As I am planning a trip to the USA sometime in the near future (my definition of near future is within the next 5 years), I have been thinking about what I should pack and what I should bring back. Here’s what I have come up with:
What to pack?
As little as possible.
What to bring back?
As little as possible.
But that didn’t use to be the case. I mean I always packed light for the trip to the US, my baggage usually consisting of an empty bag inside another empty bag. Then I loaded up in the US on clothes, shoes, cosmetics, everything. The stuff was better and it was way cheaper. Not anymore. We’ve got stuff in Poland too, sometimes too much stuff and sometimes it is even good stuff.
I will no longer stock up on clothes in the US. I will probably buy something if I like it or need it but it won’t be because they don’t have any good clothes in Poland. That doesn’t go for Misiu who will probably do what he always does – go to the Gap and buy out all the flat front khaki pants in his size. Shoes are still generally cheaper in the US as are cosmetics, but not enough to warrant “stocking up”.
In the past when we used to go to the States more often, friends and not-so-friendly friends upon hearing of our upcoming trip would promptly present their wish-lists for things we should buy for them while in the US. The things on the lists ranged from make-up, medicine, vitamins, and clothes all the way to CDs and electronics. Sometimes it was because the things were cheaper in the US and the rest because they were “better”. My old boss was crazy about “better” stuff in America and I had to bring back Centrum Vitamins for him and his whole family even though we have Centrum Vitamins here in Poland and they are made in America. (OK, they are 5 times cheaper in America but that wasn’t point).
One of my students wanted Levi’s from the US and begged me to bring him a pair. I searched and searched but apparently 34/36 is a very hard size to come by. (36/30 on the other hand is a piece of cake to find) The best ever was a former student who emailed and asked me to buy him a laptop. He found it on-line at a shop just a few hours (!!!) from my home. He’d pay me when I got back to Poland. Yeah, right.
There is one student that I always accommodate while in the States. When he wants something, he asks me if I would bring it. Then he buys it on-line and ships it to my parents. I unpack it, tuck it into my bag and deliver it here in Poland. If it is something large or valuable (that the company will not ship directly to Poland) I unpack the bill, re-pack the box and post it to Poland sometimes to myself as a gift (because of taxes, duties, whatever). I always get a “thank you”, reimbursement for the postage and usually some little gift. It’s nice. Except the one time I forgot to tell my parents that a package was on the way…and that my student has a very terrorist-y sounding name. The bomb squad was not called and it all worked out in the end.
When Misiu and I got married, we asked our guests not to give us gifts. We wanted to be cool with our guests and not strain their budgets so close to Christmas. They understood that Misiu’s new American wife didn’t want any of their shitty Polish wedding gifts. That wasn’t the case but whatever… water under the bridge. My sister-in-law had been working in Germany around that time and the next time she was in town she “gifted” us with a couple of bags of washing powder…from Germany. I found that to be an odd gift but since I was using Dosia (quite possibly the worst washing powder ever) I was pleased with the gift. Only later did I find out the Polish people are 100% sure that German washing powder is better…even today. Check out the ad at our local kiosk. “Original detergents from Germany. The largest selection around.”
Maybe foreign stuff is better. I mean, I’m certainly enjoying my foreign husband.