How To Buy Souvenirs That Would Actually Be Appreciated Wander Wonder

Whether you’re buying them for loved ones back home or as “thank you” tokens for colleagues who covered your work in your absence, here’s how to make sure the souvenirs you buy on your travels won’t be chucked into some obscure closet or *gasp* re-gifted.

Let me be the first to say it: Buying souvenirs when I’m travelling is a huge chore. Even more so considering that I don’t much like shopping to begin with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hastily grabbed generic stuff from the airport just before boarding my flight, just to assuage some misplaced sense of guilt about not getting something for my friends and family back home.

Needless to say, these gifts are usually met with mixed reactions. Food is usually a crowd-pleaser … keychains and mugs, however, are usually met with polite smiles and awkward and overly-enthusiastic “thank yous”.

What I’ve known about buying souvenirs all along has been confirmed in a poll done by Holiday Inn. Following a survey of 900 jetsetters from the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East, and South Africa,  they found that “local keepsakes such as Vietnamese coffee or African drums scored high on the ‘love it’ scale”. Novelty items such as sushi-shaped USB drives, however, fares less well.

I’d say the perfect souvenir is one that can be considered both useful and authentic. Perhaps before going on a souvenir hunt, it might be useful to ask yourself these questions:

1. Can it be eaten?


Food usually fares well with recipients, but they should be in crowd-pleasing flavours, rather than being wacky or too unusual. There’s a reason why Belgian chocolate and Tokyo Banana is usually met with such enthusiasm; these treats are considered delicious by global standards, yet representative of their country of origin. Snake wine from China or Vietnam, while authentic, might be met with a less enthusiastic response.

2. Is it practical?


Some baffling souvenirs I’ve received include a mug that says “My friend visited Perth, Western Australia, and all I got was this lousy mug”. Yeah, no kidding. Sure, I use a mug on a daily basis but that probably wouldn’t be the first one I’d think of grabbing for my morning cuppa. Other things that people probably wouldn’t need are paper weights (everyone’s going digital) and keychains (cos really, you only need one). Some “generic” gifts most people might not mind receiving, however, might include: Notebooks (especially if they are made of some unusual material like elephant poop – you can find these in Thailand), bath products (cos everyone needs to shower), handcrafted pouches (useful for travelling).

3. Is it something that’s not readily available in your home country?


The last time I was in Japan, I realised in a blind panic, while I was at Tokyo airport awaiting my flight back home, that I hadn’t bought anything for my family. So I grabbed something that I thought they might all appreciate: Green tea bags. Perhaps not one of my finest gift-buying moments, considering that you can find an abundance of green tea brands right here at Liang Court’s Meidi-ya supermarket. And it wasn’t as though the tea bags costs a lot less too. Unfortunately, globalisation means that a lot of the things that weren’t readily available in Singapore now are (Royce chocolate, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Laduree macarons, anyone?) so it might pay to do your homework next time before flying off.

Anyway, here’s a cute Holiday Inn infographic about the things people liked/hated receiving as souvenirs … might serve as handy inspiration before your next trip! (My only question: How on earth did those travellers back African bongo drums into their luggage?!)

Holiday Inn_Souvenir Series Infographic 3

Infographic courtesy of Holiday Inn

She may have been born and bred in Singapore, but Denise considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and needs to make a yearly pilgrimage there to maintain her sanity. Competitive by nature, she enjoys combat sports and is currently obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which she picked up just under a year ago. To no one’s surprise, the country currently at the top of her travel bucket list is Brazil.

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