Whether it’s the holiday season, a birthday or simply a special occasion, it can be tricky to come up with gift ideas for your friend or family member that is planning to move abroad or is currently living abroad.
As an expat, I know that it isn’t straightforward and you need to consider a few things (delivery, costs, etc.) apart from deciding what the best gift is.
But you’ll be surprised how many things you can actually gift – from small and budget-friendly to bigger gifts.
I’m going to tell you a list of great gift ideas for expats living abroad and future expats, so you don’t have to spend so much time guessing.
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Gift ideas for expats living abroad and future expats
Gifts ideas for someone moving abroad
Are you looking for gift ideas for someone moving to another country? Here is a list of great gift ideas for future expats.
Having good luggage is a must for anyone who is going to travel regularly or move abroad. You don’t want to get a cheap suitcase that will break with a little extra weight or become damaged by the weather.
This is a gift that any future expat will appreciate because it’s going to be very useful for transporting things from their home country to their new country or even if they love travelling.
It’s definitely one of the most practical gifts for someone moving abroad.
What things do you want to consider when buying a suitcase?
You have two options: soft or hard luggage. A soft suitcase is very useful for getting as many things inside as possible. The only thing you must check is if it’s waterproof to keep things dry. A hard suitcase is robust but heavier and harder to close in case of overpacking.
Having a wheeled suitcase will avoid carrying unnecessary weight.
The average hold luggage limit for a long economy flight is about 23kg. It’s super important you get a light one for expats, as they’ll pack more than normal.
Personalised luggage tag
Have you ever happened to have the same suitcase as someone else on your flight? I have a couple of times, and I was worried about getting the wrong suitcase because I didn’t have a tag to differentiate it.
It’s a simple and small gift but it can be a saviour. Your friend doesn’t want to arrive in a new country and get the wrong luggage or someone else get her luggage!
I’m not a big fan of travel pillows as I find it very difficult to sleep on a flight, however, they can be useful because it gives you some comfort.
For anyone who doesn’t have any problems sleeping on a flight or train, it’s a great gift. Also, it’s a very budget-friendly thing to buy if you don’t want to spend much money.
There are so many wallets out there, but as an expat I agree a bigger wallet with more compartments (several bank cards, point cards from your favourite retailers or cafes, ID cards, etc.) will help keep things organised.
At the same time, you can also look at passport wallets! I love keeping my passport neat and the closest to brand new.
If your friend is obsessed with photography and capturing good memories on her trips, a camera is definitely your best option.
There is a good range of cameras – from expensive and professional DSLR or mirrorless cameras to fun and spontaneous instant cameras.
I know that gifting a professional camera isn’t for many people because of the budget, so getting an instant camera is a great option, especially for any expat who loves to capture moments with friends and decorate their room.
If your friend is moving abroad alone, as I did, and she loves photography a tripod is going to be her best friend.
I know how awkward it is to ask people to take pictures, and if you do, you don’t always get the picture you imagine in your mind.
How many times have you run out of battery and rushed home? I have so many.
Battery banks are super affordable and they will save her from unnecessary circumstances in which she starts stressing out because she can’t call, check her emails or scroll through Instagram.
Even worse if she’s bought her train or bus ticket on her phone app!
This depends on the country your friend will move to, but you’ll find different plugs in some countries, especially if she moves outside of the EU. This is why an adaptor or an extension with several plugs becomes so handy.
Not only will she use it in her new country, but when she travels too.
Moving abroad for the first time is a life-changing experience that will make anyone step out of their comfort zone. A journal is perfect to write about adventures, first impressions of the country, feelings, etc.
A journal is a budget-friendly gift and I’m sure any expat will love it!
A gift card is a safe option when you have no idea what to get for your friend who is getting ready to move abroad.
You can get a gift card from her favourite retailer – anything from clothes to electronics, or even better if you buy an amazon gift card as it can be used anywhere at any time!
I found Amazon gift cards very useful as I had to buy a couple of books when I moved to the UK.
📌 Related post: The Ultimate Checklist for Moving Abroad
Gifting a month or year subscription will help your friend save a little since moving abroad comes with many expenses.
I am not a big fan of watching TV, however, Netflix is definitely worth it! Access plenty of films and series without paying an expensive monthly fee for channels.
Not every country offers free channels or interesting TV programs, so Netflix is a great option.
If editing pictures is her thing, Adobe Lightroom is the best editing app you can get her. Although there is a free version, it does not include as many features as the paid version.
Lightroom is simple to use and it allows changing contrast, light, colours, etc. creating personalised presets to save time editing and have a consistent Instagram feed or blog.
The best thing when moving abroad is to practice listening and language skills as much as possible, and of course, expats will have plenty of opportunities to do so. However, a language app can help improve grammar and learn new words.
Books can be heavy and occupy space in her overpacked suitcase or bag, so Audible becomes very handy. She just needs to download the app on her phone and have her headphones ready to listen to books.
Not only is it useful for flights but for any time or day, especially if she spends a long time commuting.
Gifts for expats
A personalised calendar is always a good option as it allows for important dates, like flying home to visit your loved ones, to be noted down.
You can simply choose a design for the calendar and add your best pictures for each month which will bring back good memories and really make a difference.
Prints aren’t only good additions to her home decoration, but they can be meaningful too. Gifting a print to your overseas friend is a great idea, especially if the print is a picture or map of their hometown.
Every time she looks at the print, she will remember friends, family, food and places in her home country.
If you’re looking for a unique and meaningful gift for a loved one, a photo book is a perfect gift. Photo books take you back to the beautiful and fun memories you’ve had with special people.
