Au Pair Asks: What welcome gifts do Host Parents enjoy?

by cv harquail on August 3, 2012

Dear AuPair Mom,

I’m European and will soon be flying to the US to meet my Host Family. I’m truly excited.

Here’s my question:

Nearly all Au Pairs bring gifts from their home city for the new families. For the host kids it’s easy to find something fun, but I’m not sure about what to get my Host Parents.

What kinds of welcome gifts do Host Parents like?

I don’t want to bring something boring they can’t use or something they put away after a week.
I don’t want to ask my futur family what they want, because I want to surprise them with the presents.

What are some things you where happy about and what are things you don’t like?

Best wishes, Dresden


Penn AP Mom August 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm

My favorite gifts have been things that were special to the AP’s country. Our Australian AP brought us TimTams (Australia’s favorite cookie and now our too!) and Vegemite to try (not as successful as the cookies). Our German AP brought us a small paring knife that was made in her town. My French AP brought me a beautiful and unique scarf that dresses up any outfit I wear.
I will say though that the best gift any AP can bring is enthusiasm for the year. Our family is less concerned with the gifts than we are with building a relationship and learning about one another. If you are excited and happy about being with your host family, that energy will make any gift something they treasure.

Busy Mom August 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Keep the gifts modest. Our first AP overdid it. She brought multiple things for each person in the family and I felt guilty because I suspected that she spent too much money. I do still love the German garden gnome she brought for us (unique and something special in her family), but the coffee table books (yes, multiple) were discarded after she left and the German flag is somewhere in a closet (didn’t see appropriate to throw it away). As Penn AP mom states, host parents are not concerned with the gifts. The kid gifts help to ‘break the ice’ and get kids & new AP interacting, but the HP gifts need not be elaborate or expensive.

Stick with things that are special in your country or to your family and those will be interesting to your host family. Edible items are always good (European chocolate is soooo much better than American chocolate!)

Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what AP #2 (I seem to remember a Brazilian Panettone) and #3 brought for us, but that didn’t stand in the way of developing a good relationship with them. From AP #4, we received an assortment of little items from her hometown, which happens to be a tourist attraction.

Seattle Mom August 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I love this question! I agree with the above, not to over-do it. No need to spend lots of money, that is kind of awkward.

Our au pair came right before Christmas, so she brought some small gifts for her arrival and a couple more for Christmas. I loved the chocolate and the beautiful scarf. It was also nice to get a coffee table book from her city, but we don’t have a coffee table and aren’t going to get one until the kids are less into running around the livingroom :). Actually a wall calendar would have gotten more use- we love wall calendars with beautiful art or photos, and use them in different rooms. But that’s just us- some people probably don’t use those as much.

Anonamomma August 13, 2012 at 6:32 am

We had an AP who brought fridge magnets – I know it sounds a bit odd – but she brought animal ones for the kids (which were holding her home country’s flag) and a lovely carved spoon with amber stones (which symbolised honey) which was a product that her hometown produced for us (which stays high up on the fridge)

They’re all still on the fridge (bar a few casualties!)

Another AP brought a clock shaped like her home country – and that’s still on the wall in the kids playroom.

We loved both of those pressies!!

HostMominVA August 13, 2012 at 8:35 am

I think that it is a good idea to focus on the kids with the gifts, and to keep it modest. We’ve loved t-shirts for the kids from the AP’s home country. Feel free to ask ahead about sizes. This year our German AP brought two stuffed animals from a popular German TV show. We were able to find the show on YouTube and watch with the kids – very fun! Please don’t bring the host mom jewelry or fancy scarves. It is too hard to know a person’s style, and it will be awkward for the hostmom if she doesn’t want to wear it.

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids August 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

I echo the recommendation to look for modest gifts. Our first au pair actually read through our profile and focused her gifts on things we said we are interested in. We like to cook and keep up to date on politics. So she got us a cookbook from her country and a small book that included facts and a short history of her country. I found those gifts to be very thoughtful and we really enjoyed them. This may seem obvious, but make sure if you buy books that they are in English (or a language the host parents can read).

HRHM August 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

Our most recent AP brought a German cookbook and a spatzle press – this is great because I love to cook, but SHE also uses it to cook German foods for us.

One AP brought a 6-pack of beer from her hometown (Niksic, Montenegro) which is famous for it’s beer – DH was in heaven!

We don’t want you to spend a lot of money, but we love something that represents your home country, however small the gift.

hmvt August 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm

You normally can’t go wrong with chocolate but my favorites have been things that make me think that our au pair has a bit of an idea of our personalities and what our hobbies are. Some great ones have been sheet music ( I play piano) and this year duet music because our au pair plays the flute and wants to play with me. German cycling team water bottle/hat for my husband ( because he is a cycling nut and former racer). I really liked it the year our au pair brought a board game – it was something for the whole family to enjoy together! I also really liked the cookbook I received from au pairs home country – it was an easy way for me to make something that would make her feel welcome and get to know a little bit about her culture. We also like little homemade things best of all – the year our au pair brought a beaded necklace for our daughter and she wore it for 1.5 years every day until it finally broke.

