Over the years, I’ve gotten emails from people asking what to bring back from the U.S. for their French friends and family members, so today I’m going to answer that question. If you’re looking for the perfect American gifts for French people, keep reading because I’ve got you covered!
Perfect American gifts to bring French friends
I don’t know about you, but I find it really tricky to pick out the perfect gift for people in general, not just gifts for French people. After being on the receiving end of well-intentioned gifts that weren’t, how shall we say… my style, well I’m thinking many of us out there have trouble with gift giving. There’s so much that could go wrong! But it’s the thought that counts, right?
To help ensure your gifts for the French people in your life will be a banger, it’s always a good idea to keep the recipient’s personal tastes and interests in mind. If you have French friends or family members, you may want to give them something that reflects your American culture while also being thoughtful and practical.
Your relationship with the person also comes into play. If you’re meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time, I’m thinking a bag of candy might not cut it. More on that below. Definitely read the room when deciding what American gifts to bring French friends.
Also, don’t stress too much. When shopping for gifts for French people from the U.S., I think the novelty aspect of the gift will help add to the cool factor. It’s something new to them and may seem a bit exotic, so that’ll definitely work in your favor.
Before getting into my list of gift ideas for French people from America, there are two things to keep in mind:
Appreciation for art
France is known for its art and culture, and the French people take great pride in their artistic heritage. From the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay and all the other famous museums in France, France is home to some of the world’s most famous art collections.
The French appreciate art in all its forms, from paintings and sculptures to music and literature. Now it goes without saying, not EVERY French person takes art seriously, but if you’re looking for a gift for an art-loving French friend, consider a book about a famous artist or a print of a famous painting.
Love of food and wine
French cuisine is like a religion and we all know the French take their food seriously. They tend to value quality ingredients, traditional recipes, and the art of cooking and enjoying their meal.
If you’re looking for a gift for a French gourmand(e), consider something that celebrates their love of food, such as a cookbook, kitchen tools, a decorative dish towel… you get my drift.
Wine is also an important part of French culture, and a bottle of good wine is always a welcome gift. Just make sure you choose a high-quality wine from a reputable vineyard and pack it properly on the plane.
Alrighty, now into my list of gift ideas from the U.S. for French people.
Regional food products
When traveling around France, I always stop by tourist shops that have lots of produits regionaux that are new to me. From sea salt, to sardines, to specialty sweets, wine, cookies, and more, shopping local is a great way to sample a region’s specialty food products.
Why not do the same in the U.S.? If your area of the United States is known for a particular type of product or food, I highly recommend going this route for your gift. It’s my top choice for American gifts to bring French friends and family.
The French appreciate quality food products as I explained above, and as you know, mealtime and eating well with friends and family (often at a more leisurely pace than we’re used to!) is part of French culture. You can’t go wrong with a quality regional food item from your home state or region for your French person gift.
Note: Spicy foods are not super common in France, so don’t buy anything with too much heat unless you know the person can take it. Also, cinnamon/pumpkin spice isn’t a popular flavor here (nor is cranberry), so if your French person likes that sort of thing, it could be a good direction to go in. Also, make sure you’re aware of what products can and can’t be brought into the EU.
This could include food specialties such as taffy, chocolate, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, California wine, locally-made jams and honey, and so much more.
These thoughtful gifts will not only introduce your French friends to new flavors but also show them that you put some effort into their gift.
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So many areas of the U.S. have amazing souvenir shops and local boutiques that it should be a no-brainer to stop in and peruse the selection. Shops like this often feature local artists’ wares and are a great place to pick up a unique gift.
A gift my in-laws loved was a decorative ceramic trivet that had a really well-done graphic of New Jersey, my home state. They love to cook and use it all the time (while getting a little geography lesson in the process).
In Florida, I got my mother-in-law a beautiful silk scarf that had a similar type of beautiful graphic outlining all the main areas of Florida in a really visual, colorful way. Another time, I got her some Florida-themed slippers that she loved and wore until they had holes in them (French people love slippers).
At a nice boutique in Spring Lake, NJ, the last time I was there, I picked up a locally made candle with an ocean scent for my mother-in-law as well.
You know your people best, but things like handcrafted pottery, jewelry, bath & body products, leather goods, housewares, etc. are excellent options.
Whenever possible, I try to buy locally made souvenirs for myself and others instead of a mass-produced magnet or keychain, so absolutely go the regional route to share a piece of where you come from in a thoughtful way.
If your French person is into photography and/or travel, you might want to consider a framed photo of a particular area if it has special significance to you or them. Most tourist areas have beautiful photos for sale if you aren’t much of a photographer yourself. A wall or desk photo calendar is also a good idea.
Quintessential American food products
Another fun idea is to bring food gifts that are quintessentially American. You can go the junk food/candy route or pick up things that might have more nutritional value. Whatever you get, just make sure you opt for food products they can’t readily find in France.
