While it depends on the TEFL teacher for whom you’re doing the shopping this holiday season, there are a few things that most people living far from home would love to receive in the post at any time of year.
Likewise, there are a few things you probably shouldn’t bother sending. Remember, these are folks who are in temporary living situations, so try to avoid sending anything that’s too heavy or bulky for them to fit into small living quarters or that they’d need to worry about transporting home eventually. It’s also a good idea to be sure of the postal restrictions of the country to which you’re sending stuff – it’s always a bummer to find out you’ve got a package waiting for you, only to discover you’ll need to pay a hefty tariff on it just to retrieve it.
Here are some suggestions for things that can make excellent gifts for a TEFL teacher.
Non-perishable food from home which isn’t available in the teacher’s host country and can be sent easily. Kraft Macaroni boxed dinners are sometimes a hit with Americans, as are Mexican cooking spices that can be hard to find in many parts of the world (and are often craved by US residents when they’re away from home). Sweets are a good bet, too, such as Twizzlers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Other possibilities include small (easily shippable) packets of peanut butter or vegemite (obviously depending on your audience!), flavored powdered coffee creamers, and energy bars like Balance or Clif Bars. And while you might not suspect it, in many places Ziploc bags are a hot commodity among expats!
Traveling far from home is made much easier these days with the tech tools we have at our disposal, many of which help us feel like we’re not so detached from friends and family far away. Having a portable netbook computer or an iPad makes staying in touch easy with programs like Skype, and any bookworm can appreciate having a library at his or her fingertips with a Kindle – especially in countries where finding English-language books is a hassle and/or extremely expensive. Music lovers have long known the perks of the iPod, and an iPod Touch is an even more versatile travel tool.
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Books & Music
Although sending actual books or CDs probably violates the “nothing too heavy” rule stated above, the easy solution in the modern world is to send e-books and music downloads. Once your favorite TEFL teacher has the necessary technology tools (see above), and you’ve got many holidays’ worth of gift possibilities for the future – from downloadable books and movies to games and music. Not all books are available in a downloadable format, so be absolutely sure it’s something that will be useful before you ship it. Books with a travel/global perspective are good options, such as “Material World: A Global Family Portrait” or the “Culture Shock!” series. Not sure what books or music they like? An iTunes or Amazon gift certificate works just as well.
Photographs from Home
It’s far easier to send photos from home via the internet these days, so it may not seem like this is an important thing to mention on a gift list. But keep in mind that internet access isn’t as prevalent everywhere on the planet as it might be at home, so rather than having to rely on spotty WiFi or traipse down to the internet cafe to see familiar faces, it’s nice for a TEFL teacher to have an actual photo printed out and framed. If you want to get fancy, you can send an electronic picture frame that you can update from home, but an old-fashioned photo works perfectly well, too.
Did your TEFL teacher get to their foreign assignment only to find out it’s way colder than the brochure made it out to be? Did they quickly wear through that pair of Havaianas they thought would last the full year? Are the locals so radically different size-wise that it’s impossible to find anything that fits? If any of these things sound like familiar complaints, then sending some wearable gifts is a good idea. Returns are tough from overseas, so make absolutely sure stuff will fit (and it’s what they want) before you ship it – having them create an Amazon wish list is one option.
As time passes, travel gear gets cooler and – often – smaller. If the TEFL teacher on your gift list will be doing any side trips during their tenure, they may really appreciate a new headlamp, sleep sack, packing cube, daypack, or any number of other pieces of travel gear. You can browse the selections on the Travel Gear Blog’s gift guide, which has options for several different types of travelers.
Maybe the supply closet where your TEFL teacher is working isn’t as well-stocked as it could be, and maybe they just prefer some of the tools that aren’t available in the country – so sending a few teaching supplies is often a great idea. This could be colored chalk or whiteboard markers, Wite Out, BluTack, Scotch tape, and even language learning games and books.
photo by Chris_J