10 All-American Christmas Gifts to Send to British Friends Back Home

Classic American children's book are great items to gift to the young ones back home. (Photo via Harper & Brothers)

Classic American children’s book are great items to gift to the young ones back home. (Photo via Harper & Brothers)

Now that you live in the U.S., your nearest and dearest will want to sample the spoils of your fancy U.S. life. And what better time to treat them to a taste of America than December 25? But be warned: you’ll need an extra suitcase, or a few free hours to spend filling out customs forms at the post office, to get this lot home on time and intact.

Sporting merchandise
Brits might blather on about how American football is rugby for wimps or baseball is just glorified rounders. But present them with any of the associated gear and watch them gush like a life-long fan. For optimum results, choose a team they’ve probably heard of, like the Red Sox or Yankees.

Apple products
A quick compare reveals that a basic 16GB iPad Mini as sold by Amazon.com is currently around £40 ($65) cheaper than the same model for sale on Amazon’s U.K. site. Need I say more?

Makeup and perfume
Many of the top brands, like MAC and Chanel, are more than a shade cheaper in the U.S. than in Europe, especially if you’re sly and remember to ask for a tourist discount (usually around 10 percent) at the checkout counter of major American department stores like Macy’s. The ladies in your life will rejoice at your generosity, and you’ll know you got a bargain.

Be careful trying to post edibles from the U.S. Your package might be intercepted by customs, either here or in the U.K., and may not reach its destination. But if you’re heading home for Christmas, load up your luggage with American foodstuffs. Obviously, don’t take anything that needs refrigerating, and be sure to heed the restrictions on bringing food into the U.K. Corn bread, brownie and pancake mix are a guaranteed hit, as are cookie dough, saltwater taffy and chocolate covered pretzels.

Measuring cups
Americans don’t tend to weigh ingredients on kitchen scales; similarly it doesn’t occur to Brits to try the cup method. But owning a set makes it so much easier to use American recipes. For optimum kudos, gift alongside a good U.S. cookbook. Speaking of which…

An American cookbook
Dispel the myth that American food is all hot dog/burger-based by gifting recipe books devoted to your home state – or any branch of U.S. cuisine that your British friends and family might not know a lot about. Check out this highly recommended Cajun cooking tome, and this one stuffed with recipes from all over the Deep South.

Halloween outfits
For a couple of months after Halloween, some U.S. retailers try to shift their left over fancy dress stock by selling it off at massive discounts. This is a great budget Christmas option if you’ve got children to shop for. They’ll just think you’ve bought them great costumes for the dressing up box.

Classic children’s books
Ask your U.S. friends which American titles they loved as kids (I’ve recently been recommended Goodnight Moon and Corduroy), and if you don’t recognize the titles, assume people back home won’t either. You now have access to a new seam of literature with which to wow the British minors in your life.

Nothing quite beats opening a Christmas card to find a stack of green. This is a lazy but effective way to guarantee you get an, “Oooh, thanks!” It’ll also encourage the recipient to visit you, because how else are they going to spend all that American cash? Kids, incidentally, always appreciate the exoticness of funny foreign money.

Good American whiskey is some of the most delicious you’ll encounter. It’s also a great thing to snatch up at the airport when you realize you’ve bought something for everyone apart from that one weird uncle, who also happens to be a big drinker. Ideally, though, you’ll want to spend time researching this smoldering spirit.

Expats: any gift ideas for your friends back in the U.K.? Tell us below:

See more:
A Brit’s Guide to the U.S. Holiday Season
How to Gift in America
This Isn’t a Hotel, Luv: Handling Friends Who Overstay Their Welcome

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

    Cautionary note – I just sent a Xmas package to my mother and she is having to pay customs and handling on it. Apparently anything worth more than 36 pounds in value is liable to be charged, and they also charged an eight pound handling fee. I send stuff all the time and this is the first time it’s happened.

    From the web site – ‘Important Value Thresholds. For goods moving within the EU, import duties and taxes do not usually apply. However, for goods imported from non EU countries, Customs charges do apply, these may include import duty, excise duty and import VAT. Goods with a value exceeding £15 (for commercial items including internet/mail order purchases), or £36 in the case of gifts between private individuals, are generally subject to Customs charges. Normally charges are calculated upon the declared value(plus shipping costs and postage for commercial items). Further general information through website http://www.HMRC.gov.uk and searching on Notice 143.

    • Elizabeth HGarding

      This happened to us 2 years ago so last year I sent smaller packages and it still happened. This year everything is tiny!! And, for the benefit of the customs form, very inexpensive. Hopefully, everything arrives okay or I can only claim the value I put on forms!

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

        That was exactly my quandary. I was loathe to put the true value of the (small) gifts in case they got stolen, but also wanted to make sure I could claim if they never arrived.
        And of course, the postage was so expensive it was hardly worth it in the end.

  • kasey413

    Goodnight Moon is a book for the infant/toddler stage. Not sure why it’s so popular. If looking for infants/toddlers, another one is I Love You Forever as well as Jamberry. For younger girls, Fancy Nancy and Ivy and Bean series. For preteens, Pandora series or Goosebumps. As for food, Beignet mix (Café du Monde) can be found in a lot of markets, Ro-Tel tomatoes (to make things like queso dip), and Aunt Jemima cornbread mix.