DCAuPair August 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Any gift ideas for teenage host kids? A boy and girl, 13 and 14 years old

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Ask your new HP what their children might like. Chances are if you’re with teenagers then you aren’t their first AP. Your HM will know what they enjoy. Food, with teenagers, is usually devoured. Don’t find them rude if it’s gone the next day.

Australian AP August 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Sweatshirts/hoodies from home country/sporting team etc

JJ Host Mom August 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I’d prefer that the au pair concentrates on gifts for the kids. Bringing an age-appropriate toy or game shows me that the au pair has done some research on what kids of that age might like and is prepared for the job. Usually there’s something that’s particular to their country – a puzzle with words in another language, a doll or toy that’s made there (especially if you’re from Germany, where all the amazing toys are made) or something like that. If the AP brings a gift for the host parents, I’d prefer a food item (but beware it has to be something that will make it through customs.) Some regional candy, tinned food, that sort of thing, that people can taste and get a sense of the country, but that won’t sit on a shelf gathering dust in case it’s not their taste (which is really hard to predict.)

Keep in mind that the host family probably isn’t going to give you a huge gift – just a gift basket, usually, so don’t feel obligated to bring lots and lots of gifts yourself.

Should be working August 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Same as the above: Focus on gifts the kids will like. For us, something small. Our new AP thoughtfully produced a little book with quotes she thought we would like. Lovely.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I agree. With the increasingly limiting weight restrictions, don’t fill up your suitcase with gifts. Bring something little. If you don’t have time for something from the heart, chocolate is usually sufficient. Also, don’t feel guilty about asking your HF. Remember, what is ordinary in your country is not ordinary in your destination country.

HM x 5 August 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Dresden (and other APs) – I highly recommend you ask your HF what they’d like to get. It doesn’t mean the surprise is ruined – even if I said to you “DS loves books, DD #1 loves to draw and paint, DD #2 enjoys stuffed animals” I’d have no idea what would actually arrive with you. So we’d still all be surprised!

And, just my opinion, I wouldn’t give clothes at all. Kids don’t usually consider clothes interesting gifts (I know – spoiled, at least my own) and it’s almost impossible to judge an adult’s taste and habits whom you’ve never met. I noticed one of the other HFs commented about about a scarf she loved from one of her APs, but I’d never wear a scarf – it’s just not me. One of our Thai APs gave HD and I a pair of pants and some T-shirts that represented her culture, but she didn’t come close to guessing our sizes correctly and, after her year with us, we quietly donated them. She also gave me a scarf that I re-purposed it into a table runner at my office, so I guess that wasn’t a total miss! ;-)

Anna August 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I agree. Ask, and bring something small but unique from your country.

I like kitchen gadgets and I like to cook; I’ve asked for (and enjoyed) a cookbook in English with that country’s recipes.

We wouldn’t be able to use food since we keep a special diet, so ask.

Returning HM August 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

For us, the gifts that show thought and the AP’s personality are the most valued. AP#2 brought flip flops that she had decorated for each of the female members of our household (she asked our shoe sizes in advance) and beach towels that she had painted for the male household members. Our recently returned (sniff!) AP#8 brought the best gift of all: A game she and her uncle had made for us, adapted from a popular game in Germany, but renamed “Rocky’s World,” after our dog, with the game pieces made with pictures of each of of us – mom, dad, daughter, son – on them. Awesome! In both cases, these gifts were simple and easy to make but showed so much thought and so much excitement on the part of the AP for her time with our family. As a PP wrote, the coffee table books tend to stay just there – on the coffee table. The flip flops and towels got worn and used all the time (still do), and we still play Rocky’s World on a regular basis.

Should be working August 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Great idea with the customized game!

Yes, definitely NOT coffee table books (although this term might not translate easily and who knows if more than a couple of APs will ever see this advice). They are heavy, expensive, and not really something the HF will use. HFs would respect the thoughtfulness of the gift, but repurpose all that into something physically SMALL.

NJ HostDad August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I agree with the focus on the children, and it can be something small — Kinderschocolade, or Kinder Surprise for example. Kinder Surprise are not sold in the U.S., they are illegal to sell!
If you are in contact with the current au pair you might ask her for suggestions so you can still surprise the host parents or children.
Also, use what you’ve learned about the children — our last au pair knew they played football, so brought them customized German football shirts with their names on them — big hit. In the end don’t worry about it too much, everyone will just be excited to meet you — you are the real gift!

PauliAP March 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Why are they illegal?

NoVA Twin Mom March 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

My understanding is it’s because there’s something that can’t be eaten (the toy) inside something that can be eaten. Apparently they’re worried that someone will accidentally eat the toy, get hurt, and sue. Being a big fan of the Kinder Eggs, I can’t quite imagine how someone would accidentally eat the giant plastic egg that the toy is in, but US society is so quick to sue that I can somewhat understand the argument. I just buy my own when I’m somewhere that I can buy them.

Interestingly, at one point there was something called a Magic Ball (I think?) that was little sweet tart like candies inside a chocolate ball – which was fine. Everything involved was edible.

