gift ideas needed!
January 5, 2017 12:53 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are traveling to see family in the Philippines. I want to bring some presents, but I'm conflicted about what to get and who to bring them for. Full outline of my headache inside.

SO. I'm definitely bringing some gifts for the smaller kids (ie 12 and under). They're pretty easy, some books, some toys. Should I bring presents for the older kids of cousins? ie 16-23ish? I don't know any of them all that well though I have done a bit of facebook stalking. The other complicating factor is that one cousin's family is VERY VERY well off, while the other one is possibly middle class but may be a bit more broke than that. My mother's advice was to get things for the younger girls but not the eldest boy since he's an adult (and also part of the rich family)? But that feels mean and if I get anything for the less well off branch then he's the only one being excluded.

At this point I'm leaning towards just bringing a food item for everyone. I would bring fancy chocolate but I'm concerned it'll be melted and yuck from travel. I'm open to other fancy food things that travel well and would be fun for people to receive overseas. Given the rich cousins I feel like I need to go interesting since I can't go expensive enough to be impressive. Budget could go up to $100 if it can cover 10-12 people.

I like handmade/small batch/made localish (Virginia suburbs of DC) and I can order from Etsy if you have a recommendation. Most major American brands are probably available at the various malls, which is also why I'm leaning towards small producer/artisanal things.

Feel free to tell me I'm totally overthinking this (likely) but please also suggest some workable ideas because I'm TIRED and want to have this done so I can focus on other parts of the trip.
posted by brilliantine to Shopping (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not the exact same situation, but when I go home to Hawaii (I'm also in VA suburbs of DC), I bring back a bunch of stuff from Trader Joe's. You can find lots of items that travel well there. I find that everyone like the novelty of it and TJs is well-known almost everywhere. I get cookie butter, crackers, cookies, nuts, etc. I also buy some extra reusable shopping bags to use as gift bags.
posted by jraz at 1:21 PM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Look for an old fashioned candy shop in or near your town. They can help you buy a quantity of local sweets. Perhaps stuff like brittle, saltwater taffy, caramels. Those should travel well. Something like these.
posted by vunder at 1:23 PM on January 5, 2017

Let go completely of your handmade/small/local impulses; they'll honestly prefer stuff that you can get at Costco. Seriously!!! Do not worry, at all, about getting "interesting" or "impressive" gifts. And think volume (as in number of items, something for everyone) over quality/price. This is my experience visiting tons of relatives in various Asian countries. Also, do not worry about the varying degrees of wealth between the families-- you're just bringing tokens/treats, not stuff that will materially change their lives, and everyone likes treats. Bring things that are representative of the USA, not your city/state-- it may seem strange to you but that is better in their eyes.

Chocolates are good-- nothing extremely fancy/gourmet, just regular brands. Individual packaging would be better than one big box, so everyone can have something. I usually go to a drugstore and grab 10-15 varied lipsticks (whatever's cheap, no stressing about formula/shade) for female relatives. Filipinos are NBA-mad so go to the sale section of a sporting goods store and grab a bunch of branded T-shirts. Or use this link and stock up on the $4-5 options. Or random T-shirts from Old Navy/Target would be good.

The last thing is medications/vitamins (for example everyone I know in Taiwan always wants glucosamine) but if you're not really in touch with them don't worry about it.
posted by acidic at 1:57 PM on January 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Whenever we visited family in the Philippines we brought mass-produced, American-brand-name stuff -- price mattered less than American-ness. Even my more well-to-do relatives appreciated what to us were unremarkable things (seriously, snickerdoodle and acidic are right on about the jeans and t-shirts), as long as they came from the States.

For the other adults (her mom, her siblings and their spouses) my mom usually brings polo or button-down shirts, shawls, purses/wallets/makeup bags, and cosmetics (mostly perfume/cologne). (At least once she brought blankets and towels, but my family tends toward weirdly practical when it comes to gifting.) Once the kids aged out of toys she switched to t-shirts and baseball hats. She'll usually spend a weekend or two hitting the local TJ Maxx/Marshalls and call it a day (or a balikbayan box). Sometimes she also brings food; her most recent trip included big bars of Toblerone. If you don't want to feel like your selections are completely random, has your FB-stalking of the kids has revealed any interest in American pop culture? If so, they'll probably love little tie-ins (e.g., I've given related shirts and keychains to cousins who are huge fans of The Hunger Games and The Avengers movies).

Don't stress! Any gift that was purchased stateside will be awesome.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2017

If it helps any you could easily hide some of the imbalance in gift giving between the eldest boy/younger girls that makes you uncomfortable on the basis of wealth disparities on gender. We do a fair amount of overseas travel to visit family and the gift giving and receiving can kind of stress me out (this involves my in laws/family by marriage). One thing that is pretty much universally true is that gifting for dudes is just always harder - in the absence of jewelry type trinkets, scarves etc gift shopping for (young) men you don't know is just not easy. I am lucky in this regard since my family knows me as a foodie and I tend to get consumable gifts and spices and the like.

All of this is a super long way of saying that you might feel awkward about not getting the more affluent boy the same/equal gift as his younger female cousins, but it could easily be that way if affluence wasn't in the equation either.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:20 PM on January 5, 2017

Mass market candies and snacks that are common in the US but not in the Philippines might be fun. Stuff like M&Ms, Skittles, beef jerky, fruit snacks (not sure which of these are common in the Philippines).
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2017

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