A Gift for the Host
One transcultural custom that dates back to the beginning of human history is to show gratitude by bringing the host/hostess a small, thoughtful gift. It sounds simple, and yet this seemingly uncomplicated tradition has caused me grueling hours of thought, anxiety, and doubt. What is the best gift with which to present your generous host before enjoying their party or sleeping on their couch? Read the tips below to select a gift that is both appropriate and charming, and leave an excellent impression.
What is your relationship with the host?
If you are traveling abroad, the host is most likely a stranger but possibly a new friend. This is important to remember as the gift will need to be less intimate. Since you don’t yet know much about this person, picking out hand towels or coasters to give them might be a tricky task– you don’t want them to feel obligated to use decor that is not at all their style.
Is the gift you are considering culturally appropriate?
Avoid obvious slip-ups by doing research– don’t present salted pork to your host if they are Jewish or Muslim. Don’t present handkerchiefs, or white and yellow flowers to your host if they are Chinese– these gifts are taboo because they represent funerals. Also avoid bringing bouquets with an even number of flowers. Even numbers are considered, in many countries, to be for the dead. Do. Your. Research.
Are you spending too much (or too little) on the gift?
The gift should be small enough to not seem gaudy, but expensive enough to not seem tacky or cheap. Some good options might be a mid-range bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a variety box of nice chocolates. Wine glasses or a nice bottle opener might be an appropriate gesture for a dinner party, and it is hard to go wrong with a well-presented appetizer. Don’t break the bank on a set of pots and pans or embarrass yourself by bringing an ultra cheap bottle of liquor (unless you know the host well, and the liquor is their favorite.)
Does your gift represent you well?
Obviously, it is more difficult to hand out clever, homemade hostess gifts while traveling than while attending a party in your hometown. Especially if you are carrying everything in a backpack or a small suitcase, items are likely to get smashed, cracked, wrinkled, and entirely ruined. But if given the opportunity, try choosing a gift that will represent your thoughtfulness and resourcefulness. Handmade jams, jellies, dip mixes, sugar scrubs, and flavored fudge all make excellent, transportable gifts. If you are only planning to be on the road for a week or so, and expect to stay with multiple hosts, consider bringing a couple jars of something sweet, tied nicely with colorful ribbons, and get ready to impress!