Tips for buying the perfact gift for expats

February 07, 2019 8 min read

Tips for buying the perfact gift for expats

Most of us know a person that comes from another place, that wasn't born and raised where they are currently living, in short, an expat.


Expat passport showing stamps collected from world travels


We like these people, they bring a whole new set of experiences and ideas to the table. They have a different way of seeing the world and relating to the things that we take for granted. Hanging out with expats gives us a chance to experience our day to day lives from a whole new perspective.
Yes, expats are cool but what the hell do we give them for their birthdays, Christmas or indeed any other time we feel like showing them how much we appreciate them and want to show it by finding that special something.


What is the perfect gift for an expat?

In order to answer this question, you first need to understand what it is like to be an expat.


Expat luggage and a travelers way of life. Finding the best gift for expats my them a map

If you have traveled for an extended period of time then you probably have a good understanding of what it means to be away from friends and family and the culture you grew up in. People that have chosen to live away from their home have the same struggles you might have encountered on your travels. These struggles basically center around the feeling that people don't understand you, they don't get you. This feeling can manifest its self in many ways, for example, the inability to communicate that you are lost and need help getting to your destination or that you simply don't feel like you can share your stories or experiences because your background is so different that people won't understand. There are struggles with living away from home but also huge benefits ... that is why people choose to live as expats in the first place!

To survive and thrive as an expat means you have to fit in. You have to find a way of letting enough of your own personality and culture shine through without overwhelming everyone around you. We all want to fit in and we all want to be seen for who we are. These two things don't necessarily go hand in hand and this is the constant struggle of the expat.

So how can you help your favorite expat fit in and stand out at the same time?


You do it with humor!

Looking for the best gift ideas for expats and travelersLooking for the best gift ideas for expats and travelers

If your expat friend or family member is traveling in another country where they don't speak the language then a shirt like this might help! the idea is simple, maybe you don't know how to say "I need to get to the train station" in Vietnamese ... well with this shirt you could just point at the train icon and make a questioning gesture with your hands and without ever speaking a word your expat will have communicated that they need to get to the train station, problem solved and who won't find the situation funny?!

Even if the expat you are purchasing for speaks the native language fluently, a gift like this would make a great ice breaker and provide a good deal of entertainment.

Say it with food!



Food for expats and travelers and people that are away from home. great gift ideas
Food is such an integrated part of our culture and daily lives. For many, different culinary experiences are a huge motivation for traveling. That said, sometimes you don't want to be challenged by your breakfast, sometimes you just want the thing that you are used to eating, something that reminds you of home. Enter the food subscription service!

There are lots of different food subscription services! this could be a great way of giving your expat a "taste of home". However, They will need a stable address otherwise constantly updating the address for the subscription service will become a nightmare and some countries have very strict rules on what food products are allowed to come into the country.


The gift of knowledge

learning a new  languages might just be the best gift for expats and travelers learning a new  languages might just be the best gift for expats and travelers

Duolingo is a fun app which allows you to learn languages such as Danish, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, or Swedish. The creators of this app have gamified it to help motivate you. Streaks are highly addictive and you earn points based on your process. This app makes you want to log in and met your daily goals! There is also an android version so no excuses.

I am from New Zealand and have spent many years enjoying the ups and downs of expat life in Europe. Language is the key to fitting in. While I personally believe that learning a language by speaking with native speakers of the language is by far the best way an app like duolingo might just give your expat the confidence to start the conversation.

Money and Gift Cards

Gift cards and money might just be a great way of showing an expat or traveler that you care

Money and Gift Cards may not seem like the most thoughtful gift but they can be extremely practical! Think about it, they don't take up any space and they are easy to send. It's not always easy to know exactly what an expat needs or wants but offering them the flexibility to choose themselves might just be the gift they will really enjoy. It might give them the opportunity to treat themselves to an experience that is normally out of reach or it could also be the opportunity to buy the smart new gadget that will somehow make their lives better.

A Streaming Service

Streaming services for expats and travelers are a great way of helping them feel at home
Living away from your home, family and friends usually means you spend a lot of time by yourself ... at least until you start to meet new people. Maybe you could help fill in those long hours by gifting your expat a streaming service?

