With the holidays quickly approaching- I’m super excited to start planning a trip home over Christmas! Naturally, as happens for just about every expat, my thoughts turned to what I need to stock up on and how much space I can leave in my suitcase for bringing said items back. Usually this means bringing enough underwear, socks, a pair or two of jeans and then just working off of whatever clothes are back at home. Fingers crossed the Croissant eating hasn’t eliminated most of my wardrobe in the States or I’ll be bearing some midriffs and not in a good way. The good thing about heading home too over the holidays is that I take up a massive amount of space with things I’m bringing back for my friend’s and family- so a nice little swap usually works. 😀
I have to admit though, the longer I’ve lived abroad, the shorter my list of things to bring back becomes. You find your replacements here, or honestly certain things I used to miss have actually become easier to find in France. For example, I’ve frequently seen at Monoprix or Franprix a display of American products like marshmallows, Reece’s Pieces, and Lucky Charms.
But! With all that being said- there is still absolutely some items I stuff in my suitcase and haul on to the plane and up five flights of stairs to my apartment.
Grandma’s Molasses: Heavy as heavy goes but absolutely necessary when making Pumpkin Muffins or Ultimate Ginger Cookies. Yes you can find this item here but at 7.95 euros a pop that just sounds crazy to me. I’d rather lug it across the ocean. ha!
Libby’s Pumpkin Puree: I think this is a classic expat item that everyone is always looking for when Thanksgiving hits. As a baker, I can confidently tell you that the consistency and flavor that you are going to always get with this product is worth every extra added pound to the suitcase (and the waistline). The pumpkin pie recipe on the can is gold. My mom and I have tried other canned pumpkin including really good organic brands and nothing has ever come close. This is another item you can find here in the expat grocery stores but eh if I have 1-2 cans on stash I’m good.
Almond Butter: When I need a quick pick me up before heading to a bootcamp class in front of the Louvre or biking off somewhere, a spoonful of almond butter is where it’s at. Now I’m sure you can find it in the health food stores here like Naturalia but I love Justin’s Almond Butter.
Luna Bars: I remember the first couple of months I was here and a friend who was visiting soon reached out to see if there was anything I would like her to bring. My first response was LUNA BARS! Energy bars don’t really exist here because snacking isn’t a thing. I was walking so much at that point, that having a Luna Bar on me to get me through was a life saver. Note: I’ve started randomly seeing Cliff Bars at my local Franprix at the checkout? So crazy. They give me stomach aches though so Luna Bars are it for me.
Vitamins and Allergy Medicine: I wrote about this in my Packing for the Expat Life in France post. When you first arrive there’s a comfort in knowing that if you get a headache or other normal maladie that you had medicine with you from the US that could help. The last thing you want to do is go to the pharmacy and stumble through difficult medical descriptions in another language in the hopes that you’ll be given the right meds. This doesn’t bother me now and I’ve (like just about every French person I know) amassed a little collection of French medicines. Here’s what I’ve found though, allergy medicine here is super expensive! A week (7 pills) can be upwards of 14 euros. In the States I can get a bottle of 30 allergy pills for the same amount. Vitamins as well are very expensive.
Salsa: Being from Texas I have a super high standard for salsa and all things TexMex. I asked my sisters to bring me some salsa when they visited recently- the legit stuff. I’ve got to say my little sister came through with an awesome brand from Austin. I’ve cracked one jar open so far and it’s like pure heaven!!! In Paris, head to Marks and Spencer or HEMA for inexpensive and good tortilla chips.
Fresh Flour Tortillas: In Texas there’s nothing like going to Central Market, picking up a bag of freshly made flour tortillas still warm from the hot plate and immediately pulling one out of the bag and eating it as soon as you get to your car. I have two bags in my tiny freezer right now. They are taking about 75% of the space up but I don’t care- a Mexican party is going to happen and it’s going to be fab!! There is a place in Paris to get fresh corn tortillas but they’re just not the same to me. They aren’t the best corn tortillas I’ve had, so it’s not worth ordering them online, picking them up, and paying an inflated price.
Hot Chocolate Mix (with marshmallows!): This for me is one of those things that brings me back home to playing in the snow that we got once or twice a year, putting my shoes to dry under the refrigerator, and curling up with a cup of hot cocoa. There’s also another little reason why I like US hot cocoa so much too- I can mix it with water (shocker) and no one is the wiser. There can be big discussions started over water vs milk here for making hot cocoa with the result being that no one uses water to make hot cocoa. What can I say- I’m just a rebel! That and I usually don’t have milk in my fridge.
And that’s about all I can think of right now. Of course the closer my departure date gets though, the more likely more items will spring to mind.
What would you add?