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I have to say, my friends and family know me well and they gave me amazing gifts to bring with me for my time abroad. So this post is not about what I did last week, this one if for the great gifts I received before leaving. The gifts I received when I arrived. And the gifts I brought with me for my host family.

Quick tips

Before I get into the details of what I got, I want to point out some things that you need to consider when buying a gift. Please not too big or too heavy! We need to fit everything for a year (or maybe longer) in a 23kg suitcase. Although we love your gifts if it is going to take up half of my luggage, it probably will not make it to the plane.

Think of something that is meaningful, either has something to do with their home country, where they are going to, maybe specifically the state, or something that the au pair would love to receive as a memory.


Pictures is always a good one for this. You can put a collage in a frame or get them printed on a cushion or a blanket. My aunt did something very special and got some photos printed that meant a lot to either me or her and wrote something on the back of each one. So when I need something to cheer me up I can read one of the pictures and remember the good memories I have from back home.

My former colleagues gifted me a digital photo-frame. All my friends and family can send photos to my frame through an app with a little comment. It is so cute and I have already received so many lovely pictures. I always get excited when a new picture pops up. I like it so much that I got my mom one for her birthday so that I can also send pictures of all my adventures to my family.

Before I started my au pair journey I was a teacher and some of the children made lovely art works for me, and obviously I took them with me. I miss them so much but I have their artwork for me displayed in my room. Some did a painting with compliments on it, and others just wrote me a card. The parents even organized a little booklet where every child made a page for me.

Thoughtful gifts

This gift I thought was really cool. My friends got me two alarm clocks, and they set one to Dutch time and one to the time zone of North Carolina. I have them next to each other on my cabinet and I think it is so nice. My host mom said it would be cool if I kept the Dutch one and my friend kept the North Carolina one. But either way, I thought it was a really great gift.

My other aunt knows I love to explore and do new things and get out of the house. So she found these cards that each have an activity on them to do, to get to know your new community. I have not looked at any of the cards yet so I have no idea what it will tell me to do. But I want to randomly select a card and then make it a challenge to do whatever the card says on that day. Hopefully I won’t get an outdoors one when there is a massive storm outside. I feel like that would be an exception to the rule. They are also small in a little container and lightweight. The game is called “The Ultimate Travel Adventure Game” and I cannot wait to begin!

My grandma bought me a book called “Start where you are”. Every double page has a beautiful, motivating quote on it and the one next to it has either a question or a statement that you can write about. It is almost like journaling but exploring yourself in the proces. I would highly recommend this one I think it is so nice for people who are going abroad, or maybe just moving to college or so to gain a better perspective of who they are, and who they want to become as a person.

Welcome gift from my host family

When I arrived at the airport my host family had a bouquet of flowers and a poster for me, with special Frozen stickers on them. In my new room they had a gift basket for me full of American treats and candy that I needed to try. I just want to say that there is still some left and I did not finish it within 30 seconds of seeing it. I know, i’m proud of myself too. There were a lot of brands that I had recognized, but different versions of it, for example… a cookies and cream twix?! I did not know these things existed. There were also some toiletries to get me settled in for the first few days. And I was glad because I quickly came to realize that I forgot to bring toothpaste.

I also received a North Carolina shirt and cup from their nanny, who helped them during the time that I was delayed. She also gave me a booklet about things to do and places to visit in Raleigh. I think I may need to use that when using my ultimate travel adventure cards.

Gifts I got my host family

Host kids

When looking for presents I wanted something that they would really like, could use for a longer period of time and significant to my home country. I didn’t take anything edible like sweets, firstly I don’t particularly like Dutch sweets and also because they will finish it within a few days. I got my older host child, 2 chapter books. I found them in English but they were originally in Dutch. The Jip and Janneke books are in every Dutch home with children and I wanted them to have that here as well. He can read them over and over again and will get to know the characters like I did when I was a child.

For the younger child I got her a T-shirt with ‘Nijntje’ (Miffy) on it with a Dutch Landscape. Nijntje is well known and originated in The Netherlands. I also got her a cute pink cuddly Nijntje. Which she has successfully bonded with and will now not let go of. She sleeps with it every night and I have to convince her to leave it at home when she goes to daycare.

Host parents

I wanted to bring something meaningful that portrayed me as a person. My mom (real mom) is really into tea and she bought some Chinese green teas for them to try. I also bought them a box of Godiva Belgian Chocolates and some Stroopwafels in a ‘Delfs Blauw’ tin from the Netherlands. Also I am linked to all these countries in some way; I was born in Belgium, have Dutch nationality and am part Chinese. I thought this was a cool twist on it. I also bought some Dutch cookie spices (to make kruidnoten with), and Surinamese masala, but in my haste of packing within a week, are still in the kitchen for my parents to enjoy. This would have completed the nationality theme, but oh well.

I am super thankful for everything that I was able to take with me and all the gifts I received when I arrived. And I am pretty sure that my host family loved my gifts too!

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