The French people in my life love trying new foods, so go nuts. And if they hate it, well, more for you. ;-)))
Let me also preface this category with a quick disclaimer. Some of these American food products that bring back fond memories of our childhoods will not have the same effect on a French person. They might even come across as strange or careless gifts, depending on your relationship.
It’s especially important to know how a seemingly random food item might be received. Candy is always a hit with kids, but it probably goes without saying that giving a box of Pop Tarts to your new boyfriend’s parents for Christmas isn’t going to cut it.
Also, since I’ve moved to France, more and more formerly hard-to-get American foods are now available here like peanut butter, nut milks, Doritos, and Greek yogurt. Still no mac & cheese, egg whites, and flavored coffee creamer. though.
Some of my favorite American foods to bring back for French people:
- Reese’s peanut butter cups (while you can sometimes find the original ones these days in France here and there, you won’t find the more interesting varieties that have potato chips or pretzels in them)
- Tootsie pops & Blow Pops
- Jolly Rancher candies
- York Peppermint Patties
- Warheads (for the sour lover)
- Chocolate-covered pretzels
- Any type of cookie dough bite or cookie dough product. They’re not super popular in France.
- Fudge. There are great shops on the Jersey Shore and my in-laws have loved the fudge I’ve brought back. It’s not something you find in France.
- Cinnamon gum. While you can of course buy gum in France, cinnamon really isn’t a flavor you see here.
- Toll House semisweet chocolate chips for the baker on your list. In France, the bags of chocolate chips you buy at the grocery store are tiny and quite expensive, not to mention the chip sizes are pretty much all mini chips. They also mainly come in dark or milk chocolate — no semisweet.
NOTE: If you’re in the U.S. around a holiday period like Christmas, Easter, or Halloween, the festive packaging is always a good choice. In France, you’ll find Easter and Christmas packaging mostly but on a much smaller scale than in the U.S., where it seems like there are 100 choices.
I once brought the French Air France flight attendants on my flight a selection of Halloween-themed candy and one woman loved it so much that she told me she was keeping it for her daughter (vampire Sour Patch Kids were a hit!).
–Cheetos. SO GOOD and could work well for an apéro snack. Cheddar goldfish crackers and Cheez-Its are also good cheesy snack items.
–Real maple syrup (the best I ever had was made in Vermont and also Canada.) It’s great drizzled over yogurt.
–Pop Tarts. While nutritionally dubious, the novelty of a Pop Tart is worth it.
–Vegetarian/vegan snacks. There are SO many more product lines for vegetarian and vegans in the U.S., and while they’re making their way to France, the selection in the U.S. is unmatched. Surprise your vegan French friend with some fun snacks.
–Marshmallow Fluff. This stuff is kind of weird but tops my list for a novelty product.
–Ranch salad dressing. No explanation needed. SO GOOD.
If you are looking for a higher-end gift, keep in mind that tech devices like an iPhone are going to be cheaper in the U.S. than in France. The retail price is lower and with a strong U.S. dollar, it makes sense to buy your electronics in the U.S.
Always do a price comparison, but cell phones, computers, exercise trackers, smart speakers, etc. are all good gift ideas. I’ve also found amazing tech-adjacent gifts at places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx — things like chargers, cables, phone cases and that sort of thing.
Gifts that reflect American culture
When it comes to selecting gifts for French people from the U.S. that reflect American culture, there are several options to consider that’ll help you make a good impression:
Sports are a significant part of American and French cultures, but they’re different sports, so why not treat your French sports lover to some American sports memorabilia. American football, basketball and baseball-related gifts all make great options.
Here are some of my faves:
-Team jerseys, hats, or t-shirts
-Autographed sports equipment or memorabilia
-Tickets to a game or sporting event in France like The Harlem Globetrotters. Also, you can buy a Super Bowl pass so you can watch it on TV.
-A football. Simple but fun! My nephew still throws around the American football we got him five years ago.
American literature has a rich history and is known for producing some of the world’s most famous writers. If your French friends are literature enthusiasts, you can gift them some classic American books or contemporary literature. Here are some suggestions if your French person enjoys reading in English:
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
- “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
- “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
- “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
There’s no shortage of gift ideas from the U.S. for French people, so with a little legwork, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect gift. Do your best to avoid overly generic and cheap gifts whenever possible.
Lastly, avoid buying anything that needs to be plugged in unless you’re sure a simple adapter will do the trick. There’s not just the issue of voltage but hertz as well. Most American computer chargers work just fine with an adapter but hair tools will not. Mine actually caught on fire, so for your safety, avoid at all costs even if the price is right. USB is the way to go here.
I hope my post gave you some ideas on what to bring back French people from the U.S.
PIN my American gifts for French friends post: