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April 11, 2013 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Heya French people! What small, US-made items are difficult to find in France that might make a nice gift?

I'm staying with some folks in Agen and then in Paris and want to bring a little something in thanks for the hospitality.

Alternatively, any ideas for little items that I could bring back that are easy to find there but hard in the US would also be welcome.

posted by Calicatt to Shopping (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1) Fisher Bullet Space Pen, the space shuttle one.

2) Zippo lighter with a fun design

3) Bottle of premium hot sauce.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:05 AM on April 11, 2013

Where in the US are you from? My answer would be to bring something (liquor, chocolates, candy, crafts) that is from your region and only locally made.

Any national brand stuff is likely to be available in France.
posted by vacapinta at 11:13 AM on April 11, 2013

Here's a great post by David Leibovitz on that very subject. You may want to search his site a bit; he often talks about what to bring from the US.
posted by hought20 at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am bringing my French acquaintance some samples from indie perfumers from the Pacific Northwest, since many of them are tiny craft businesses and don't have permits to ship to Europe. But my friend and I are both hardcore perfume nerds and we met through a perfume board.
posted by matildaben at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2013

That said, last time we went to the US, a French friend approached us and asked if we could possibly bring her cans of New England Clam Chowder.
posted by vacapinta at 11:22 AM on April 11, 2013

Maple syrup. It's outrageously expensive in Europe.
posted by workerant at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the link hought20! That's perfect.

Also, I'm in Boston, so good New England Clam Chowder or maple syrup would be very do-able
posted by Calicatt at 12:10 PM on April 11, 2013

I came here to recommend David Leibovitz's site as well, but hough20 beat me to it. I like the regional treats idea; maple syrup, maple candy (won't leak!) johnny cake mix, or clam chowder (!?) would be good ones, so long as you provide instructions on how to use or a recipe for them to enjoy (e.g. they may not know how to eat johnny cakes!).

As for non-food items, little regional things might be nice, like a small bean pot, or a keychain from a local tourist icon (these were popular gifts between exchange students in a program I was in last summer), Turk's Head bracelets, or scrimshaw (So long as its legal to bring into France)?
posted by absquatulate at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2013

Quality US wine. French wine shops can be very parochial and decent US wine is not widely available.

Perhaps a nice coffee table book, too.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2013

I have had friends in France (both French and American expats) ask me to bring: peanut butter, peanut butter cups, jars of thai simmer sauces.
posted by pizzazz at 2:14 PM on April 11, 2013

Any national brand stuff is likely to be available in France.
This is very much not true, for better and for worse... As an American living in Paris, I second above suggestions on maple syrup, clam chowder, and peanut butter cups. Hot sauce is hit-and-miss because many French people don't deal with spicy foods; peanut butter is widely available (Skippy, even!) but expensive. So, I have it imported via mom from CostCo because I use a ton of it, but it's not unknown here the way it was in the past.

any ideas for little items that I could bring back that are easy to find there but hard in the US would also be welcome.
Things that people I know take away with them:
- weird flavors of European chocolate brands, especially Lindt
- speculoos paste; we have not only smooth but also crunchy and sometimes chocolate (though that is more common in Belgium)
- small jars of salt and black pepper and mixed peppercorns with their own mills (my mother loved these)
- small bottles of wine seem to have more variety here than in the us
- cheese can be vacuum-packed for traveling
- caramel au beurre salé as a spread, in cookies, and in many other forms: salted butter caramel has to be one of the best flavors of France, and boy does it go well with everything!

If you are looking for food people, you might want to visit L'Etoile d'Or in Paris near Pigalle metro. The proprietor specializes in bringing in regional candies from all over France to sell in her shop. It's pricy, but definitely worth it for the special occasion.
posted by whatzit at 2:31 PM on April 11, 2013

I brought several of the food items mentioned above when visiting French friends. Maple sugar candy was a puzzlement to them but in a good way I think. Dried cranberries were a hit. Peanut butter cups were a dismal failure; they do not like peanut butter and my friend insists that she doesn't know many people who do (I don't think her friends represent all French people).

I'm from the Boston area too and brought Red Sox hats; they liked these..

But I think the most appreciated item were back copies of the New Yorker; evidently tres expensive there (or maybe just more than my friend's budget) and she loves reading the magazine.

The best things I brought back was raw linden or limetree honey. You can buy it here but for more than I paid on the street in Paris. I was scared going thru US customs though; no idea if that's really kosher to bring. Watch out for the 'spice wagons' in Paris; they look very inviting with their multitude of compartments overflowing with gorgeous spices, but they overcharge tremendously. One of the funner things we did, because I would never do it here, was go into a perfume shop. We chatted with the shop lady and she selected scents she thought we would like, honing in the perfect one based on our responses. Are their shops that do that for you here? (Sounds like matildaben would know!)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:13 PM on April 11, 2013

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