What should I bring to my Aussie friends in Sydney as a gift?
February 16, 2014 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to head to Australia where I'll be staying with an expecting couple for a while. I'd like to bring them a gift but I'm not sure what would be nice. Please make some suggestions.

In my eyes, the perfect gift is something that the person would not get themselves -- they can't afford it, they don't know that it exists, or they can't get it where they live. I'm not sure what they don't have in AUS that I can get in the SF Bay Area.

They are a newly married couple, about 30yo, about to have a baby. Something for the baby would also work, although I don't know what they already have. She's about 5 months preggers.

They're fairly active people. They bikeride and sail. They also lived in CA for a couple years.

The budget is about $100.
posted by cman to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Baby clothes from another country are always fun- foreign fashion, a big hit!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cracked wheat sourdough...if they don't eat gluten, my cousin runs Bread SRSLY.
posted by brujita at 11:51 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm from SF and live in Sydney. A box of See's would not go amiss! Good dark/unsweetened chocolate in general (Ghiradelli, Scharfenberger...). You can get it at many grocery stores, but here all we get is Cadbury :-(.

Favorite foods - import stores never have what I want. Books, clothes, and make up are also much much more expensive here and are things I don't buy much anymore - good gifts. (There's also less range)

Classic picture books for the baby. (Being the same age and also pregnant, I'd vote for this, as books are both expensive and there's less variety... but I'm a total book worm). I'm also outdoorsy, but gear is a hard thing to pick out for someone else.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:28 PM on February 16, 2014

Clothing is expensive in Australia. I usually bring my nieces t-shirts and sweatshirts from Mollusk out by Ocean Beach, but they are a little older. I think they also have onesies, but I didn't see them on the website. Stuff like handbags and hiking gear brands (Patagonia, for example) are also way cheaper in the USA. I often buy my sister bags and puffy jackets at the Patagonia sample sale and bring it to her when I visit. It depends on your friends tastes, but there are a lot of "only in SF" clothing brands and printed things at the various boutiques around town. Park Life, General Store, Mollusk, the skate shops like DLX and FTC, etc, all have cool SF-specific stuff. I found a big tote bag at one of the places on Mission that my sister uses for everything. My brother -in-law surprisingly really appreciated a SF Giants hat. I brought him an old school skate deck once. There's a handful of bike boutiques which might have a cool bag, or something like a Chuey biking cap. Another thing that is easy to pack is fancy stationary and writing supplies from a store like Mai-Do. Books and magazines are absurdly priced in Australia. I've brought over three months worth of New Yorkers. Kids books... The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.

I would not suggest food. Australians are really laid back about everything except organic matter coming through customs. That's a bit exaggerated, but really, if it isn't a pre-packaged thing like Oreos, with obvious ingredient labels, it's probably going into the bin. Can depend on the mood of the customs guy.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2014

We have bread in Sydney lol. Nthing US clothes for baby.
posted by smoke at 1:27 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding that food can be iffy, especially if relatively unprocessed. Here's some details on Australian biosecurity.

Some friends of mine commented that they couldn't get a Jolly Jumper (or similar doorway-mounted bouncy swing) in Australia like they'd had for their first baby in Canada, so maybe ask - there might be baby things they've seen on blogs or wherever but been unable to get here.
posted by escapepod at 1:40 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Former Californians? When I visit people who are no longer living in Trader Joe's territory, I always ask if there are TJ products that they miss. Every time I've asked people have handed me a list of Trader Joe's products that they longing to have.
posted by 26.2 at 1:44 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been back and forth through Australian customs numerous times, and have never had pre-packaged food taken. (I've never had anything taken ever, and I've gone through with the stray apple/orange and clean but used camping equipment, YMMV) Candy, biscuits/cookies, tea etc in the package should be fine.

When I moved here and shipped furniture, I had to have my grandmother's handmade broom with a bark handle irradiated, but that was it.

Hawaii wouldn't let me take an Apple on the plane to CA though, even though I was planning on eating it.

In short: Australia is much much more worried about their unique ecosystem than they are about their ag. (CA is worried about ag).
posted by jrobin276 at 2:22 PM on February 16, 2014

Yeah, we have sourdough in Sydney.

