Locals Are Naming the Best (and Worst) Souvenirs from Where They Live

Avid travelers are weighing in with advice for travelers on a viral Reddit thread.

Pekic/E+/Getty Images
Pekic/E+/Getty Images
Pekic/E+/Getty Images

Every traveler knows the feeling-or the urge, rather. When you’re visiting a new country or a new city and the time to leave slowly approaches, you just suddenly feel the need to cling to something (anything!) and bring it back home with you as a “nice memory.” To put it simply, we’re all (or almost all) prone to at least a bit of souvenir shopping when we travel-I sure know I am.

But personally, I like to be thoughtful when I decide to bring something back from my travels. That’s not to say that I’ll go out of my way to get something intellectually relevant. As a matter of fact, sometimes I’ll just buy something silly that is unrelated to the location but related to my personal experience with it-something to remember the place by, if you will. What I do mean is that if I do decide to buy a souvenir that is something other than an inside joke with myself, I try and make sure it’s something genuinely traditional or authentic instead of falling for one of the many souvenir-slinging tourist traps that dominate many destinations. 

Figuring out whether something is or isn’t an authentic “something” from the place you’re visiting can, however, be a little time consuming. Luckily for you and for us all travelers, Reddit is coming to the rescue once again.

In two separate threads within the same subreddit, dubbed r/Travel, residents of many different countries and cities around the world were called upon to say it as it really is. What souvenirs from your home country are really authentic? And on the other hand, which ones are the sort of stuff only tourists buy? Basically, to sum it up in one question, what are the local-approved objects or things you should be investing in?

Of course, hundreds of answers flooded in. In the first post, which specifically asked about genuinely authentic souvenirs ideas, travelers from many different countries dished on important tips when visiting their homeland. In Australia, for example, Redditors said you should really get some Vegemite-a savory spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract and spices-and Tim Tams, a popular malted biscuit and chocolate treat.

When it comes to Japan, instead, one Redditor offered multiple suggestions based on how much a tourist is willing to spend: “High end: chefs knives. Lacquer ware. Ceramics. Cultured pearls,” they wrote. “Midrange: Shochu, sake, and good whiskey. Low end: Green tea. Rice crackers. Pickled vegetables. Temple talismans.”

Among the most popular comments, the US made its appearance as well, and this time for souvenirs coming from Oregon. “Pendleton wool blankets and wine,” said one user. “You get both and that’s a really good autumn Saturday.”

A big winner across other countries, however, is still about comfort, but not in the same way that a blanket or scarf provides. Food, apparently, is just about your best bet when you want to bring a piece of an international destination back home.

Canadians from British Columbia will tell you that in addition to some First Nations art, you should really consider getting some smoked salmon. Italians, instead, will tell you literally any food, according to the Reddit thread. And Spanish folks will agree as well. “I am from Spain, [and] I would say food too,” someone wrote. “Iberic ham, olive oil, wine.” If you do make a trip to South America, instead, you should really bring back some dulce de leche or some yerba mate from Argentina. But watch out for what food you want to bring back to the US! Meat like ham (and therefore Spanish jamon), for example, is not allowed.

On the flip side, let’s dive into what you should not be getting instead. If you visit Ireland, for example, you should forget about Aran sweaters, one user suggested in the other Reddit thread-the one about non-authentic souvenirs. “Póg mo Thoin, Leprechaun, Kiss me I’m Irish, or essentially any other merchandise that can be bought in Carroll’s ‘Irish’ shop” is also a no-no, according to the same comment. Oh, but what about Guinness pint glasses? No need to buy one of those, “because if you’re properly Irish you’ll permanently borrow one from your local pub.”In Belgium, instead, you can do better than your “temporary” souvenirs-aka street food, in this case. Waffles covered in nutella or anything of the sort is considered something that only tourists get. One Redditor pointed out that real Belgian waffles are either Brussels-style or Liege-style, the first one being very airy and crisp and the latter characterized by a very light and fluffy texture. In either case, though, no toppings or hefty nutella dips if you want to keep it authentic-at the very most, you can put some whipped cream and strawberry on the Brussels-style ones, but that’s it!

And since we’re talking about food, locals in other countries and cities appear to feel similarly. In Rome, for example, do not order fettuccine Alfredo. “Even if the dish was created in Rome, it is not considered traditional at all, and it is seen as something only tourists (mainly Americans) eat,” reads one comment. In Iceland, Redditors said, don’t get bottled water. “Tap water here is the best,” says one user. “Whenever I go abroad I miss the fresh tap water here the most and the first thing I do when I come home is to run a fresh glass of cold tap water.”

Sticking to a more regular kind of souvenirs, Australians will tell you not to bring opals back home, with some exceptions. Also, definitely don’t get those coin pouches allegedly made from…Well, let’s say it involves kangaroo “family jewels,” so to speak.

And finally, if you travel to Japan, there are a few things only tourists get-and you therefore shouldn’t buy if you’re looking for something authentic. As one Redditor put it, “pretty much anything with kanji writing” is a no, and so are “those Karate Kid headbands.” Also, stay away from weapons or weapon lookalikes, including shuriken or wooden swords.

And sadly, Redditors advised against buying those Kit-Kat chocolates with unusual flavors. Though, you might get away with it, depending on what you get. “[Kit-Kat] DO get sold to Japanese people, but it’s NOWHERE near as big a thing as foreigners make them out to be,” explains the same user. “[…] In the airport they sell them in huge bricks-and I have never seen a Japanese person buy one of THOSE.”

To read more dos and don’ts in terms of souvenirs, you can check out both Reddit threads here and here.

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She will beg you not to put pineapple on pizza. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.


Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.