify. You can get everything in Yerevan and it isn't hard to find at all, but some of it is ridiculously expensive - including maternity clothes, certain name brands, some electronics (but not all), some (but not all) makeup... But these also fall under pretty personal gifts. So even though it sounds really nice to give gifts that are expensive there but cheap here, without knowing the individuals and their needs, it is really hard to judge. (Even the example of the coffee mug was shocking to me -- no one walks and eats! Drinking coffee is to be done at a table...)

Since you don't really know them and what their needs/wants are, I'd go with:

- lotions/perfumes (although these are totally available there, but I think that the American ones are of higher quality at lower price points)
- Moleskins/pens, especially notebooks that are a little blingy
- Scarves/gloves that are a little fun - striped/patterns
- USB drives if you are certain that they use computers (not very common) (the USB drivers there are pretty cheaply made for small sizes and poor quality)
- Stuff that says California or Los Angeles used to be sort of cool but now since most Armenians-from-Armenia live there, it might be a little weird and obvious.
posted by k8t at 9:51 PM on November 28, 2010

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