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Gifts for expat in Paris? [moved from France board]

I'm trying to come up with some good ideas for gifts for an American expat living in Paris. Something he can't get there (which is getting harder, these days!), and generic enough that he's likely to enjoy it. So far I've thought of maple products...but I think you can already get syrup there, right? And besides, isn't that what everyone brings over from here?

Anyone have any ideas? Particularly people who are living there, or know someone who is? Merci beaucoup d'avance!!

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  1. I was always a sucker for a big old tube of Crest toothpaste.

    I've been back since 2002 - the things I liked when I lived in Paris included bourbon (for some reason, all you get there is 4 roses), various idiosyncratic toiletries, tastykakes (i'm a philly kid), and, yes, maple syrup.

    1. When our friends were living there they asked us to bring over chewing gum and contact lens solution when we visited

      1. I've brought chewing gum, fig newtons and Mallomars....

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChefJune

          chewing gum...that's true, isn't it, you don't see people chewing gum. Smoking, yes; chewing, no. Hmm.

          I keep hearing Mallomars. I've actually never had one.

        2. On my shopping list for a visit to the U.S. are: Melinda Hot Sauce, pepperoni (better to my taste than chorizo, which is readily available here), and Monterey Jack cheese. Maple syrup is widely available here, as is Skippy peanut butter. Also, I miss deoderant soap (Dial, Irish Spring), although that would be a peculiar gift.

          1 Reply
          1. re: henri cat

            Melinda hot sauce? Is that the best stuff? (I must confess that it's not an area of expertise for me.)

            I know you can get maple syrup there now -- but can you also find maple sugar candy?

          2. Thanks to all of you for those replies!

            To elaborate further, it's someone I don't know well, and along the lines of a thank-you gift. And he's far from his student days. I'd probably feel funny sending something like toothpaste (great as the idea is). Hot sauce seems like it might be more along the right lines...

            What about salsa? Maple sugar candy? Peanut brittle?

            1. I once took a French friend a selection (4 bottles) of California sparkling wines made by French companies-Moet, Tattinger, Piper, etc. They are not available in France, but the makers are, of course, well known and highly respected. He took great delight showing off the bottles to his friends and finally had a big party and drank them all.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jerrysfriend

                What an original idea! And amusing, too. If only I were delivering in person instead of mailing....

              2. Things I've brought over & begged to have brought to me:
                maple syrup/maple candies
                blueberry preserves
                peanut butter (but that was in the 90s when it wasn't available)

                2 Replies
                1. re: gini

                  That all makes sense...except, blueberry preserves? I've had the most wonderful preserves of my life in France. And the jar I recently brought back was myrtilles sauvages -- wild blueberries. That said, of course I don't know where they got them....

                  1. re: beauxmots

                    Oh, it was wild maine blueberry preserves - a certain type of blueberry. I do agree that I've had the most wonderful preserves in France, but these were a special type of berry.

                2. The ex-pats that I knew over there didn't want food. All the food in France - all of Europe - was so much better. The exceptions were personal faves like the mallomars listed above, but you would have to know enough about your friend to know that. My colleagues begged for NTSC videos, and inexpensive reading glasses, and recent but cheap English-language books, and things like that - all things that were unavailable or expensive to buy in-country.

                  That said, I would agree that the most American food-related things that would be difficult to find there would be maple products and various hot sauces.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Loren3

                    That's what I'm afraid of -- and I really don't know anything about his tastes. I just know how I feel when people bring me useless knickknacks that aren't even my taste, versus yummy things that can disappear quickly. Maple candy and hot sauce might just do it, then.

                  2. Depends on where he's from in the US.
                    If he's from the South, some really good quality stone-ground grits - like Anson Mills. A single batch or other high quality Bourbon. A few pounds of pecans. We couldn't find those things Over There.
                    If he's from the South, he may not really appreciate the maple stuff. I usually re-gift all the maple syrup people give to me.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Actually, NW, I think. What do they eat up there, anyway? :-D

                      1. re: beauxmots

                        Relatives from the Pacific NW used to bring me vacuum packed smoked wild salmon as hostess gifts before it was so easily available nationwide. That may not be easy to find in Europe and would be nice for your friend to have on hand for cocktails. Also California almonds. There are some excellent ones in vacuum packed cans. Peanuts as well which I don't think they grow in Europe - some of the spiced and flavored ones are very good. Again, pecans don't grow there. Most Europeans seem to put bowls of nuts out with drinks so some American nuts might be a nice gift.
                        I believe that wild rice is a uniquely American product. Even "gourmet" popping corn?