What sort of cyclists are they? If they're at all "into" bikes and cycling culture (rather than just having a couple of Wal-K-mart specials they use to get around), they would probably love something from one of San Francisco's independent bike shops. Most major bike brands are available in Australia, but the quirkier artisanal items can be expensive and hard to find, and it seems like San Francisco has a thriving bike culture with lots of people making cool stuff. Ask your friends what they want! Or compare the range of your local stores with, say, Cheeky Transport, Omafiets and one of the big online bike retailers like Wiggle and buy something they can't get here. A few examples: Bikes of San Francisco poster. Halo light belt (can be ordered online but shipping to Australia is expensive). Rickshaw bike bags (not available here, to my knowledge).

Also, consider that one of the most valuable gifts you can give them might be simply transporting something they want from the US to Australia. For example, if I had a good friend visiting from the US, I might ask if they could bring me a particular bike frame I've wanted to buy for a while. I wouldn't expect them to buy it for me - I would pay the full cost plus any excess baggage charges - but just by carrying it into the country they would be saving me hundreds of dollars in shipping and markups by local distributors. Their gift to me would be the hassle of buying and transporting the thing. I'm sure there are examples of sailing gear or baby products where the price differential is similarly large. Jeans and shoes are another example - the markups here can be crazy. Ask them what they need, give them a few days to think about it, then ask again, so they know you're not just offering to be polite. I often say, "no, I don't need anything..." at first, but if the visitor really insists, I'm immensely grateful and will get back to them with a list.
posted by embrangled at 3:30 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bring them some maple syrup.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:07 PM on February 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

As an Aussie that now lives in the US the thing I get asked for most from family & friends is US food stuffs they have heard of on TV that they cant' get in Australia. Did they have a favourite food from their time in US? Ingredients also go down well. I had a friend have a tasting party when I bought her a huge bottle of proper Canadian maple syrup (which left me with visions of sticky clothes as it couldn't go carry on).

The stuff of the same quality you'd get at a Trader Joes/Whole Foods in the US you can get pretty much at any major supermarket in Australia, though maybe under different names.
Prepackaged mass produced food gets through customs OK they do have to check it is still sealed and country of origin. Anything that looks homemade or isn't in a sealed container can be a problem.

You guys have a lot of different childrens books that we don't have in Australia a bit of google fu will help you make sure you you find something that would be considered unique but a few nice kids books would probably go down a treat.
posted by wwax at 4:17 PM on February 16, 2014

If you are going to buy clothes for the kid (nice idea), get some larger sizes so baby can grow into them. Like 10 special t-shirts in sizes baby to 5yrs old; two for every year.
posted by Kerasia at 9:13 PM on February 16, 2014

Seriously, baby clothes. SO much cheaper in the States than in Australia.
posted by Admira at 11:39 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're buying baby clothes and you're not absolutely sure of the size, buy large. Kids grow quickly. Better to have them keep the outfit for a year or more than to have it be too small, or worn for a month and then passed on.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:01 AM on February 17, 2014

Toiletries like lotion are much more expensive in Aus, so nice personal products like Kiehls may be appreciated.

Also, cloth diapers are way more expensive over here. If the parents aren't intending to cloth diaper, a couple of packs of prefolds make for great all purpose towelling, mopping up and cleaning rags. If they are planning to cloth diaper, you could save them a huge chunk by bringing a few packs from the States.
posted by mosessis at 3:18 AM on February 17, 2014

Ask them if they want you to help them transport a stroller in for their impending baby - strollers are ridiculously marked up here, especially the good "brand name" ones!
posted by shazzam! at 3:54 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Camping gear, outdoor gear (jackets, etc), shoes, boots, sporting gear and so on are all really expensive here in Oz; nthing baby clothes; ibuprofen (seriously) in a giant bottle will cost you about $20 from Costco, but would be the equivalent of around $100 or more here. My wife has her Mom send over tampons (yes, really) since they're so much cheaper there as well.

Bottles of single-issue craft beer like Bear Republic Racer X, or anything from Unibroue (La Fin Du Monde is the best) -- you simply cannot get that here, even from well-stocked craft beer shops that specialise in imports.

Don't bother with electrical goods -- we run 240v at 50Hz here so unless it's universal voltage, it'll be a pain or won't work at all (or the magic smoke will get out).

