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gifts ideas for Russian guest in American home

gifts ideas for Russian guest in American home

Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 07:53 AM
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gifts ideas for Russian guest in American home

Hello, I know this is off topic, but I am hosting a Russian guest in my home for a week in December. I'd love to have a gift bag of meaningful small American tokens for her when she arrives. Any ideas? Many thanks.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 09:31 AM
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You're alrady hosting someone in your home - don;t see why you should have a goody bag as well. Seems she should be bringing you the gift.

Also, without knowing the person - who knows what she may want/need? I would wait until she arrives - they see waht she's interested in. (And I'm not sure what meaningful small american toeksn are.)
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 10:10 AM
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nytraveler, it would be considered a small gesture of hospitality. It isn't about what she needs or wants.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 10:10 AM
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Not knowing the circumstances of your role or your relationship (or not) with this person, it's hard to know what would be appropriate. A business connection is very different from a student on homestay, for example, and a person you've been in communication with over time is very different from a complete stranger.

In theory, though, I don't see anything wrong in giving the person a souvenir-like memento of her visit.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:02 AM
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Jean, thank you for your reply. She is coming as part of a group of woman who have or teach special needs children.
They are coming to learn about programs and tour facilities. She is 27 and I want to make this very special for her.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:11 AM
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What are you trying to do here?

And how do you know "it would be considered a small gesture of hospitality"? Are you a mind-reader?

You're making - presumably - a significant gesture of hospitality by hosting this Russian. Unless you're charging them (in which case, any goodie offered by any other hotel or B&B, like a welcome glass of champagne of sherry, or a box of local chocolates, is fine) anything else is unnecessary - and will convey a message you might not intend.

If you're trying to subsidise them, use of your fuel credit card, or a pass to your local metro, will probably work.

Otherwise:
If you're trying to orientate them: well, you may look as if you think they're incapable of having downloaded the local subway map for themselves.
If you think they'll be homesick without blinis or kasha or proper vodka: how do you know that?
If you want to propagandise your way of life: realise that's what you're doing, and few people appreciate being preached at.
If you want to give them a souvenir: wait till they're about to go and give them the photographs, or the copy of the NY Times Sunday edition or whatever it might be that crystallises their stay. Souvenirs are about remembrance. You've no idea what makes an appropriate souvenir till you know what they're likely to be remembering.

Guests offer their hosts tokens of appreciation. Hosts say thank you. Anything else is otiose, and can easily be misinterpreted.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:35 AM
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If my previous post sounded negative, here's a little story.

Half a century ago, my family hosted the first foreigner ever to cross the threshold any flanner had ever met outside wartime: a French schoolboy, roughly my own age, with whom I was swapping, a month at a time.

Unsure of what to do about his food, my mother rushed to the nearest posh food shop and asked them what the French ate. The deli manager - who'd never been more than 50 miles outside Liverpool- waved a "French stick " (English bread, shaped like a baguette) and mum bought it.

On Jacques' first evening with us, she proudly brought out the French stick, sliced and slavered in butter. Jacques politely ate it, and the following day off he & I went to our first group tour round the city with the other French exchange students.

"So what did YOU think of les angliches' food?" said Marie-Therese to Jacques. "Yes, what was yours like" chipped in Yves. And Jean-Pierre. And Francoise.

'Deguelasse', they all agreed - forgetting our French was a great deal better than their English (We'd all been taught by Jesuits. They were victims of France's state-run system for turning out world-class underperformers). 'That bread. Not a bloody idea' they all said.

And the deli didn't sell another French stick for the whole of those French teenagers' stay.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 01:02 PM
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My old American friend brought his new Russian bride to our home from Siberia for her first visit to the States. She was watching me make sandwiches for lunch, and pointed to the head of lettuce I had taken from the frig and asked, "What is that, and what do you use it for?"

I was stunned. She had never seen lettuce before. Now that was over ten years ago, and I'm sure the Russian exposure to foods from around the world has broadened considerably, but do not expect the things you choose as gifts, or serve for dinner, to be immediately familiar to her.

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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 01:40 PM
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I'd suggest things that will make her visit easier. Is she going to be traveling by public transportation? If so, whether or not she's able to download a bus/subway map, I'm sure she won't be offended if you give her one along with a packet of subway tokens/bus tickets? How about some magazines in her room? A photobook of your city she can take home? Some snacks for her room (a package of sweets, trailmix, nuts, etc.). She might feel shy about going into the kitchen and helping herself if she feels like a snack. A local newspaper might be nice too.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Goddesstogo, thanks a million. Home made chocolate chip cookies for the sweets, some bottled water added and I am good to go.

