What to bring to an American expat in Ireland?
April 3, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a trip to stay with a friend and his family in Dublin next month, and would like to bring them something to enjoy from the US that they'd have a hard time finding in Ireland.

The friend is American but lives permanently in the Ireland now, and his wife lived here for many years but is Irish. They have two boys ages 4 and 9.

Something consumable would probably be best. It doesn't have to be fancy (some sort of uniquely American processed snack food could go over OK), but it could be.
posted by exogenous to Travel & Transportation (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Grits. And not the instant stuff.
posted by three blind mice at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Every time I lived in England (which is not Ireland, but for purposes of available American foodstuffs, close enough), I found myself desperate for Reese's peanut butter cups above all else. (I also craved Doritos and pumpkin pie, though not at the same time.)
posted by scody at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2013

Anything peanut or peanut butter related. They exist overseas, but they're much more expensive and hard to get.
posted by nickhb at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A really big jar of Jif peanut butter. That's what I pick up every time I'm back in the US briefly. (YMMV)
posted by olinerd at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ketchup? It tastes different to me over there.
posted by ian1977 at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2013

Lucky Charms.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lucky Charms. No, really!

(okay, that pic was taken in london, not dublin)
posted by homodachi at 11:37 AM on April 3, 2013

Doritos and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

A college friend did a year at Trinity College and I visited her for Spring Break; I called ahead to ask her this very question, and she all but SHRIEKED that request over the phone to me. I brought over two family-packs of Doritos and three boxes of Kraft Mac-and-Cheese, and she all but grabbed them from me as soon as she saw me and made ALL THREE BOXES for lunch that day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on April 3, 2013

Every time I lived in England (which is not Ireland, but for purposes of available American foodstuffs, close enough), I found myself desperate for Reese's peanut butter cups

Sorry, but Reese's peanut butter cups are all over England now - not sure about Ireland but probably there too.

On preview: Lucky Charms are here too.
posted by vacapinta at 11:38 AM on April 3, 2013

Doritos for sure.

Put Peanut Butter in your checked bags, but be aware, when scanned, Peanut Butter looks EXACLTY like C-4 Explosives, so the TSA WILL be sorting through your bags. Don't try to carry it on, they'll confiscate it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:39 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

May I suggest Mexican hot chocolate?
posted by vacapinta at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

A giant bag of chocolate chips. The ones I've been able to find here are stupidly expensive and just not the same.
posted by lovermont at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2013

If they happen to have lived in California, See's candy.
posted by town of cats at 11:42 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by Spinneret at 11:43 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My friends request Kraft mac and cheese, Lucky Charms, Reeses peanut butter cups, and Big Red gum.

Some of these may be available over there, but they can be absurdly expensive.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:45 AM on April 3, 2013

Are the Doritos we get here different to the US ones then?
posted by knapah at 11:46 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have Doritos in every Tesco. I'm American and they taste the same as the ones from home.

Peanut butter cups are harder to get, but there's still three places just on my street (in Glasgow) where I can buy them whenever I want them (one place is open twenty-four hours!). They were on sale at Waitrose for 20p recently.

Just ask your friend!
posted by 4bulafia at 11:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on your friends US origins: pretzels, churros, bagels, chipolte peppers, jalapenos, ranch dressing, capers, abuelita hot chocolate and taco bell seasoning packets. Heck, bring the corn tortillas too
posted by fshgrl at 11:52 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

The peanut/chocolate candy advice is spot on.

Also fancy root beer or just any cream soda.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:52 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anything authentically tex mex or mexican food.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:53 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, I don't know your friends inclinations or how risk averse you are but if anyone were to ever manage to sneak a proper chipotle burrito through Euro customs in ice for me, minus guac that would turn brown, they would seriously make a friend for life.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Grape jelly.
posted by cecic at 12:00 PM on April 3, 2013

Starburst and Skittles, on the other hand, taste completely different. Even the flavours that are supposedly the same.

I've never seen a Hershey's bar in the UK, but I've lost my taste for them.

Peanut butter M&Ms and mint M&Ms are hard to find.

Peanut butter Twix are nonexistent, as are Butterfingers.

Three Musketeers.

Nutrageous bars are everywhere, as they should be. I sometimes wish they were harder to find!

