The Art of Host Family Gifting
My Host Family Journey in Morocco
Three years ago, I came to Morocco with a suitcase and a multitude of questions. Tucked in my bag were small jugs of maple syrup from my hometown in upstate New York. Even though I was well versed in host family living, I was still nervous as I waited to greet the strangers I would be living with for the next three months. Warm hugs and huge smiles alleviated my fears.
The gifts of maple syrup were given that night. It was a success. They were gone within a week. Days passed filled with culture shock and grueling Moroccan Arabic lessons. But my host family was always there for me.
What to Pick
Before arriving in Casablanca, I spent a week debating the perfect gift. There was very little information to go on. I had no idea if I would have a host brother or sister. So, I decided to get something non gender specific. The gift had to be useful for everyone. Maple syrup fit the bill. But there are other options you can consider. Remember that each country is different. Opt for things not found in the host country.
Focus on the Kitchen
The options are endless with this category. Look for some nicely embroidered napkins, place mats or tablecloths. Choose detailed ceramic work such as small bowls, cups or mugs. These type of gifts are memorable because they will be used every day. Your host family will always remember you even if you are not around.
Show Who You Are
Every host family I have stayed with always asks about my family. They want to know what they look like, how many siblings I have and how old everyone is. With the help of a photo album, I answer all questions thrown at me. This album becomes my gift to them. It is an easy way to bridge connections and start conversations. Photo albums are also easily packed and not heavy (you won't have to worry about breaking the 50 pound rule for your bag). I also like to leave a few sleeves blank. At the end of my stay, I fill them with pictures from my time with the host family.
You can also include snapshots of your home or popular spots in your city/ town. If you live in a place filled with natural beauty, take advantage of it. Add some nature pictures to the album.
Bring Out the Food
Food is something everyone can relate to. We all have different likes and dislikes. We all prefer certain dishes to others. When selecting your gift, you can go two ways. The first one is to find something that is not found in the host country. Some good examples include maple syrup, maple candy and jerky. Be sure to do your research. If you are going to Japan, bringing wasabi paste is not the best idea. However, wasabi paste may be appropriate for Tanzania. The other option is more risky. If it is done right, it can be a huge success. Done wrong? Not good.
Find something that is popular in the host country and see if you can find a variation of it. For example, Morocco is the land of tea. Tea is consumed at least two times a day. Therefore, bringing some interesting teas not found in Morocco would be a great gift.