Gift ideas for an elderly couple from Syria
August 21, 2016 7:12 PM   Subscribe

What can I send as a welcome gift to an older couple who are moving from Syria to the United States?

My very good friend is from Syria. Her parents are still there, and until recently had no plans to leave. Now, they have visas and are moving to Arizona in two weeks to stay with my friend until they get on their feet. I'm sure that they are not bringing much with them, but my friend and her husband are both physicians and I'm certain that their basic needs will be met. I met them on occasion when they were on a long visit. Their English fluency is limited.

I now live on the other side of the country, but I would very much like to send them something welcoming them to the United States. They are moving to a part of the country that is not particularly friendly to immigrants, especially not immigrants from that part of the world. I want to convey how happy I am that they are safe with their daughter and son-in-law. They are in their early 60s; I don't know if they have any specific interests. This does not need to be a practical gift. My budget is between $50-100.
posted by honeybee413 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about a nice tea set, and some tea? You can read more about how important tea is here.

We have a big immigrant population of Syrians in Maine, but they came here around the early 1900's. However, tea is so comforting, maybe some nice tea glasses and a tea pot and some good quality tea?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:29 PM on August 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

How about some baklava sent from a nearby bakery along with a note from you. I think the heartfelt note will be best and baklava is sweet. Flowers would also be a nice gesture and a great go-to.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:47 PM on August 21, 2016

This page on Middle Eastern gift customs says that a nice directional compass might be a good gift, especially for a Muslim, as it will help them always know what direction Mecca lies in. I think it might be a sweet gesture for anyone moving a long distance from home, as it can convey that you know they will always remember the place they came from and will want to know how to go to new places too.

I've had success giving little books or maps that include things like walking trails for those who like to do little hikes. If you know anything about their interests, then a map showing where to find things they care about could be wonderful.
posted by amtho at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Firstly, how lovely of you :)
On the practical front - as you say, the family will probably have all the practical/needed stuff covered. But have you tried asking your friend directly what her parents would like? She will probably be very grateful and be able to think of something special. Otherwise, flowers are definitely sure to be appreciated - to be honest the gesture of someone outside the family doing something - anything - to welcome them to the country is going to be very welcome.
posted by Megami at 9:49 PM on August 21, 2016

It's lovely to send them a gift. I think it's presumptuous to give them something that you think they ought to like because of their culture or religion, of which you are not a member. These are people who've had to suddenly leave their home. They're in America now. What would you appreciate if it were you? Flowers is nice; food is nice. All kind gestures are nice. You don't need to exoticize them to think of something kind.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:10 PM on August 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would send them a nice basket with a good assortiment of fruit. Maybe make sure there are some pomegranates to remind them of home, because that's a fruit that grows well in Syria. But mainly a nice variety.
I'm sure they'll appreciate the gesture. What a lovely thought!
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:28 PM on August 21, 2016

A bird identification guidebook could be cool. Also flowers.
posted by kjs4 at 11:34 PM on August 21, 2016

Flowers, and dates
posted by travellingincognito at 11:52 PM on August 21, 2016

The situation is not comparable, but I live overseas for work and I never end up learning the names of local trees, birds and flowers before I go on to the next country - it's just never part of the vocabulary I need on a daily basis, but the absence of this knowledge limits my ability to understand the culture of the place I am living.

So I wonder if they'd like something like a guide to local plants/animals. I found The Nature of Arizona on Amazon - the English level might seem high but it's fully illustrated and looks quite accessible. Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State is more photographic and focused on the state's history but looks quite coffee-table-ish and rather a lovely gift.
posted by mdonley at 6:24 AM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

If they will be setting up their own household eventually, a nice serving bowl or platter could be nice, since something like that probably would have been too bulky and fragile to move overseas. Pick something simple and neutral that would accommodate many tastes.

I agree that consulting with your friend would be a good idea to get a better sense of what their needs/wants might be.
posted by delight at 10:13 AM on August 22, 2016

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