Thoughtful Goodbye Gifts For Friends Moving Abroad – Your Ultimate Expat Leavers Gift Guide
The expat dilemma; how can one single gift summarise everything a person means to you?
Packing a whole lot of sentiment into something material or digital, practical yet portable, is no easy task. We want our gift to reflect what our friendship means and say I love you and miss you, but without the guilt, they are leaving YOU!
This post is part of our expat life series
Whether they’re taking on the life of a digital nomad for the first time, have a new job abroad or moving through their partner’s job and starting the expat life – or the next chapter, finding the perfect gift for friends going abroad is tough.
Small light and portable are essential, especially as many do send their belongings many weeks ahead of actually moving and having farewell do’s. Remember their life’s possessions may need to fit into just the suitcases they’re carrying.
We love gifts that will make them think of you every time they see it or use it. But don’t let the stress of finding something “just right” overtake the sentiment of the moment.
We’ve broken our list down into the practical, the sentimental, and the useful for their lives in a new country. We hope you find the perfect gift – or at least some inspiration – to plan that perfect farewell to a friend who means so much.
Luggage & Practical Gifts for Friends Moving Abroad
High-quality carry-on case
One thing is for certain, when your life suddenly needs to fit into just a few suitcases, you want to make sure they’re good ones!
Investing in a beautiful and practical carry-on bag is one of the most thoughtful gifts for a friend that is leaving. It will no doubt continue to follow them around the world and wherever their next posting may take them.
We have bought Samsonite cases for years, renowned for their long-lasting quality on the expat trail! Always look for a 4-wheeler carry-on case for ease of transportation through the airport.
I know many of us have turned to blogs and online methods over the years to express our feelings, especially as new expats (hello, guilty!).
But hands up who still loves the written word? Let your friend capture their thoughts and feelings on paper.
A journal makes for a beautiful, personalised leaving gift for a friend going abroad, especially if you can get it embossed with their name or a personal note left inside the journal to commence their adventure and keep them motivated far from home.
A Good Camera
The perfect way to capture pictures from their new adventure. If your friend is more about visuals than writing, this will be the ideal memory keeper for what lies ahead.
Sure smartphones take pretty good pictures these days, but studying photography is a gift that keeps on giving when a friend moves abroad this is a great opportunity to capture memories in a new way.
The Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera is an excellent alternative to heavier DSLR cameras for someone starting their photography journey.
Oh, and is your friend travelling with kids? Make sure to send them to our tips for travel photos with kids page!
Wireless noise-cancelling headphones
An excellent gift idea for the frequent traveller.
Noise cancelling is a must for resting peacefully on trains and transport (especially on long flights) with your favourite tunes.
It may not pack as much sentiment as some of the gifts on this list, but it’s certainly a practical and thoughtful leaving gift for your friend who loves to travel.
Try these Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones for the ultimate in headphone comfort.
A passport wallet can make an excellent gift for a family member or friends moving abroad. Make it easy for them to organise those extremely important passport documents, vaccine cards, credit cards, visas and every other important document involved in moving internationally.
Make sure if your friend has kids you get something family-sized! (Tell me we’re not the only family that needs to travel with 10 passports!)
Ah yes, the all-important baggage check, especially if you’re trying to squeeze your life’s possessions into a tiny suitcase.
These hand scales are capable of weights up to 110lbs / 50kgs so would make an ideal practical gift for friends or family members making frequent big international moves (a great way to make sure they’ve not overpacked all those last-minute leaving gifts!)
One of the things you must never pack in your container of household goods going abroad is your valuable jewellery.
Not only is it safer with you in your carry-on, some insurers simply won’t cover you for these items too in your shipment.
You don’t want a large bulky jewellery box so your friend’s most precious items will need to be transported in a soft but safe jewellery carry case.
Stylish Luggage Tags
A small but beautiful and sentimental leaving gift for a friend is some quality personalised luggage tags.
This is probably one of the last things they are thinking of buying themselves as they finish a million and one leaving jobs, so will be seen as a great small and portable leaving gift for a friend.
We’ve talked previously about cute luggage tags for kids over here, but you can also get wonderfully personalised luggage tags for your adult friends too. Or what about a smart tag with tracking for something practical?
Portable Hard Drive
Moving abroad not only does your physical life move into boxes and suitcases, but your digital life also needs to move somewhere safe.
Your computers may be moved in your shipment or consider the possibility you become separated from your laptop. Never take a risk with your important documents and get an external hard drive you can back up life’s most important files.
We use and recommend the Seagate 2TB, but have also found the WD My Passport to be excellent (and comes in a few colours – his and hers?).
And bonus points, you can even store the kid’s movies and entertainment on there, ideal for plugging into hotel room TVs, we know you can spend months living in transit!
You may well know the drill yourself; stuck for hours (not to mention days or weeks) in temporary accommodation or waiting for your new home wifi to be connected. Cue the mobile hot spot!
These devices work as portable Wi-Fi routers, using either a local SIM card or a built-in eSIM for making an internet connection.
