The Expat Holiday Care Package

by farrah on November 7, 2013 · 22 comments

There aren’t many things in this world like receiving a token from home when you’re far away. Last Christmas my family received a wonderful expat care package from my husband’s company- filled with goodies from the states. I remember how happy I was to see that box. We had been here just shy of two months and I was still floundering at the store, trying to make everything just like ‘back home’ and feeling like a failure around holiday time. The package could not have come at a better time- and I was so very thankful to be given such a gift for my family.


Since then we have received expat treats from other visitors and packages, but there’s something special about the people who put together these packages for us. My husband informed me that his company is participating yet again in the expat holiday care package and I can’t wait to receive it!

Some background: while I was attending graduate school I was an office manager. I worked for a company on contract- at the company my husband works at now. I ran the mailroom/copy center/all around inner office and loved that job. I made more money doing that than I ever did as a teacher- and didn’t come home with nearly as much stress or ‘homework’. The people I worked with were great- and my immediate boss is someone I still keep in touch with on a personal level. This was all over 10 years ago. In 2006 my husband started working for the company that held my old company’s contract. I quit being the office manager as student teaching and a day job didn’t mesh, and that summer my husband and I were married. He transferred to an office in the south and the rest is our story.

I hold his company in high regard. I used to be the person in the mail room that sorted the expat’s mail, wishing and hoping that someday I’d be one of those lucky people. It all seems so far away now, but at one time that was me. I wasn’t married, didn’t have any kids, and had no idea that someday I’d really be living in the Netherlands.

Last year our expat treat box contained things like A1 Steak Sauce, bowtie pasta, and a myriad of other items that I didn’t know if I could find here. Over time, I did find substitutions or the actual item and felt silly requesting them from all the way overseas. But that’s not the point. The point is that they care enough to send us something to make life a little nicer. To make our day a little better with comfort items that say ‘Hey, we’re thinking of you’. That’s special and considerate.

Since our response to the email ‘what would you like in your package‘ is due Monday, I have to get thinking and I am drawing a total blank. Just a few months ago in June I had an enormous bounty brought by my sister- and yet this time I can’t think of stuff we’re missing or needing. We are stocked with Bounce dryer sheets for the next year and I won’t be needing any more sunglasses this season (haha!).

They send us a box roughly the size of a case of paper and FILL it. I remember last year I was so excited- they could send a shoe box and I’d still be thrilled. But I need some help. I don’t know why I am struggling so to come up with doo dads that we miss. Maybe there’s something new out there (non perishable) that we need? Tell me. Taking suggestions!

This is what I have so far: Welche’s Fruit Snacks, Flintstones kids vitamins, Reese’s peanut butter cups. Pace picante (I am dying for that), Frank’s Hot Sauce (thank you twitter suggestion!), almond butter (oh I miss this so much), Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, Montreal steak seasoning… and that’s it. Not very exciting. I wish it was a better list considering that I actually KNOW what I’m missing-but just like when you’re writing out the grocery list before you go to the store, I know I’m forgetting something.

So tell me, readers: What’s something from the US that we should really have in this annual box of fun? It has to be non-perishable but that seems to be the only rule. If you’re an expat tell me what’ s in your holiday care package.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy November 7, 2013 at 8:21 am

PEANUT BUTTER. Oh, sorry. Did I shout? It’s perhaps the one thing we miss the most that we can’t get here. Well we can but it doesn’t taste right and costs an arm and a leg. That and red licorice. And decent sized bottles of Tylenol (here you can only buy 12 max at a time).
Love what your husbands company does – I’ve already told my husband his company should do the same!
Enjoy your treats from home!


2 farrah November 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

I must be peanut butter blind. Well, first the boys never ate it back home (too young, super picky) and now all they know is the Calve brand- which I personally don’t eat so didn’t know it was different! Oh and YES on the meds. My husband is going back this weekend and he is armed with a list of those kinds of things for sure! And thanks- it IS very nice and so very appreciated!


3 Elizabeth November 7, 2013 at 8:27 am

I second Wendy-top of my list was Jiff Crunchy Peanut butter. We can certainly get peanut butter here, but it is very expensive and just not quite like home. Also, Duke’s mayo was a big one on my list. Otherwise, it was brown sugar, chocolate chips, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, Crystal Lite individual drink mix, and I think that’s it. Now, I am going to back and add peanut butter cups if it’s not too late. I absolutely love that the company does this. It is so generous and thoughtful, especially when you consider all of the specialty shopping we ask for (like Jiff and Duke’s specifically). And, I think our location is one of the only ones that does it. It makes me very happy!!


