What should I suggest to my au pair to bring with her?
January 19, 2014 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My au pair is South African and currently lives in Namibia. She arrives in the US in one week. I just wrote her an email suggesting she bring some of her favorite foods, which I would suggest to anyone leaving their home for an extended period of time. However, I do not have a sense for other things readily available to her at home that would not be available or would be cost-prohibitive for her to acquire here. What, if anything (else), should I suggest she bring? Thanks.
posted by emkelley to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If she's a woman of color, probably whatever she likes for skin or hair which may not be immediately available here if your home is out in the 'burbs (most urban drugstores will have an "ethnic" section for toiletries and health remedies specific to Latin America or people with non-white hair/skin).
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:44 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Any drugstore or personal hygiene items she prefers; I had a Korean coworker who always brought toothpaste, headache remedy, face wash, and makeup back to Canada; she said having familiar brands/flavours/scents of small things like that made a difference to her.
posted by variella at 5:51 PM on January 19, 2014

Favorite brands of chocolate.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:55 PM on January 19, 2014

Her favorite tea.

If she likes lemons at home she may prefer meyer lemons to what we typically have in the States.

Beyond that she'll probably miss the large sky and the sunsets, but i don't think she can bring those along.
posted by alms at 6:05 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

If she likes lemons at home she may prefer meyer lemons to what we typically have in the States.

Beware of Customs - don't bring citrus into the country. There are Meyer lemons at lots of grocery stores.

But otherwise, yes, personal things like face cream can be comforting and reassuring, but even better, take her to a great local drugstore or beauty supply store when she arrives!
posted by barnone at 6:17 PM on January 19, 2014

Quite right, I didn't mean to imply that she should bring lemons. Rather that if she's trying to get lemons like the ones she's used to at home she should look for meyer lemons.
posted by alms at 6:29 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just moved back to the States after living in South Africa. Most things are readily available in the US, but there are a few British brands that will be familiar to her. PG Tips tea, for example, or Cadbury chocolate (I know you can buy it in the US, but the range of flavors is really much better there). If she's into Rooibos tea, have her bring her own, as the US versions are pretty terrible.

One thing you might mention to her is that clothing will be much more affordable in the US, so if she plans to get winter clothes or boots, then getting them in the US will be cheaper and easier. Same goes for electronics.including cell phones. If she uses a Blackberry (which, chances are, she does), then be sure you find a reliable carrier -- I'm not even sure who does BB service anymore. Her phone will most likely have a SIM card that she'll want to change out, so you could check on that, too. The easiest way for he to communicate with her friends back home will probably be through BBM.
posted by mrfuga0 at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only beloved South African things I can think of that would be hard to find in the US are Marmite, biltong and dry wors (dried sausage), and rooibos tea.
posted by Flashman at 7:39 PM on January 19, 2014

It depends - are you near a World Market? They carry Marmite (but it's the UK kind, not the one manufactured in ZA), some Rooibos tea (although as mrfuga0 notes, it's not always great), some chocolate bars, and various other things. They also have Ceres juice at the locations near me, though not everywhere. Oh, and anything with passion fruit flavour she's used to is tough to get here (unless you're in Hawaii).

When I come back to the States from ZA, I bring Savannah Dry Cider and Hunters Gold, Rose lime cordial, lots of candy/chocolate, and Ricoffy...all of which I've only seen in specialty import stores online for a huge markup.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:24 PM on January 19, 2014

You are not allowed to bring any kind of fresh food, or dried meat into the US. Fines can run to hundreds of dollars.
posted by w0mbat at 11:16 PM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

She may miss many things, but the things that she'll want are:

Things she needs/likes/uses frequently, where:

- the equivalents are not freely available in the US
- and/or are expensive
- and/or where a nearly-as-good-option is not worth buying

Things that fit that category are:

- Underwear
- Fabric
- A specific piece/brand of clothing/footwear
- Skincare and haircare products
- Over the counter medicines, where legal to import
- Ambient 'treat' food/drinks products (e.g. tea, chocolate)
- Specific, trusted, functional tools
- At a push, books or music from a specific artist
- A favoured cookbook
- An electrical adaptor

Realistically, there is probably nothing she *needs* to bring and few, if any, things that are so unique or uniquely cheap to South Africa and necessary.

Everything fits into either cost, convenience, personal preference, nostalgia or avoidance of error - the latter one being avoiding having to find out what x can do the job for her as well as the thing she knows.

This is the real pain when you move - working out how to navigate another country's supermarket or drug store, establishing what clothing brand you like and flatters you, transitioning from perhaps one type of diet to another based on what is available or cheap. It can be extremely alienating when added to the other crap and stress you have to deal with as everything is suddenly unfamiliar. For example, I once spent a day in a foreign country, pre-internet, trying to find a portable electric stove to cook on, going into electrical shops and kitchen shops with no luck until someone gave us the name of the retail chain we wanted and where to find it.

In other words, put your efforts into familiarising her with all that knowledge you have about navigating stores, brands, bureaucracy etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:40 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing I enjoy when going to other countries is touring supermarkets and "big box stores."

When you go shopping, take her with you, especially to the drugstore, supermarket and Target. Show her how the prices differ, and talk to her about your brand preferences, "This one doesn't have a fragrance, so I like it better." That sort of thing.

Other than that, if she needs a winter coat, be sure to show her where the sales are!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2014

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