    • Elisabeth

      Goodnight Moon is such a beautiful and sweet book and one of the few I never tired of reading to my young children over and over and over (as often happens). I’ve never known any parent not to like it. While the sentiment in Love you Forever by Robert Munsch is lovely the ending is so bizarre with the mother climbing in through the window like a stalker.

      • KT

        Just chiming in to say I agree about Goodnight Moon. My daughter and I memorized it when she was little (just from reading it so much) and recited it together at bedtime.

        • Aurelas

          hehe my husband and I have memorized it from reading it to our little one so much and we sometimes recite it together to her. Now that she is 2, she joins in. It is so popular because it is simple and the words are soothing by their very sound. Read it aloud and you will see what I mean. Also, it teaches a good way of winding down to fall asleep–saying goodnight to everything in the room–and reminds kids that when the lights are out those same objects are what will be there. Love you Forever is one of those “tear-jerkers” though so I’m not sure if I would pick it or not. Maybe Guess How Much I Love You instead.

  • gn

    I would not recommend sending cash in the mail. It is at risk of being stolen.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

      Agreed, when it’s in a card. Apparently it’s very easy to spot. I quite often buy a large bar of chocolate and put a note in the wrapper so that it doesn’t get detected.

      • John H Harris

        When I was active in amateur radio, it was not uncommon to send “green stamps” (the ham’s euphemism for the dollar bill) instead of the standard international postal reply coupons that were recommended, since the dollar bill would often buy more at the local post office. Just make sure your envelope is completely opaque, even when held up to the light, and it won’t catch the eye of any unscrupulous postal worker.

  • Christine

    My friends back home love peppermint bark and now always ask for it to be brought back at Christmas

  • noliving

    For the American currency idea:

    If you go to the bank with two dollar sin currency you can ask them to exchange it for just one $2 dollar bill. The US still makes the $2 dollar bill and then send it to the banks which just hoard/stock them, if you go to a bank they usually have a stack of them. Considering how rare the $2 dollar bill is in circulation I think that would probably be the best currency gift.

    • lucascott

      That would be fun. Or one of the gold dollar coins. Brits are used to the one pound coin over bills so they might enjoy seeing that sometimes we ‘yanks’ follow suit (do they even still call us yanks)

      • John H Harris

        Yes, they do. If you’re from south of the Mason-Dixon line, though, it’s usually seen as an insult.

  • Irené Colthurst

    I now have a mental image of little British girls unwrapping copies of A Little House on the Praire.

    Or… the Oz books! Yes, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first a book, and it was followed by several others in a series.

    • lucascott

      Little House is a great idea. Wholesome, semi educational. And the reading level isn’t too extreme.
      There’s another series. if it’s still around, about jewish girls in turn of the century New York that might appeal to the same age group. The first book was called All of a Kind Family.
      And if you want to get boys into the game, the Great Brain series is similar (late 1800s Mormon Utah as I recall and semi autobiographical like the Little House books)

      • John H Harris

        As I stated above, I wouldn’t send American books to a child who is in the process of learning to read and spell, but by the time such skills are in place, they’re ready for such books.

        • Aurelas

          When I was a kid I read books from Great Britain and they were also presented to us in school in our reading textbooks, complete with the British spellings. I admit I have ended up spelling most things the British way and not the American way because I have read so many books that were written in English–most of them for my own reading enjoyment and not for school. Most of the kids I went to school with were exposed to those same textbooks and as far as I know I’m the only one who came out “different.” I think it takes reading a large number of books with the different spellings for them to really take root. I would think that one or two books here and there shouldn’t really be a problem.

          • Annalie

            Same here, for some reason I always have used the British way of spelling certain words (though I don’t know where it comes from) and my second grade teacher actually gave me poor marks on writing assignments and sent a letter to my parents to get me checked by a psychologist to see if I had a learning disability (spoiler alert: I don’t)

  • colinmeister

    Sending American children’s books is not a good idea, since reading these will encourage them to spell incorrectly (Color, thru, theater, donut, etc. etc.).

    • John H Harris

      It depends on the type. If it’s something like “Hello, Moon” or the works of Dr. Seuss, they’re more often read to children than by them. I would agree that sending something intended for early school years (what we would call Kindergarten to about fourth grade, or ages 4-9) isn’t a good idea, but by the time basic spelling skills are in place, so is the realization that Americans spell things slightly differently.

      • colinmeister

        You may call it “Slightly differently”, I call it “Wrong”. The language is “English”, not “American”., I curse those spell checkers on Computers which try to make me spell things wrong.

        • John H Harris

          Don’t blame me. Blame Noah Webster, George Washington and all those other folks who whupped the British Army back in the 1770’s…

  • John H Harris

    Two more sure-fire food gifts are maple syrup (get the real stuff, if you can) and, surprisingly, Kool-Aid.

    When I visited southern Wales back in ’07, both were received quite well.

  • luzan

    Well, Christmas can be of much fun among friends when I could find what can i gift my friends this season, as of now, lots of my friends are crazy about the new apps in their smartphone, and some of them are not fine with buying apps for them.

    So, I decided to gift apps for my friends from Apple App store, Android Store and Windows Store, If you are also planning same see here
    How to send your friends apps for Christmas as gifts

  • Liz

    Boozy brunch?? Serious overstatement. I believe the author is referring to bad champagne brunches (e.g., Mimosas, Bellinis, etc). The alcohol is so cheap and the drinks watered down.