Nukesafe, that is funny. I'm alway intrigued when something like that happens.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 03:38 PM
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Hello, auhntiei, from my experiences a small but lovely bouquet of flowers in her bedroom would be a sweet "welcome" for her stay with you. And some goodies, home made chocolate chip cookies seems to be loved by everyone. And perhaps a few small bottles of water in her room, replenish as needed. Another thought, a map of your city and perhaps even a map of your state. I have found that often visitors really don't understand exactly where they are. They can take the maps home to show others where they have been. A few magazines is a good idea, perhaps a fashion one for fun and a home decor magazine. Do you have a TV you can put in her bedroom? If so I have found that is always a treat for European guest as they can watch whatever they want after they go to their room for the night. If the TV isn't possible, don't give it another thought. Anyway, just a few thoughts. I am sure your guest will feel welcomed and have a wonderful stay with you, it should be a fun week for all.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 03:38 PM
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Russian sweets(cakes candy chocolate) are really really good, she is liable to not be impressed unless the cookies are great. Foodwise, go with an exotic fruit basket. Productwise, go with name brands; Memorabiliawise, check who is selling albums well in Russia.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 04:07 PM
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auhntiei, do you know if this woman is the mother of a special needs child or a teacher? If she's the mother, you could give her a telephone calling card so that she could phone home during her stay. I also like the ideas of maps, public trans info and tokens or tickets and a TV or radio in the bedroom. After a day of dealing with differences in language, culture, food, etc., and absorbing information, your guest will likely need some down time alone.

As a counterpoint to flanneruk's story, my parents opened our home to many young people over 25 years or so. Most were homestay students from Japan, but there were boy scouts from Finland, foreign teachers/tutors of English attending workshops, friends of friends, etc. Some were duds and expected to be chauffeured around L.A. Some were too shy to get to know, but some have remained friends for more than 40 years and have hosted us in their homes.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 04:53 PM
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If you want to have a pretty bouquet in her room that's fine - something you would do for any guest. The same for some crackers etc. But I don;t consider either of those a gift (you use them or they die) or a meaningful small token of America.

The way the OP was written sounded as if you were going to introduce someone from a primitive society to things they had never seen before (not true of anyone from a major city in Russia - some things may be expensive - but anything is available).
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 05:55 PM
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The first time that we stayed with our former French neighbors at their home in France they presented us with a basket (from Habitat) of regional bath products--and a box of local chocolates. That started our stay off very nicely.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:12 PM
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I think a goody bag of 'tchotchkes' is totally unnecessary and very likely unwanted.

A telephone calling card? Most every Russian visitor I've met has had a cell phone that works for calls back home

But things to brighten up her bedroom/bath - that would be great. I wouldn't consider those 'gifts' though - that's just being hospitable. Flowers, maybe a small dish of shortbread or piroulines or some such cookies. Those sorts of things.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:16 PM
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I'm not sure that a Russian teacher would want to pay international roaming rates on her cellphone to phone back home. I think a calling card sounds very considerate, and she could get a lot of minutes for $5.

If it were me, I'd of course be very happy to have a pleasant hostess and a nice room, but a "gift bag" sounds like a fun touch. I really don't get the responses which seem so negative to this idea. Even getting flashlights and pens and other small gifts at conferences is fun.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:28 PM
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She may not think to bring a camera. What about a disposable camera? You could have the film developed after she leaves and then send her the pictures. If she does bring her own camera, so what -- then you've just got a disposable to use for yourself. It's not a big investment.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:34 PM
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OK maybe your experience w/ visitors from Russia is different than mine. They either 1) already own a fine camera - or 2) plan on buying one in the States because of the better prices/selection and the exchange rate.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:39 PM
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I guess some of us have different ideas of hospitality.

If this is the mother of a special needs child, this trip may be difficult on many levels. I think we can assume she doesn't have money for a hotel and may also not have money for cell service with international roaming. It's possible she's never been out of Russia.

Even if this is not the mother but is a teacher of special needs children, I think we can still assume she doesn't have a lot of money or would likely be staying in a hotel.
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