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May 15, 2012 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Gift ideas for home-bound expats?

After five years, a wave of great friends from grad school are pulling up stakes in London and heading back to familiar pastures.

Some couples have baby children, other couples and individuals do not.

What are great small gifts to give?
posted by nickrussell to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd say something consumable that they can use before they leave. They probably don't want one more thing to pack and track.

Perhaps offer to baby-sit so they can pack up without having to worry about junior. Or a gift voucher to a pub. Or have a party for everyone.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on May 15, 2012

Group photo, or similar, in a paper card frame with a nice note.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:11 AM on May 15, 2012

Oooh, combine the two above - host a night out at the pub (I know grad students aren't exactly flush with cash, but maybe you could work out some kind of group discount beforehand?) and take a group photo while you're there, then mail each friend a framed copy.
posted by troika at 7:33 AM on May 15, 2012

Best answer: As a former expat, the most appreciated farewell gift is an intangible, like a nice night out. If you really really want to give them a physical item, consider mailing it to them once they're home. Something good to mail might be their favourite UK snack or other small, not available at home sort of product.

Or, if you don't mind it not being a surprise at all, maybe ask them if they need anything for the trip? Perhaps your baby-having friends could use a new travel-ready diaper bag, or your individual friends might like a fold-away backpack.

I'm glad you said small. Someone once gave me a HUGE framed collage on the eve of my departure from Australia. Don't be that person.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:09 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things people haven't said:
- I was given a heavy stoneware nabe set, with the specific inclusion of "shipping to your next destination included!" It was pretty cute, but I took it with me directly (thanks, employer!).
- On a recent departure, we booked some stuff in the destination location. Possibilities thrown around included golf lessons, concert tickets or season pass, amazon-type gift cards. Small now, providing great experiences or "things you need" on arrival.
posted by whatzit at 8:36 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've given a token of the place we spent our time together as a small parting gift before an international move.

I'm thinking particularly of a matchbook from a local bar we went to a lot. The instructions were that when the matches were all used up, the friend was due back for a visit.

A matchbook might not be the right artifact for your friends, but you get the idea.
posted by nadise at 2:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something I would have really appreciated after leaving each of my expat stays: memory photo album. Take photos of each of "your" hangouts, the pub you'd always get together at, the town fountain you went swimming in while drunk on night, the bookstore where you guys met, etc. Print the photos, and then write random funny memories, inside jokes, etc. on the back of each photo. Including things like napkins, business cards, and matchbooks (like nadise suggested) would even take it up a notch.

Alternatively, and this depends on how long until they leave and who is arranging their travel, but a gift card to your local shipping company (FedEx or whatever the local version is). I know I HATED how much I spent on shipping all my belongings, and a number of precious items got left behind as a result. A little extra money for shipping would have saved me some tough decisions.
posted by hasna at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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