4 farrah November 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

Oh THANK YOU for the Duke’s! I grew to adore that mayo in SC- and I have tweeted about missing it. On the list for sure. And why didn’t I think of stuffing mix?! Thanks for your suggestions.I think our lists are going to look mighty similar.


5 Ace November 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

You already have the Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies on there (I eat them as much as LM does), but do you guys do Ranch dressing? We ask for the seasoning packets, and we use ALL of them. Or have you used the Webster Grill/McCormick marinades? They are delicious.
Some days I wish someone could just send me a Whole Foods in a package – I do miss that place.


6 farrah November 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Yes! If someone could ship me WF without the snooty customers and crazy parking lot I’d be all over it lol. I think I have all of those things you mentioned ready to go!


7 Ann November 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

That’s awesome they do that!

I would get the Glad Press ‘N seal cling wrap. Also random holiday stuff for the kids in the $1 section at target.


8 farrah November 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm

You nailed it with the wrap. That and the aluminum foil is a joke!


9 Heather November 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

You are so lucky! Hmmm…so many things: Hershey’s Hugs, Cliff Bars, Cheetos, Milanos, Juicy Fruit Gum, favorite brand of tampons, Christmas candy for the kids-anything in Green, Red and Gold. Blue corn tortilla chips. ALL of Target.


10 farrah November 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm

YES! Send me a Target for sure. I miss picking up cheap sheets and towels! Ooh, blue chips is a good one and stuff for making holiday cookies. I’d totally add tampons on there too except I was fixed before we moved and don’t have periods anymore! Hurray!!!! (I think about that all the time since I don’t ever see my brand lol)


11 Leighann November 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I’m not from the US so I won’t be much help but I think the idea of them giving you a care package is a great idea! Can’t wait to see what you get!


12 farrah November 8, 2013 at 11:32 am

I’m excited too- they’re so nice about it and take care of those of us that are here 🙂


13 Nicole at Arrows Sent Forth November 7, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Microwave popcorn. Ranch packets. My kids really miss animal crackers (the ones from the Target dollar spot). Crystal Lite. Clif Bars. And I really miss American crackers (CheezIts, Wheat Thins, Triscuits… it’s not that I ate them all that often, but now that I can’t? I want them ALL THE TIME.) Mostly I just want someone to find a way to ship me a Qdoba burrito once in a while. 🙂


14 farrah November 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

Oh I do love CheezIts! Actually an expat over here asked if we’d get her some Triscuits- so we’re on that one 🙂 Me- if I could have something hot shipped it would be a Firehouse Sub. OMG how I miss those.


15 Jen November 8, 2013 at 5:11 am

Can I get one from NL? It only needs to have Calve mayo and Cote D’Or chocolate (which by the way I found in a store here, $7 a bar :0).

What about things like fruit leather etc, they don’t have that in NL. Or York peppermint patties. What about all your baking things for your cookies?


16 farrah November 8, 2013 at 11:35 am

You like the mayo?! That’s funny. I miss the Duke’s mayo from home.

I think I am stocked up on food coloring and decorative things this year! But yes- I forgot about the food glitter stuff. Adding it!


17 Jessica November 8, 2013 at 7:37 am

Now that you ask for suggestions, I can’t even think of what to put on the list! Some things I’ve just adjusted to, and am okay without — it’s only in the moment that I realize, “I could really go for some ___ right now.” 🙂

Oh! I got one! Keebler Soft Batch choc chip cookies — cookies here are not so soft!

Also, I wanted to tell you that I gave you a shoutout on my latest post. 😉


18 farrah November 8, 2013 at 11:37 am

That’s exactly how I feel Jessica!

And I am with you on the cookies. Once a woman chided me at AH for wanting to make ‘American’ chocolate chip cookies because they were too sweet- we like everything too sweet she said. I think she’s kinda right, actually!

And thank you! I saw your pics- awesome!


19 Chamisa November 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Anything from Trader Joe’s, but especially dark chocolate sea salt almonds! I also ask for individually packed snacks like granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit leather, crackers, etc because we have nothing like that here. Peanut butter is easy enough to make yourself (and peanut butter cups too!), but peanut butter chips are a real treat.


20 farrah November 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

YES! On the list!


21 Mrs. Chasing the Donkey November 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I have no clue what you should order, but I can say you are SOOOOO lucky to have this package and your expat group. Uber jealous! ENjoy whatever you get my dear.


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