Brainstorming gift ideas for a soon-to-be expat friend.
February 4, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

San Francisco centric, useful, relatively non-perishable gift ideas for a friend moving to Singapore?

A dear friend is moving to Singapore for work for at least two years. I'm looking for ideas to compliment the sappy/sentimental part of her going-away gift. The catch is that I'm looking for things that are hard to get outside of or are unique to the Bay Area. Having lived here for so long I don't have a good concept of what you can and cannot get elsewhere. So far my best idea is some Bicycle coffee (her favorite) but I'm looking for more. Can you even bring coffee into Singapore?

Weight/space isn't a big concern, although bulky is not ideal. Her company is paying to ship a container and she doesn't have nearly enough stuff to even begin to fill it. I'd like to try and stay away from making a gift full of food.
posted by tealcake to Shopping (13 answers total)
Let me get the obvious out of the way:
Tcho chocolate.
More coffee: Ritual, Four Barrel, Sightglass.

Art. How about a framed piece of all the SF neighborhoods? A photograph of an SF icon, or perhaps her favorite place? A special piece from Heath Ceramics?

If you aren't so pressed for time, get crafty. A book of photographs of your SF times together. See Mixbook, Shutterfly, etc. She'll be able to show off her life and times in the City by the Bay to all her new friends in Singapore.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2013

I know that deodorant/antipersperant is traditionally difficult to find in Asia. I don't know if that's true of Singapore as well. Not the sexiest of gifts, perhaps, but I know when friends have gone to China for long stints, they've filled half their suitcase with deodorant before they go.
posted by phunniemee at 11:50 AM on February 4, 2013

If you have time...

San Francisco print

Haight book page print

San Francisco tote
posted by biscuits at 11:56 AM on February 4, 2013

When I moved to Seoul after four years in San Francisco, the things I missed the most were unpurchasable. The smell of fog past Divisadero. Driving the Golden Gate, San Rafael, and Bay Bridges after midnight just cause I was restless. During monsoon season, I even missed having cold toes all the time because of those damn drafty apartments.

2nding chloe.gelsomino's recommendation for art. Needles & Pens might have something SF-centric. If your friend is a music fan, maybe a mp3 mix of local favorites, or schwag from a local venue?

Singapore is notorious for prohibiting gum but coffee is fine (List of prohibited goods). The variety of cheeses available in Asia is also limited, but as a former British trading depot with a ton of expats, Singapore might be way better off than Seoul.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:13 PM on February 4, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far! I'm loving the deodorant idea - funny and useful! I also love the art on the San Francisco tote biscuits linked, but I made her a tote for another occasion a few months ago.

The part of the gift that I'm making will be either a yearbook-type scrapbook or a framed collage-type thing.
posted by tealcake at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2013

She will have access to every basic category of consumer goods like deodorant and cheese in Singapore. It is a major modern city and there have been stores that specifically cater to western expats for decades. Think of things that are obscure and local enough that you could not get them in Chicago or DC.

I would also be concerned that food and even coffee might go bad unless it is very shelf stable. This will be in a hot metal container on a boat in the tropics for weeks. Chocolate melts.
posted by steinwald at 1:36 PM on February 4, 2013

I really like the idea of a necklace, if your friend is the type to wear it or use it for decoration. In particular, this map and this heart-city state-shaped one are cute.
posted by tinymegalo at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: How about a nice one or set of napkins/kerchiefs by a local artisan or with an SF theme. I recently learned the hard way that most restaurants in Singapore don't provide them and so it would be a gift they would use a lot and could think about you each time they use it. Just make sure they are very launder-able!

If you want to be coy you could just gift them without commentary. I guarantee it will dawn on your friend why they are useful after their first few food outings :)
posted by ftm at 2:57 PM on February 4, 2013

Chiming in on the deodorant thing, for some reason roughly two years ago Thailand and Indonesia stopped selling what I call normal-size deodorants/antiperspirants and now the only available size is travel-size, 17 g. Fine if you are traveling super light but annoying to have to run out and buy every other week. Because taking a lot of showers and re-applying cosmetics will be the norm. Also roll-on? wtf. I haven't been in Singapore long enough lately to check out the supply at Guardian but a couple spare ones won't be amiss.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:15 PM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: Oooh, I like this question because it reminds me of what I missed from SF when I was in Asia recently. Some things that your friend might find moving to Singapore is that 1) living quarters can be more compact (and thus, material clutter can be a hassle), 2) there's so much to experience (and, frankly, buy) in Asia that smaller may be better in terms of keepsakes. Plus, much of San Francisco's charms comes from its many architectural icons, diverse foodie culture, and natural beauty. So, I'd suggest these items:

- This poster is a great nostalgia-inducing visual of San Francisco's neighborhoods.

- Support SF parks and get her a mug, print, or t-shirt of one of SF's famous landmarks.

- Nothing wrong with a gift bag of local snacks if your friend is a foodie. I'd suggest going to the SF Ferry Building or Small Foods (on 2nd and Bryant, near South Park) to pick up some cookies from Mariposa Baking Company, chicharrones from 4505 Meats, organic potato chips, and all the finest local coffee roasteries (Blue Bottle, SightGlass, Bicycle). For chocolate, go for real quality with Dandelion Chocolate - they just opened their shop/cafe in the Mission.

Personally, I'd go with a mug from SF Parks, a foodie basket, a giant bag of cheetos (ok, not SF-ist but damn, can't get that in Asia) and a USB drive of SF-themed music videos (eg Kalle Matson's Water Falls) and personal photos/videos. Oh, if you'd prefer to give something like a coffee table book, I think Galen Rowell's done a fine job in terms of photographing the wilderness and the city.
posted by hampanda at 8:49 PM on February 4, 2013

I'm a Singaporean living in Singapore right now, and I once stayed in the States for a few years, so I should be able to come up with a list of things that you might want to give...

...but really, I can't think of anything specific right now beyond food-related items. Like a previous reply mentioned, many things are easily available in Singapore, especially things from the US, which are often quite popular here.

As for coffee, there are some places with good coffee too, and if you think about it, coffee-growing countries are relatively near Singapore as compared to SF.

What you could do, if you have a rough list of things you might want to give, is memail me the list and I could let you know what would be hard to get here. Often its going to be pretty random things, like for some reason it was really difficult to find Reese Peanut Butter Cups here until recently.
posted by destrius at 12:05 AM on February 5, 2013

Response by poster: Ding ding ding! LOVE the napkin idea! Personalized napkins, memory book, and some foodie treats sounds like a great gift to me!
posted by tealcake at 8:41 AM on February 5, 2013

Not to say that napkins aren't a good idea, but I'm not sure why ftm mentioned that its hard to find napkins in eating places here. Most good restaurants do provide them, and cheaper places usually have paper napkins readily available (we call them serviettes here). Unless you're referring exclusively to cloth napkins, then yes those are only provided at better restaurants. Tissues are easy to find if you need them too; you'll always find a few people hawking packets of tissues near any eating establishment.

But using cloth napkins are better for the environment anyway, so its a great idea to give her some!
posted by destrius at 1:54 AM on February 6, 2013

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