Reeses-branded stuff has been pretty widely available everywhere I've lived in the UK, but otherwise the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is really rare.
posted by 4bulafia at 12:02 PM on April 3, 2013

How could I forget? Real lemonade.
posted by 4bulafia at 12:05 PM on April 3, 2013

I'd suggest Twinkies or Hostess cakes. We really don't have anything much like that in this part of Europe. Hershey bars are as common as Reese's peanut butter cups (3 packs of 3 for £1.20 in Tesco at the moment, and probably likewise in Tesco Ireland). Also, almond Snickers is what I like most in foreign candies. Basically, though, search CyberCandy for what doesn't exist in the UK market. I don't remember seeing anything from the US in Ireland that's not available in the UK.
posted by ambrosen at 12:10 PM on April 3, 2013

I live in Ireland 5-6 months a year and this is what I miss and can not find: grits/cornmeal, pretzels, diet Dr Pepper/Mountain Dew (a little difficult to ship), extra-crunchy peanut butter and Grapenuts. you are a good friend
posted by rmhsinc at 12:26 PM on April 3, 2013

Response by poster: I might bring some tortillas, salsa, and canned refried beans.

What about breakfast cereals? This is a man who, after a long bike ride, would eat half a box of Cheerios with milk.
posted by exogenous at 12:35 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honey bunches of oats! European cereals are way too healthy. Definitely, definitely take salsa (from Whole Foods, or some place gourmet) and tortillas - it wasn't until I lived in Europe that I realised how much I take Mexican-ish foods for granted.
posted by ashworth at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2013

My ex-pat friends in Europe asked for Franks Hot Sauce.
posted by third rail at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by kuanes at 12:47 PM on April 3, 2013

OH GOD, who I wouldn't blow for a small collection of cans of refried beans that aren't the woefully insufficient taco bell variety your friend might be able to order here. I miss what they do for nachos or just a really quick bean and cheese burrito. You are a good friend.

Seconding real hot sauce that isn't tobasco, particularly the really hot stuff if they're into that.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:52 PM on April 3, 2013

I have yet to find the regular ol' Cheerios in the yellow box in the shops here, only these. So maybe plain Cheerios? (But I have, surprisingly enough, been able to buy Grape Nuts at our local health food shop.)
posted by lovermont at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2013

I remember American friends being thrilled with mac and cheese (as many others here have commented) and Reese's Pieces. The thing I missed when I came back to Ireland from the US was Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. The cereal choice here in Ireland is pretty limited. There's some sort of shake-on salt-pepper-other stuff condiment too (has a homey name). Maple syrup is pricey here too.

I think it's still quite difficult to get cookie dough and any of the Aunt Jemima style mixes here.

I was going to +1 for refried beans, but I see that there's an online shop that's selling Mexican food in Ireland now.

Oh, Babe Ruth bars. I don't think I've ever seen them here. Or Rocky Road. Nomm.
posted by nevan at 1:03 PM on April 3, 2013

Marshmallow Fluff if they're from the Northeast.
posted by usonian at 1:30 PM on April 3, 2013

I'm not sure how easy this would be to find there, but: how about gourmet popping corn from a specialty store? I've heard that microwave popcorn is easy to find, but not the kind you pop on a stove. The blue or red kind could be fun, also. And it's really light and easy to pack.
posted by amtho at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2013

Hungry Jack complete pancake mix ?
posted by panini at 2:57 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

It may be too late in the season...but after spending 18 month's in Europe, I was crazy for Girl Scout Cookies. mmmm...
posted by Leenie at 3:03 PM on April 3, 2013

I found bagels at a food court in Dublin.
Nthing Mexican; the only decent one I've been to in Europe
was run by expats in Berlin.
All the different kinds of M&M's.
Doritos other than original and ranch.
posted by brujita at 4:23 PM on April 3, 2013

nth-ing peanut butter
taco seasoning
Kraft mac & cheese (when I studied abroad Mom sent me just the cheez powder packet.. they can buy the noodles but you can't get that cheezy powder)

posted by nakedmolerats at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2013

Chocolate chips definitely.
posted by bendy at 7:51 PM on April 3, 2013

On my first trip to Scotland, I checked a box full of nothing but Lucky Charms and TJ's Gummy Tummy Penguins. My future husband had to hide some boxes of Charms from his brother and dad to make them last. After more than a year in the U.S., husband still gets very excited when Lucky Charms are on sale. They probably have them in Ireland, but they're likely very expensive. $10-12 a box, last time husband looked in Glasgow. Also nthing chocolate chips.
posted by weeyin at 8:00 PM on April 3, 2013

Just chiming in back in to say that the best gifts are going to be from local producers in the area where you live.