Source: I lived in the Bay Area for about 7 years.
posted by nonspecialist at 6:34 AM on February 17, 2014

I'm from SF and live in Sydney. A box of See's would not go amiss! Good dark/unsweetened chocolate in general (Ghiradelli, Scharfenberger...). You can get it at many grocery stores, but here all we get is Cadbury :-(.

What a weird thing to say - have you tried: Woolworths? I don't think I've been to a major supermarket that didn't stock Lindt for years. (Lindt owns Ghiradelli).

But yes, we have bread and dark chocolate.
posted by chiquitita at 6:51 AM on February 17, 2014

Do they like Mexican food at all? I always buy cans and cans and cans of salsa verde and chipotle chillies whenever I'm in the US. Caveat: I've never tried to mule these back to Australia, only to the biosecurity lax Netherlands.

Personally, I also always buy electronics in the US whenever I get a chance, so maybe a spendy baby monitor? The mark up in Australia is exorbitant.

Is the lady a makeup wearer at all? Cosmetics are INSANELY marked up in Australia, so I'd ask about any of her staples and nip past a Sephora.
posted by nerdfish at 7:22 AM on February 17, 2014

As an Aussie, I can get nearly all the things mentioned here.
Especially books. Come on, I have been buying from Amazon since 1997.
But what really irks me is stuff like Kickstarters and other niche market electronics, outdoor gear and so on that either won't ship to Australia point blank, or charge $40 to send a $10 item.
So I second embrangled's comment of offering to transport something for them.
posted by bystander at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2014

>Do they like Mexican food at all? I always buy cans and cans and cans of salsa verde and chipotle chillies whenever I'm in the US.

Yeah, I'd agree with this. At least in my (somewhat dated) experience, Sydney could not do Mexican food for #$%& - if your friends lived in CA and liked the food, they'd probably love it. Australia is not (usually) concerned with pre-packaged food, although DO declare it when you go through the airport. They'll glance at it and say OK, but if they catch you not declaring it...

Alternatively, have you considered just asking if there's anything they want? (For example, I've carried over some extremely specific request items on trips, like a GoPro camera on one occasion...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:28 PM on February 19, 2014

There has been a boom in Mexican food here recently, so thankfully we can now buy many ingredients that we used to lack. The ones I can't find are the fresh things like poblano peppers, but you can't bring those in anyway. It's possible there is some Mexican ingredient or brand these people want and can't find, but you'd have to ask them to know what it was.
posted by mosessis at 3:23 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

"What a weird thing to say - have you tried: Woolworths? I don't think I've been to a major supermarket that didn't stock Lindt for years. (Lindt owns Ghiradelli).

But yes, we have bread and dark chocolate.

"The stuff of the same quality you'd get at a Trader Joes/Whole Foods in the US you can get pretty much at any major supermarket in Australia"

Look, basically, Australia is a first world country - we have in one form or another, all the things mentioned above, and there are ways of ordering almost anything online from the US if you really wanted to. We have Lindt and bread and baby clothes/books and Patagonia. We can use a shipping forwarder for places that don't ship to the US. They probably kept a US credit card, as I did, so they can get US prices for things. What you're saving them in many of these examples here is convenience: you're saving them from paying large shipping fees and getting them something in a timely manner. It's a gift. A treat. Plus, you know - having a baby makes it MUCH less likely they are going to go seeking out specialty shops or splurge on extras.

Even if there's not a discrepency in quality (which I think there certainly can be at times), then there is in the variety of available options for many items. There just aren't as many different brands, flavours, niche items, etc. Of the items I miss from home, I miss very specific things. Even if I can special-order it, I miss being able to walk into a grocery store and get it. I don't miss buying books, I miss ordering stacks of used books for $50 from Amazon and not paying any shipping. I don't miss hot cereal, I miss Malt-O Meal; not "biscuits" but Peanut Butter Gauchos, not toothpaste but Tom's of Maine Cinnamon. Things that probably aren't worth the cost of shipping, small things - things your mom would put in a care package for you.

Your best bet is to ask them what they miss or can't find.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:01 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Diagnose my iPhone   |   Recommend low-carb or diabetes food blogs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.