If you have family or friends living abroad missing American products, this list is for you.
One of the charms of traveling is discovering new foods and items you would never see back home. However, as exciting as these discoveries can be, it doesn’t stop anyone from missing things from back home.
I’ve had family move across the ocean or even across the country, longing for familiar local products or ingredients. They usually stock up when home visiting and fill their suitcase when leaving.
As we know, it isn’t always possible to return home for a visit. The expense or impracticality gets in the way. Students and military families often do not have the luxury of frequent homecomings. A care package or gift is always a welcome sight.
I’ll share some gift ideas that shout “American” whenever you see them to help you decide what to send abroad. I’ll also include the practical considerations for shipping gift items internationally.
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American Snacks and Comfort Food to Ship Abroad
Whether it’s a specific brand of breakfast cereal, a particular type of chips or cookies, or even a beloved condiment, American expats may miss their favorite comfort foods and snacks that may not be available in their new country.
From gooey mac and cheese to classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the taste of home can be an irreplaceable longing.
There’s something incredibly comforting about a warm bowl of gooey mac and cheese. Whether homemade or the iconic blue box variety, the rich and creamy combination of pasta and cheese is quintessential American comfort food.
Put together a collection of popular American snacks and treats that may not be readily available abroad.
This can include items like Pop-Tarts, Cheetos, and Doritos. Include microwave popcorn and Twinkies.
Remember the Girl Scout Cookies!
American barbecue is a culinary tradition that varies from region to region, but it’s universally loved for its smoky flavors and tender meats.
Whether it’s pulled pork, ribs, or brisket, American expats living in countries without a strong barbecue culture can miss the slow-cooked goodness of barbecue.
Consider gifting a barbecue kit with American-style barbecue sauces, rubs, and marinades. You can also include grilling accessories like grill mats, smoker boxes, or meat thermometers.
American Candy and Sweets
Fill a gift box with American candies and sweets like Jelly Belly jelly beans, M&M’s in different flavors, Tootsie Roll candies, or nostalgic treats like Charleston Chew or Bit-O-Honey.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s chocolate bars are always a big hit.
Regional Food Specialties
Gift them regional food specialties unique to specific areas of the United States.
They might be pining for Texas BBQ sauces or Southern-style hot sauces.
How about that Ranch dressing? Or Cajun seasoning?
Midwesterners may be missing that bright green relish from Chicago.
Send a Northeasterner a jar of Everything But the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s.
Shipping Perishables Abroad
Perishable items like authentic New York bagels, Maine lobster, or deep-dish Chicago-style pizza can be trickier.
Although many companies will ship their regional products nationwide, only some will ship internationally.
In part due to the perishable nature of the item and the astronomical cost of sending it overseas.
Also, many countries have strict policies about importing specific food items. I cover more about the practical side of mailing gifts abroad below.
All these factors combined make it so difficult to ship certain food items overseas that it is not worth it for them to do it.
Choose cookbooks that feature regional American cuisines, such as Cajun and Creole recipes from Louisiana, Tex-Mex dishes, or dishes from the Pacific Northwest.
Cookbooks can introduce your friend to the flavors and techniques of the specific American regions they are missing.
American-Themed Apparel and Accessories
Consider gifting American-themed apparel like t-shirts or hoodies featuring iconic symbols such as the Statue of Liberty or the American flag.
Additionally, American-themed accessories like baseball caps or tote bags can be a great choice.
American Movies or TV Series Box Set
Surprise them with a collection of classic American movies or a box set of popular American TV series. A subscription to a favorite streaming service if it’s available in their area.
Local American Crafts
Look for unique, handcrafted items made by American artisans. This can include a handmade quilt or a southwestern basket. A Native American Dream catcher makes a beautiful wall hanging.
Levi’s is an iconic American denim brand known for its quality and classic styles. Levi’s jeans are popular worldwide. The demand for them in Europe is high, making it challenging to find them in certain countries.
Converse sneakers are a favorite of American casual footwear. If they’ve left their kicks behind in the States, chances are they’re missing them. Although they can be purchased overseas, the prices will be significantly higher than having them sent from home.
Celebrating holidays abroad can sometimes feel different or not even happen. I know from even traveling on short trips during July no one is celebrating American Independence Day in Europe.
Missing out on familiar festivities like Thanksgiving, Fourth of July fireworks, or even the joy of watching the Super Bowl with friends can evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for home. This is especially difficult for first-time international travelers missing holiday traditions.
Send some canned pumpkin and cranberries or pumpkin spice in November. Mail an NFL football in January. Ship a little red, white, and blue in May to cover Memorial Day and the 4th of July.