Now, I am not suggesting that you encourage them to spend every waking moment in their own world, cut off from the culture they are living in but I am suggesting that expat life can be hard, sometimes its really nice to be able to shut out the outside world and take a break. I have been living overseas for a number of years in different countries and I can assure you that its not always sunshine and roses! sometimes all you want to do is just switch off and not be constantly reminded that you are a long way from home. A subscription to a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify might just give your expat the chance to take a time out and recharge. Remember that if your expat is struggling with learning a new language it can be exhausting, and sometimes all they will want to do is relax and watch or listen to something that does not require a huge mental effort to understand!

e-readers are perfact gift for people that travel or live away from home, not as good as a map but close

If the person you are buying for loves to read then maybe should consider the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle is an e-reader, think a lightweight tablet that you can download digital books onto. There are literally thousands of books available as e-books and Kindle does not take up much room and you can have as many books with you as you want. This is great for expats because if you are living in a different place it might not be possible to find books you want to read or books you are cable of reading.

Digital Memories

Expats and and travelers - a guide to choosing the perfact gift for people away from home

Living in a new culture or place means that you are constantly experiencing new things. These moments are worth remembering and sharing which usually means that expats take a lot of pictures and video. One gift you might consider giving an expat is digital storage, away or protecting and backing up the memories they are stockpiling on there phones and cameras. A subscription to google drive or dropbox might not seem like the most personal gift but it is something you can take with you, and it will give you a place to back up all your images and video and other important documents. Wifi is becoming more and more accessible and the ability to backup your precious memories without having to carry around an extra hard drive that might also get lost or stolen seems like a pretty attractive deal.

Why a map might be the best gift for your expat

Gift ideas for expats and people living and traveling away from home. maps make great presents
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, enjoying your time as an expat is all about striking the right balance between fitting in and still being true to your self and where you come from. You want to be unique ... just like everyone else!

I have found that the hardest part of living away from home is sharing your story. Telling people where you are from and what life is like there compared to the experiences you have had in the place you are living now. This seems easy enough, just open your mouth and start talking right?


A map of scotland could be the best gift ever for someone you care about

Well, sometimes it can be easier just to say nothing because the situation or experience you want to describe is just so far removed from the day to day reality of where you are living now that it can be intimidating just starting the conversation, sometimes it is easier to just say nothing.

Every expat likes to be asked about where they are from because it gives them a chance to tell their story, it means that they don't have to hide where they come, it gives them a chance to stand out and show that they are unique but without forcing it on people because someone else asked them. I have been in this situation many times, you spend some much time and effort trying to fit in that you completely neglect who you are and where you come from but neglecting your own identity never plays out well in the long run. What you really want as an expat is to be seen for the person you are and here is where a map can help.

Maps are the perfact gift idea, a great way of showing who you are and where you come from

Maps are beautiful visualizations of physical places. We are all used to navigating using maps but they are also a great way of showing where we are from without being too in your face.

Hanging a map on your wall, of the places you have been or the place you come from gives people that visual cue that might need to start a conversation. Maybe they themselves have been to the same place as you?
you might discover you have more in common than you thought.

A map of the world is a great idea for wall art the best gift for a traveler
Displaying a map on your wall is a personal statement about who you are and where you come from, and making this kind of statement becomes increasingly important when you are living away from home. The nice thing about hanging a map on your wall is that it says a lot about who you are but its not too in your face. Holiday photos say a lot about you as a person but they are very personal and might seem a little comforting.

Think about the kind of questions you ask someone you have met for the first time, you don't often start the conversation by asking to see photos of them in a swimsuit, but you might ask where they are from or where they have been.


map of europe makes a great gift and is a great conversation starter perfact for any traveler

Most expats will not travel with all of their home decors and will likely be interested in personalizing their new home. I map on the wall could be that personal touch that will remind them of home, and help start those all-important conversations about who they are and where they are from when meeting new people.

Maps are not going away anytime soon, we will always need a way of visually orientating ourselves and inspiring pieces for art to decorate our homes with. This is why a map might just be the perfect gift for your expat.