Homesickness is real when you’re an expat. There are some days when you miss home, people, food, etc. and looking at a photobook can make you smile and brighten your day.
I like old-fashioned photo books that you get in a bookshop and you fill them with pictures, stickers, etc. because you put more heart and effort into them.
However, if you aren’t a crafty person, there are plenty of online companies that give you the opportunity to choose from colours, designs, etc. that will be automatically applied to you. So you can just focus on getting your pictures.
It’s also easier to deliver as you can add your friend’s address, and it’ll be delivered to her straight away.
Coffee table books
Who doesn’t love a good coffee table travel-related book? I love flicking through and getting inspiration on where to go next.
My favourite travel books are from Lonely Planet, they have a good range of books ideal for any traveller.
I recently got Travel By Colour and I love it! It’s super fun to go through the book.
Scratch travel map
Most expats love travelling and exploring new places, so a scratch travel map is a fun and interactive thing to gift.
You can get a national map from the country your friend has moved to or a traditional international map.
I was given one that included a national and an international map. Since I travel a lot to local places, I have found the national one very useful.
I also think a national one can be more useful for expats since when they move abroad, they’re more likely to go on day trips to discover their new country.
Food from home
Something that I constantly miss is the food, and most expats miss food from their home country at some point. Although they may be able to prepare that traditional dish, it’s very likely that it does not taste like the one at home.
I’ve cooked paellas and tortillas de patatas many times and, believe me, they’re far from perfect and have the flavours I associate with Spanish food. The same happens with other cuisines.
Traditional dishes taste better at home for sure!
However, any expat would appreciate a food parcel with authentic traditional ingredients. Some common ingredients you can easily send include spices, sweets, canned fish or meat, chocolate and pickles.
I don’t know about you but I love surprises, and who doesn’t like to be surprised by an experience? From a relaxing and pampering day at the spa to a wine and food tour or a two-night stay in a cosy cabin.
Tinggly provides the best gift experience boxes because they have incredible experiences in over 100 countries around the world, so you don’t need to worry about options.
For example, if your expat friend lives in Europe, and you don’t know what European city to choose for the experience, you can simply get the Weekend Getaway in Europe box which has over 10000 hotels.
You can find a wide range of gift experiences with Tinggly – from adventure activities such as bungee jumping and hot air balloon rides to cultural activities such as cooking lessons and handpicked experiences.
If you wonder how it works, once you choose the gift box/card according to your budget and occasion, Tinggly delivers the eVoucher or box, and then your friend can pick the experience and use it whenever they want as there is no expiry date!
By buying a Tinggly experience box, you also contribute to the environment, you help to remove 5kg of plastic from oceans and offset the CO2 carbon emissions.
Airline gift card
Your expat friend will definitely appreciate this gift! Expats tend to travel to their home country or go for special occasions like Christmas, so getting some money for flights is perfect – especially when flights are expensive!
If you’re looking for a meaningful gift for an expat friend, photo tiles are your best choice because they can take you back to good times.
PastBook photo tiles are simple to order and use, and they look incredible. You just need to go to their website and upload your beautiful photos with your friend.
Once your friend gets them delivered, she can easily stick them and move them around on the wall to create her desired composition.
These photo tiles are a great addition to your friend’s room decoration and will certainly remind her of your memories together.
Tips when buying gifts to send abroad
1) Do some research
If you really want to impress your friend, do some research on what things she can find in her new country and what things she may struggle to find there. Some products aren’t available everywhere.
Alternatively, you can also ask your friend if there’s something she really needs.
2) Check customs restrictions
Check customs restrictions before you even buy a present because otherwise you’ll have to deal with a return, and you’ll be back to the beginning.
3) Check the shipping dates
Sending a Christmas or birthday present? I know it’s tricky because you can’t avoid worrying if your friend will get it in time. This is why it is super important to post or order these gifts in advance, and in some cases pay a little extra to ensure they’ll be delivered when you want.
4) Weigh the costs
If you’re planning to post the gift, check your post office prices as depending on the size and weight you’ll be charged a different amount. What you don’t really want is to pay unreasonable fees.
Although ordering online and posting it directly to your friend is usually the cheapest and most convenient option, you’ll sometimes find that shipping it yourself may be cheaper.
5) Use a credit card or PayPal
Are you buying something online? In that case, make sure you’re buying from a trust-worthing website and company. If you don’t really know the brand, you can do some research about it and read some reviews.
When buying online, I always use a credit card or PayPal to avoid any disappointments or scams.
I hope this moving abroad gift guide has given you some inspiration to look for the perfect gift for your friend, family member or loved one abroad.
If you have any questions or want more advice on expat life, check out my living abroad guides or reach me by email at cristina[at]mylittleworldoftravelling.com or on Instagram at @creina.diary. I’m always happy to help.
P.S. Do you know of friends who need some gift ideas? Share the post with them.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Gifts For Someone Moving Overseas
What do you give someone leaving the country?
If your friend, family member or loved one is leaving the country and you want to buy something meaningful for them, the best way to go about this is to check customs restrictions and get them something that is lightweight, or even digital!
For example, you can gift them jewellery, an ebook or a nice journal.
When moving abroad is normal to overpack, and your friend may struggle to find space for your gift too!
What to get someone who lives abroad?
There isn’t a right answer to this. You can get them whatever you want, but you need to consider things like custom restrictions, the weight of the item, and the date you’re sending this gift (avoid busy periods like Christmas).
Generally, it’s better to send something lightweight and small as you’ll save money on shipping.