Peace Corps Ukraine: Host Family Gifts
Every Peace Corps Ukraine volunteer is encouraged to bring gifts for their host family. Giving gifts is a big part of Ukrainian culture as they really strive to be hospitable to guests.
Before I left for Ukraine I was really struggling with what to get. I kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. Finally less than a week before I left for Ukraine, I ended up going shopping with my best friend and a guy friend of mine on my birthday for these gifts. Shout out to y'all two for putting up with me and the amount of stores I dragged y'all into!
Before I bought anything I kept seeing really touristy stuff and thinking it was stupid or dumb or that they wouldn't like it. Since I basically gave myself no time, I ended up buying the most touristy stuff I could find. I bought two of a lot of things as I will have to give gifts to another host family when I get to my permanent site. I left those at home and my mom knows to mail them when it gets closer. (It's all about saving space in your luggage y'all)
You don't know what the makeup of your host family will be which makes it even harder. I ended up getting some post cards that would work for everyone to look at. I found them at the tourism department in Austin. I also picked up a map of the city from them which was free. I figured they might have kids or that there would be kids in the building so I bought two cubes of Sugarfina prickly pear cactus gummies. They don't sell these in small packs yet so I ended up buying treat bags from hobby lobby and sealing them with my hair straightener.
Most people that were in our Facebook group that were already serving in Ukraine recommended magnets. I thought a magnet would be dumb but my host families fridge has them from all over the world. So it actually ended up working out pretty well.
I bought a Texas Tie ( Bolo tie) from a store on Dirty 6th. I saw it as soon as we walked in and got really excited about it. I wanted to find a Texas Ranger pin to go with it but they didn't have any that looked okay.
Fun fact, my host mom used to watch Walker Texas Ranger all the time and was pretty pumped when I sang the theme song to her.
My host brother ended up really enjoying the bolo tie and wore it was a braceet. ( I have no idea where any of these gifts are now as I haven't seen them since the first weekend but that is okay)
The last gift I have was supposed to be for my counterpart/ language teacher except we have two of them and I only have one pin so I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it since I have both a TCF and an LCF. I'll figure it out.
The last thing I brought that weren't really gifts but where helpful was a bunch of pictures of friends and family. I brought these for me but I ended up showing all of them to my host family on the first night and explaining who everyone was.
Advice for FPCVs on Gifts
I would recommend having a gift for the following people.
Host Children (x2)
Some other things you can bring are:
Your favorite tea (Ukrainian people really like to drink tea)
Peanut Butter to share (Also pack some for yourself trust me)
Pressed flowers from your state.
If you are worried about it don't over think it. Just bring a few small items to show them your city.