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I don't live in the US, but I do live in "America" as per the continent, and certainly get asked to take Qu├ębec maple syrup every time I cross the pond. (Of course it is also produced in the north of New York State and Vermont as well as in Ontario and New Brunswick - though we do produce most of it). Smoked salmon is common in Europe, but I believe most is farmed - it comes from Norway, Scotland, Ireland... very popular in Europe and a different kind is always appreciated.

                          Peanuts don't grow in Europe, but many are imported from Africa. Although almonds grow all round the Mediterranean basin, California ones are certainly appreciated - people in Europe enjoy comparing things of different "origins".

                          Wild rice is a uniquely North American product (not uniquely US - found in northern US and in parts of Canada - originally harvested by Amerindian peoples. Of course all corn is American (in the continental sense) and is one of the Three Sisters of the Iroquoian peoples, and although popcorn is found in Europe, probably better stuff is found in its lands of origin.

                    2. Nuts are a great idea. I was horrified at how expensive they were when I was living in Europe, and my French husband had never even seen a whole pecan before he moved to the States!

                      Edited to add: This was meant to be in reply to MakingSense's post, above.

                      1. I'm not in Paris, but I am in Germany. I'm from South Texas (at least that is where I lived before moving here), and my father once sent us a box with some salsa and chips... GOOD chips. Another thing I miss is hot pepper jelly (really good on cream cheese with crackers). And something we can't get in the stores here is chocolate chips (but that is only helpful to him if he bakes).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                          I don't know where Friedberg is (the one that comes up when I google is in Austria) but I certainly got exceptionally good chips from HEMA in the Netherlands - they also have stores in Belgium, and I believe they have some in parts of Germany near the Dutch border).

                          If you are from South Texas, one thing that is practically impossible to find anywhere in Europe is good tortillas. If I were Mexican or South Texan, I'd want some Masa and a tortilla press...

                        2. How about Canadian ice wine?

                          1. Though I love maple syrup, I'm not a big fan of maple candy. European candies are so much yummier, I think, but my relatives in Germany do like candied pecans. You could put together a small basket of items - small....I know you're packing this which includes some hot sauce, candied pecans, maybe some pancake mix and a small bottle of syrup.
                            On the non-food front: how about some good magazines. That's what I would love. Some sort of foodie magazine even.....this is Chowhound after all.....Or a good food book.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: suse

                              Some recent issues of newspapers from his home town (Seattle, Portland, Boise ?).
                              Peet's coffee. Chili peppers, particularly uniquely American ones, like Hatch chilis. That Eagles CD that you can only get at Walmart. A can of cranberry sauce - the jellied kind. Wild rice & popcorn.

                            2. Old Bay Seasoning, Toll House Chocolate chips, Reese's Cups, Peeps.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: nosey

                                I suppose there are a few local specialties one cannot get in Paris, but, to me, sending food to a chowhound in Paris is like sending soy sauce to your friends in Japan.

                                1. re: ekammin

                                  You'd be surprised - if you're living over there, you wind up missing some of the most basic stuff. not that you'd need to send wine/bread/cheese, etc.

                                  1. re: ekammin

                                    When I was living in Europe for over a year the things I craved most were comfort foods like chocolate chip cookies. It's about food representing home, not quality.

                                2. In France they don't eat corn the way we do - they use it for animal feed mostly. If you know your friend well and want to take something amusing - take corn nuts. He probably can't get those there. Also something as simple as a small bag or a can of sweet potatoes or yams which are not readily available and would go well with maple syrup.

                                  1. Salut Beauxmots!

                                    Hey... I have lived here in France (the Paris region) plus I am a baker.. It is not easy to find pecans here.. but I was able to find some to make a pecan pie for our Thanksgiving meal.. they were indeed from the U.S. Corn nuts are not difficult to find if you are in the Paris area... depends were in France you live.. things are MUCH easier to find here.. like peanut butter, maple syrup, pancake mix... too bad you cannot send sharp or jack cheese.. drats.. impossible for me to find that here.. once I found sharp but it wasn't too sharp.. all stuff like Nestle's choc. chips are impossible but stores sell small bags of choc. chips at a very high price.. I think the idea of an assortment of nuts is nice.. but, honestly, we have tons of nuts here and peanuts are easy found in the section for apperitifs.... I think if you sent a small package of a mix of American favs.. - that would be super nice.. it's more the missing of those familar things we find at the supermarket and the lack of access to those products that makes us sooo happy to get them... it gives us a small piece of home! Good luck.... -- Leesa

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Islandgirl4ever2

                                      Merci bien, Islandgirl and all of you who had such great ideas! In the end, I decided to mail some homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, since I didn't remember seeing anything like that in the French bakeries. He sounded pleased, so I guess it was a good choice.

                                      Thanks again to everyone!