Receiving a care package from home while living abroad is one of the best things ever. I am telling you – nothing beats a box of love and happiness sent from someone to remind you that a) they haven’t forgotten about you, and b) your home will always be your home, even if you never live there again.
(Because choices, amiright?)
The holidays and birthdays are especially important times to consider sending a care package to someone living abroad. But if I’m being really honest, receiving one randomly (especially if it’s a surprise) is possibly even better.
Start with a few simple basics
A box of small to medium size – a shoe box is always a great place to start, but you can go bigger depending what you need to fit in there)
Brown packing paper to cover the box before sending
Tissue or wrapping paper (if you’re feeling fancy) – you can either wrap some of the items so it feels like a fun gift to the receiver, or line the inside of the box with nice paper to make it look extra special.
Fill it with awesome stuff
Because otherwise it’s just a pretty, empty box, and I don’t claim to know your relationships, but guys, that just seems weird…
A favourite treat
We connect with food as part of our home and memories in such a visceral way, that it really is the most important part of any good care package (in my humble opinion).
I always request ketchup chips, peanut butter cups, dried and unsweetened fruit, and anything dill pickle flavour. These are a few of my favourite things.
But obviously you’ll need to consider what your person loves and can’t find in their current country. Sour patch kids? Baked potato flavour chips? Jerky? Pistachios? Whatever it is, I guarantee they’ll be stoked to munch on their fave snacks while contemplating and rummaging through all of the other wonderful things you’ve sent them. Or like, watching tv. I don’t know their lives!
Hint: Many home-baked goods will travel just fine, if wrapped in plastic and a sealed bag, then tucked into a harder case like a plastic container.
A hard-to-find product
Living abroad can be tough sometimes. You might have the perfect skin care routine down at home and then you arrive somewhere new, search high and low, and realize you can’t find your preferred products anywhere.
Try to consider what your person has mentioned (or maybe flat out requested). I’ve asked for my fave face lotions, under-eye concealer, my fave cooking spice (dill, which like, does not exist in MANY parts of the world, apparently!), bras, and vegan protein powder.
If your special person is living in a country that does not share their native language, you must include reading material. It doesn’t have to be a book (though who doesn’t love a new book?) but a book about their current country written in the language of their home country is sure to be a hit.
Also consider a magazine – they don’t cost a lot and don’t take up much space. If you know s/he loves sports, style, feminism, travel (duh!), extreme adventure, or really anything at all, you’ll definitely find a magazine that they’ll be able to enjoy.
And what if they are in a same-language country? Send a local newspaper – it will make them smile to get a piece of home and help them feel a little more connected to the people they’ve had to leave behind.
Something super “home”
Something obvious and fun and even tacky from your home country.
Send a Canadian small bottles of maple syrup or maple cookies, send a Nicaraguan rosquillas and coffee, send a Korean red pepper paste or Spam (like the tinned meat – trust me, it’s a thing), send a Japanese anything Hello Kitty, send a New Yorker an apple (ok, not really), send anyone and everyone a small flag or cute thematic notebook with their flag on it.
You get my drift. For the time your person is outside of the country, they will think back on their home country with a lot of fondness and nostalgia. Tap into that and treat them to something delightfully stereotypical to remind them where they will always belong.
Such as a letter, a book with handwriting in the margins, or even a hand drawn picture and a little note.
If there’s a group of you, consider getting an empty book and filling it with love and encouragement, drawings, colourings, photos, letters and notes, and even random memories or doodles.
Something to share with those around him/her
This one can overlap with the stereotypical stuff from above, but it doesn’t have to. Edibles are always amazing for sharing with roommates, coworkers, and new friends because eating and drinking is at heart, a social event.
But there are lots of other options too. Consider stickers and erasers for kids, gift sized edibles, soaps, or Christmas decorations for coworkers, or bigger bags of treats for sharing with roommates and/or friends.
Or my personal fave: send all of the fixings for a meal native to your country so your person can replicate it there to share with those they choose.
One simple thing you just know they love
Whether it’s hard to find in their current country or not, something that you know makes them smile is always a hit, totally regardless of whether they can get it where they live or not.
My best friend often sends me my fave candles, my mom always includes an amazing scented body lotion, one friend always sends me new music, and another sends me inexpensive but fun, vintage jewelry. They just know these things make me smile and feel spoiled, regardless if I can find something “close enough” wherever I am.
A travel item
Something travel-related is never amiss with a person who is living outside of the country. Chances are they’ll be out on weekends exploring their new country, right?
There are a million things to choose from, but I like the idea of sending refillable perfume/spray bottles, packing cubes, travel sized Castille soap (it works for everything!), or even a great water bottle or thermos.
what NOT to send
Don’t send expensive jewelry or things of much value. Not only are you at high risk of losing them, but these are also the kinds of things you should only give when you can be present to see the sparkle in the receivers’ eyes, don’t you think?
Avoid sending anything super heavy, unless absolutely necessary. It’s weight much more than size that tends to cost money when shipping, so you can send twice as many care packages by keeping them a bit light and simple!
Don’t send alcohol. For starters, most countries won’t even ship it. For seconds, even if you successfully ship it the receiving country might not allow it to enter and this can cause delays or even loss of your package.
Don’t send glass unless you are really sure you can pack it very, very well. Opening a package to a bunch of shattered glass and a destroyed gift is not so very fun.
And remember most of all – if you’ve had some fun putting it together, it’s guaranteed to be joyfully received!
Would you add anything else? What do you love to receive in the mail?