Former AP August 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

Please tell me that none of you encourages their new Au Pair to bring Kinder Surprise because as you said it is illegal!!!
Do you want your new Au Pair to have to be a few hundred dollars fine right as she enters the country? She may not even know that it is illegal but still that does not even matter to the officers at the airport.
Because obviously your new AP wants to please you and bring the gifts that you want, and having that happen to her will be a big turn-off and might even lead her to rematch.
So please be fair to your new Au Pair and do not ask her to bring things that are illegal in the US! (or where ever you may live)

Former AP August 18, 2012 at 11:32 am


Taking a Computer Lunch August 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

It is not illegal to bring them into the country, nor is it illegal to give them to children. No customs official will arrest an AP with Surprise eggs – believe me. They cannot be sold in the U.S. because the toys are too small for children under 3 (although why they cannot be labeled as such, I don’t know).

DCAuPair August 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I was about to say the same thing, but in my procrastination from studying, decided to google it… I came across an Easter article reminding people that they are illegal in the us. This is part of the article:
“While there are some commercial-sized seizures that occur, most Kinder Eggs are seized in personal baggage or at mail and express consignment facilities,” Customs and Border Protection said. A Canadian woman reportedly learned her lesson the hard way.The woman was selected for a random search at a border checkpoint in Minnesota when officials discovered she was carrying a Kinder Egg and took it from her, The Toronto Star reported. A few weeks later, she received a 7-page letter asking if she wanted the egg back or if she was going to abandon rights to it, the Star reported. “I was in disbelief,” she told the newspaper. “It’s a $2 egg.”

Pretty ridiculous, I know :) But you’re right, TaCL, I’m pretty sure you won’t get arrested, but it might get confiscated. This is pretty random information, I know, but some German APs might find it useful.

DCAuPair August 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

sorry… “U.S.”

Australian AP August 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I took TimTams, and a couple of ‘Australiana’ house presents for the parents, and Australia sweatshirts for the kids. They really liked them

Amber August 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I am moving to Germany on Monday to be an Au pair for a year. The HF have 3 young children and I don’t really know what to bring them that’s unique from Ireland. Or can it just be something else like a small toy ? Do you think I should ask first if it ok to bring chocolate for the children ?

GermanAP September 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm

alls the answers have been really helpful to me! thanks to all of you.

Originally, I was planning on bringing an assortment of German beer and some other food items as well as a so called “beef-stick” for the dog.
After doing some research and reading replies on this website I came to the conclusion that it’ll be safer (due to customs and the fact that I am younger than 21) to buy a wall calendar. What a pitty.
Well, I guess our neighbour’s dog is going to be thrilled, since I already bought the beef-stick ;-)

BrinAP October 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi there,
I’ve come across this blog as I am leaving Canada to become an Au Pair in Australia.

My suggestion is make a scrapbook! Growing up, one of Au Pair’s made a scrapbook about her (where she’s from, her hobbies, where she goes to school), and then left it “to be continued”, the day she left, she gave us the scrapbook she had secretly finished while she was with us. It has pictures of all the activities we did, our day trips, birthdays, memories etc. This is perfect, I think, for families with young kids.

However, I am going to be an Au Pair for a family with two boys (age 11 and 12), and I don’t think they would be as interested in it. They are into sports, and like any 12 year old boy, video games.

Any suggestions?

Busy Mom October 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

How about a sports jersey from a team in your country. Our first AP gave one to my eldest daughter for her birthday who thought it was kind of neat. We got a soccer ball from Brazil in colors of the flg (green and yellow) from another au pair. You might also bring a selection of candy from your country.

NoVA Twin Mom October 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

I like the idea of a sports-related item too – something you do in Canada that they don’t in Australia, for example. My initial thought was something to do with curling (as we find it to be a rather unusual sport) :), though that might not be very exciting for kids that age, and I don’t think Australia really gets cold enough for them to be able to try it out. What about an ice hockey jersey? That would probably be out-of-the-ordinary for them – or a puck? That would be relatively easy to pack!

Maria November 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Hey =)
I´m a AuPair in California from Germany.
I brought chocolate from my special environment, but I asked before what they eat.
I want to make a surprise, too but then i realized that this is not working in a right way and i dont want to bring something that goes straight into the trashcan.
So I asked before if they eat chocolate or something like that.

I think its better to aks that you can make sure you have a right one without any trouble =)
Make thoughts about what is special in this area where you live.
For example there are dirferents between the east and the west of germany…

I hope this can hekp you and other AuPairs

Bye, from sunny California

PauliAP March 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm


I’m from Mexico and I was an au pair in North Carolina. I didn’t ask before, I guess I just thought what would be interesting and yummy from my country, so I brought coffee (just grounded the day before I left) and real mexican chocolate. Luckily, the whole family was so into coffee, and unluckily, the chocolate was eaten by ants.

This year I’m going back to the U.S., and I am sooo asking before I get there.

Momma Gadget March 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I lived in Cholula many years ago-
if your family is not too health conscious
I would bring cajeta or cajeta candies.
Mexican hot chocolate and maybe Mole…
(Although not everyone in the US are mole fans)
I used to love ganzitos too but last time some brought them to me they weren’t as good as I remebered.

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