Ideas for what to bring when you want to reward people for their hospitality
As a guest, it is always nice to bring presents for the host. As a foreigner, it is even more interesting to bring something typical from your culture.
Different things for different people
When you are traveling to an African country or volunteering there, you might meet many different people who will have different roles towards you. Therefore a good hint is to bring several things that you can divide accordingly.
Sweets and balloons
Children will frantically appreciate cliché presents like balloons and sweets, but they only last for a few hours. Afterwards, people remain with plastic waste from burst balloons and sweets wrappers to be disposed, which in some areas is not as easy. Dental health care is rare in rural areas, and the sweets you wanted to spread in a good intention can leave people with big problems.
Another type of rather unique sweets like liquorice from the Netherlands or Salmiakki from Finland have ever led to funny faces among the people who tasted them. They end up being eaten mostly by the people who brought them.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot bring sweets at all. Just mind the amount and the disposal later on.
People appreciate other food stuff. I am always hitting the jackpot with my dark German bread and sausage. Usually Kenyans regard Japanese food with less enthusiasm, but they are all the more appreciated by international volunteers.
Things like butter, cheese and chocolate obviously melt easily and are hard to store. But I gave out flavoured tea or instant cappuccino and people liked them.
In case you are participating in a work camp or any other event that will involve a cultural day, keep these food items for that occasion.
With photos you can often spark conversations. I glued together some photos of my family, friends and home and up to date it’s one of the favourite books of a small girl in the village. She knows all my relatives in there by name.
Put together some photos of your family, where you stay, what you do, and maybe a bit of the surrounding area.
Another thing we always get orders for are solar lamps. People actually pay us back the expenses. They deem anything that says “Made in Germany” on it to have good quality, be it a clock or something else.
And finally there are things like table cloths, dish towels or other textiles or clothes that may have the national colours on them or are typical and significant in another way.
Being the guest
Whatever you bring, try to give it from your heart instead of just disposing stuff on people. Since I am usually the visitor, at least in Kenya people don’t actually expect a present from me like they would in Germany.
Finally, you can also always buy things in the country and bring them. When I visit women, a bag of sugar, salt, rice, flour or a bottle of cooking oil is a common and valid present and I just buy it in the local shop.