Gift for a 16 year old American going to Norway for a year.
July 21, 2006 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Gift for a 16 year old American going to Norway for a year.

My stepson is leaving Oregon in August to be an exchange student in Norway.
What would be the most useful gift I can get him before he goes?

Bonus points for suggestions of things he can take as gifts for his host family - two parents and 3 teenagers.
posted by yetanother to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best thing for him to take with him to Norway would be things that are traditional to the US, Oregon or your town. When my sister was a foreign exchange student her host family really enjoying some of these gifts: a handmade "American" quilt, a coffee table book with old and new photos of our city, homemade jam and applebutter. She was in the Basque region of Spain, if that makes a difference. The things that she wanted most while there were phone cards and warm clothes.
posted by sulaine at 10:11 AM on July 21, 2006

For him: Money for a good norwegian sweater. It gets frikkin cold, and their sweaters are the best.
posted by o2b at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2006

When I went to Sweden to do the same, lo those many years ago now, I took some good golf balls (my host family were golf freaks, which I knew from the photos and letters exchanged beforehand), some little silly Texas souvenirs and candy, and baseball caps (since they were sporty I figured they'd be as good as sun visors, and they went over well).

For him, if he doesn't have a good messenger bag or backpack, get him a nice looking bag. He's going to spend a lot more time on foot and public transportation than he may be used to.

Someone who's been there this decade may have some actual useful fashion insight on this, but I noticed that (both 10 and 20 years ago) Scandinavian young men all seemed to own at least one sports coat or suity jacket for dressier occasions like class banquets and going out for nicer dinners with friends. I have no idea if that's still the fashion or if American young men generally do as well now, but you might see if he'd do well to take one with him.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:17 AM on July 21, 2006

A case of peanut butter! My parents brought several cases of peanut butter when we lived there when I was a kid, and the American exchange students would go crazy for the stuff they missed it so bad. I'm pretty sure my parents actually paid American babysittesr in peanut butter jars.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:25 AM on July 21, 2006

Get him a good waterproof jacket. I live in Norway and this is pretty much essential. A good quality fleece jacket is also needed as well, Norway gets very cold in winter.

Where is he going to? Norway is such a large country that the weather can vary tremendously depending on where you are living.
posted by arcticseal at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2006

If I were going abroad, I'd want a cellphone I could use there. Especially because I've heard that the cellphones in Norway are pretty sweet.

For host family gifts, I'd avoid food because tastes vary so much. A friend of mine brought Kraft Macaroni and Cheese-- the most typical American food she could think of-- when she studied in France and her host family was absolutely horrified and disgusted by the idea of "cheese powder." Ha.
posted by chickletworks at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2006

To echo chickletworks slightly, I'm US'ian and I'm slightly 'horrified and disgusted by the idea of "cheese powder."'

Seriously, though, if you know anything about the family, that would help with the gifts. Have they been to the US? How about Oregon? Are they urban/urbane? Rural? I know a lot of Europeans like American brands of clothing, and the teenagers might well be the same way. Of course, YMMV.

One thing you might plan on doing is putting together a care package for once he's been there for a while. Alternatively, you could send him with a SMALL care package with directions when to open it. (Birthday, perhaps?)
posted by JMOZ at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2006

When I was an exchange student (in France), I brought my host family Harley Davidson teeshirts and salsa. They loved it.

When we visted my husband's host family a few years ago, we brought their grandchildren Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, and the kids went nuts for them.

My father-in-law recently returned from a trip to Oslo with some excellent cheese; if I were an Oregonian I might bring some Tillamook Cheddar or some Rogue River blue to share.
posted by padraigin at 11:11 AM on July 21, 2006

Echo cell phone, warm clothing. Another thing is money! To an American, Norway will seem insanely expensive (it is). Think about 60 NOK ($10 USD) for a regular "menu" order at McDonald's, for instance. People are also often a lot more conscious of brand name clothing -- in the 16 year age group perhaps most of all. Brand name jeans in Norway start at $100 and can easily go up to twice that and more.
posted by dagny at 11:52 AM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for the useful ideas so far.
He will be in a small rural/coastal community, about 100 miles north of Trondheim,.
posted by yetanother at 12:29 PM on July 21, 2006

People are also often a lot more conscious of brand name clothing -- in the 16 year age group perhaps most of all. Brand name jeans in Norway start at $100 and can easily go up to twice that and more.

My brother just got back from his exchange year in Switzerland. Before that I had a friend spend a year in Denmark. Also, we hosted a student from Greenland. What I gleaned from all of this (all three were boys) was that brand-name clothing can be important. However, if I can extrapolate onto Norway what I know of these other three countries, people wear clothes several days in a row without thinking anything of it, unlike the States, where we come up with new outfits every day. So it seems as if it balances out.

When I went on exchange to Costa Rica, I took chocolate chips with me. You can probably find everything else to make cookies with, and they were a huge hit with my little host sisters.

Our exchange student brought us several books on Greenland (and my brother and I each took coffee-table books of our state). He also brought us traditional Greenlandic jewelry carved from ivory (I think).

My best advice is something small! Exchange students are very limited in the amount of space they have. Money for coats or sweaters is a great idea, because that's one less thing they have to pack on their way there. Also, a couple English-language books are nice - to rest one's brain every now and then, and if he's in a small rural community, they may be hard to come by.
posted by anjamu at 8:46 PM on July 21, 2006

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