American Sports Jerseys
Cheering for your favorite team in a different time zone, missing out on tailgating parties, or being unable to attend live games can leave you longing for the electrifying atmosphere of American sports culture.
If your friend is a sports enthusiast, consider gifting them a jersey from their favorite American sports team. These jerseys can be hard to come by outside the United States, whether basketball, football, baseball, or hockey.
For sports fans missing American football, sign up for NFL Game Pass to avoid missing a game.
If your friend is a fan of American Collegiate sports or attended a U.S. university, surprise them with merchandise from their favorite college or sports team.
This can include jerseys, caps, or other memorabilia.
Hoodies, t-shirts, or caps with university logos and colors can be a fun and meaningful gift that someone abroad missing American products will appreciate .
Many luxury designer brands have their roots in the United States.
Gift your friend an item from an American designer like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, or Coach, as these brands may have limited availability abroad.
Vintage or Retro American Apparel
Look for vintage or retro-inspired American clothing items like graphic tees, varsity jackets, or flannel shirts.
These pieces offer a nostalgic and distinctly American style that may take longer to find abroad.
Outdoor and Sportswear Brands
American outdoor and sportswear brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, and Under Armour are popular for their quality and functionality.
Consider gifting your friend items like performance jackets, hiking gear, or activewear.
Western-style clothing such as cowboy boots, denim shirts, or cowboy hats can add a unique American touch to your friend’s wardrobe.
These items are particularly sought after in countries where Western fashion is less prevalent.
Traditional Native American Clothing
Explore Native American-inspired clothing like handmade moccasins, intricate beadwork, or woven blankets.
These pieces showcase the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans and can be unique and cherished gifts.
Personal Care Items
People often prefer specific brands and formulas, from toothpaste and shampoo to deodorant and skin care products.
Finding exact replacements for these products can be challenging in a new country, making them missed items for American expats.
Practical Tips for International Mailing
The International Mail Manual from the USPS website provides detailed information about mailing items outside of the U.S. There is a section on their index specifically for individual country listings that is really useful.
Selecting the right packaging materials is crucial to protect your items during transit. I have mailed many packages that arrived, looking like they went through a crusher.
Use sturdy, corrugated cardboard boxes that are appropriate for the size and weight of your items. Reinforce weak points with packing tape to prevent accidental openings.
Fill empty spaces in the box with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or crumpled paper to provide cushioning and prevent items from shifting during transit.
I often use plastic grocery store bags. Once I pack all the cushioning, I do the “shake test.” I open the box and stuff in more cushioning if I hear anything shifting.
Wrap fragile items individually with bubble wrap or foam sheets. Place them in the center of the box and add additional cushioning around them.
Use high-quality packing tape to secure the box and prevent it from opening during transportation. If you think you used enough tape, use more.
Customs Forms and Declarations
They should be able to advise at the post office what you need to fill out.
Complete all necessary customs forms and declarations accurately and truthfully. Include detailed descriptions and values of the items being shipped.
Insurance and Tracking Services
Insurance can cover the value of your items in case of loss or damage. At the same time, tracking allows you to monitor the progress of your package and provide updates to the recipient.
This is usually included, at a small amount, with your postal fee. You can up it if your items have a higher replacement value.
Your family and friends abroad missing American products will be excited when that package shows up at their door.
These gifts will bring a touch of America to their lives and give them a taste of home.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mailing Items Abroad
Non-perishable snacks, candies, spices, sauces, personal care items, and small mementos are popular choices.
It depends on the destination country’s customs regulations. Check their restrictions on food items before sending homemade goods.
Use sturdy packaging materials, proper cushioning, and secure sealing. Consider adding insurance and tracking for peace of mind.
Yes, each country has its own restrictions. Avoid sending perishable items, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and illegal substances.
Visit the customs agency or postal service website of the destination country for detailed information on their import restrictions and requirements.
Yes, accurately declare the value of the items for customs purposes. It helps determine any applicable taxes or duties. You will be provided a form from the shipping provider.
Shipping times vary depending on the destination and shipping method chosen. It can range from a few days to several weeks. Check the USPS website for approximate timelines.
Yes, most shipping providers offer tracking services. Obtain the tracking number and share it with your friend for easy monitoring.
Use sturdy boxes, secure the contents with proper cushioning, seal it well, and clearly label the package with the recipient’s address.
International Mail Services & Shipping Rates | USPS. https://www.usps.com/international/mail-shipping-services.htm. Accessed 27 June 2023.