I'm an American living in the UK. As an example, we recently had friends visit from Boston. They know we love food and drink. And what they brought us was a handful of Taza chocolate tablets and a bottle of Bully boy whiskey. These things are nice and we all made and drank the hot chocolate together. We're still enjoying the whiskey as well. When I visit them, I might reciprocate with a bottle of Milk Vodka or bars of Bernachon chocolates that a friend just brought up from Paris.

Junk food, as per many of the suggestions above, will only be appreciated if they actually miss it. And in any case, most American junk food is available in the UK and Ireland at specialty shops. Lucky Charms, for example, can be bought in Dublin for about 8 euros a box.

Regarding Mexican food. Supermarkets also have small ethnic sections where they do carry the name brand stuff such as Discovery and Old El Paso. But if you have access to something local and more authentic (especially salsa), that'd be great. Good Mexican food is still rare here in the UK and Ireland. I really miss Tamales but thats probably really hard to bring over...
posted by vacapinta at 2:16 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

What? Peanut butter?

Don't look silly with 5 jars in hand. All you would be doing is saving them a trip to their grocery store. Peanut butter is readily available in Ireland. Ireland is a modern, accessible nation - not north Korea.

Bring ethnic food (Mexican, thai, Chinese) you know they would enjoy, as the variety we have in the U.S. dwarfs what they have available.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:34 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can buy bagels at any supermarket in the UK, and I'm sure the same is true of Ireland. While you might actually be saving them money by bringing them over - everything over there is SO expensive right now - you won't be bringing anything unusual. Salsa and tortillas are widely available too, though possibly not that authentic - we have Whole Foods and Chipotle in London now and I'm sure if they're not in Dublin yet they will be soon. Old El Paso do refried beans, taco kits, etc. etc.

I'm in London where there are a couple of shops selling US food and cereal, but they are very expensive - an ex's mum shipped back a case of Lucky Charms from the US as they are near-impossible to get outside of the capital.

If I was going to the US, I'd be getting me some Butterfingers and some popcorn seasoning, as they aren't easy to get here. Also, a box of Froot Loops for my boyfriend. Also, rootbeer isn't very common here - I'm one of the few non-Americans who really likes it - so that might be a good thing to bring. HFCS is rare here still, so 'our' versions of US foods may taste different.
posted by mippy at 7:09 AM on April 4, 2013

I know Ireland doesn't exactly want for beer, but there are specific American microbrews that he might miss? (And man, you're a great friend just for thinking of tortillas!)
posted by sundaydriver at 8:33 AM on April 4, 2013

If you can work out how to transport Mexican cheese, do it. Almost impossible to get in the UK, and one of the foodstuffs I miss the most from my few months in NYC.
posted by Acheman at 9:52 AM on April 4, 2013

Why not ask your friend what they would like?

As a UK-to-US transplant, food items in the US that simply did not exist back home are:

* Fresh tortillas and salsas, as vacapinta describes -- corn or flour tortillas fresh from the local tortilla factories are *amazing*

* The UK has a rich biscuit ecosystem, the US has a rich cookie ecosystem, but there's not a lot of overlap -- for example chocolate chip cookies are very American. The Pepperidge Farm brand didn't exist in the UK when I left. A lot of the low-end brands are very quintessentially American too -- Oreos for example. (These may be a bad example as they're probably reasonably easy to find imported.)

* UK pancakes = US crepes. US pancakes are less familiar, and the whole HFCS-laced pancake-syrup thing -- Mrs Butterworth and her friends -- was completely new to me. Maybe a box of pancake mix and a bottle of fake syrup would hit the spot?

* The UK basically doesn't have boxed cake mixes or tubs of frosting -- we're a nation of bakers, don't you know. (As a bonus, these would be fun for kids too.)

* Sourdough bread, although that's more about me landing in the Bay Area where it's everywhere.

Oh, also: Hamburger Helper and Rice-A-Roni.

(Yes, I did go through an "American junk food is fascinating" phase when I arrived. US supermarkets are cathedrals of wonder: so many choices.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:59 AM on April 4, 2013

Three Musketeers.

FWIW, US Three Musketeers = UK Milky Way. They're pretty much identical.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:09 PM on April 4, 2013

Peanut butter is readily available in Ireland.

But probably does not taste quite the same. Compared to the Sun-Pat I was used to in the UK, the American brands -- Jif, Skippy etc -- are a lot sweeter.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:14 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

grape jelly.
posted by thatgirld at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2013

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