You can connect multiple computers, tablets, smartphones, and anything that has wifi – they’re an ideal solution when you need more than just a singular mobile phone connected.
We have used and recommend Glocal Me U3 Mobile Hotspot.
One of the most thoughtful practical gifts for a friend moving abroad.
Along the same lines, honestly, aside from your actual electronic devices, probably the single most important thing we all need travelling these days is a reliable supply of backup power!!
A portable charger unit is a wonderful small but thoughtful leaving gift for a friend to help them stay connected.
Tile Mate Pack
It’s always during those big international moves that all-important items have a chance of going missing.
A Tile Mate (or for Apple uses an AirTag) can be an ideal practical gift for a friend that’s leaving.
Super light, and oh so useful they make that perfect thoughtful leaving gift when you’re all out of ideas and need something last-minute!
Got an avid reader? Moving abroad (repeatedly in many cases) can take its toll on your bookshelf. Why not get all their classics onto an ebook?
The likes of Kindle Paperwhite with adjustable warm light is a wonderful practical leaving gift for friends.
I’ve also recently fallen in love with the Kobo Clara with E ink technology, it’s the best for reading in the deck chair and by the beach – for when your friend gets to relax and unwind after the big move, of course.
Psst – if you’re friends moving near the beach, you can find more practical and fun beachy gift items over here.
Travel Adapter Kit
Of all the trials and tribulations of the new expat, trust us, your friend can never have enough adaptors, power boards, etc!
Nobody wants to completely replace all their appliances moving abroad, so as long as the wattage is the same, you should be able to keep using your appliances so help them with an adapter kit.
If they will be looking at a wattage conversion too (Eg US to Europe), check out something like a FOVAL International travel adaptor that allows power step down 220v to 110v.
Stylish Tech Organiser
OK, we’re nearly done with the practical leaving gifts!
But having read through this huge list of essential electronics for moving, I think you can pretty quickly see why a good tech organiser case is an essential for any friend moving abroad!
Never lose the important connecting wires or plugs they need again, a stylish travel tech organiser will keep everything in one spot to easily grab when needed.
Sentimental Gifts For A Friend Whose Moving Abroad
If you’d rather something that speaks to the heart than practical, then this next set of gift ideas might just be what you’re looking for in the perfect farewell gift for a friend.
Gift a once and a lifetime experience
Has your friend lived in your location for quite a while and always talked about doing something outrange or thrilling they’ve never done before? Book it for them!
Be it that day trip to a tropical island, a thrilling zipline, or a helicopter flight over your city.
This one undoubtedly you’ll need to set aside a budget for but an experience for them – or both or you together – that would be simply unforgettable
Even a quick massage or paying to have their nails done before they leave can be one last chance to enjoy each other’s company and create some fabulous memories in their final days.
Memorable Painting or Artwork
Finding a local artist is one of the best ways to go when it comes to sentimental expat gifts.
Sometimes our times abroad or in one location can be fleeting, but arranging a custom artwork or a gift from a local artisan can be one of the best sentimental leaving gifts for a friend. A permanent reminder they can display in their new home of locations past.
Canvas prints can work best if their luggage is already packed as it’s light and portable.
Make Them A Photo Memory Book
Sure you’ve all exchanged hundreds of photos from those fun days out together, but time to get them in print!
Make a picture story of their experience, you can gather it from all your friends for a joint leaving gift, or something that’s special just from you.
A Final Photoshoot
Particularly great for couples and families, one last photo shoot in a memorable spot in the city you live in can be a great sentimental way of creating a lasting memory.
You can see if there’s an easy-to-book Flytographer or Localographer in your area, or reach out to your expat groups, I bet you’ll find some budding freelancers there or those with small photography businesses that will know the perfect spot.
Telepathy Long Distance Friendship Lamps
As long as both of you have a wifi connection, this is a brilliant gift to give a friend moving abroad to let them know you’re thinking about them.
You can set the lamp to over 200 different colours and as you change your lamp, it will change in your friend’s house too.
It can be a subtle way to let each other know your mood, that you need to chat soon or simply that you’re thinking of them at that moment without even needing to pick up a phone.
Coffee Table Books
A history book or coffee table picture book from the place they’ve been living in can make a wonderful expat leaving gift. This is especially great for those that are repatriating after a long time abroad and would like a lasting memory to see how much things have changed over time.
We become a part of the countries we live in and these are memories they will want to continue to cherish forever.
Nice Glasses or Mugs
Your friend may not be able to take their booze collection over international borders, but what about a memorable set of glasses?
All the more reason you’ll need to see them again to share a drink. Every time they have a lovely drop with their new overseas friends they can still be reminded of you and the fun times you shared over a glass.
Along the same lines you could also look at drink coasters, bottle openers, kitchen utensils, or anything that when they use the item will remind them of your time together and the places they have been.
Looking for a cheap farewell gift for a friend that’s still thoughtful? This should be 100% free!
Fun to put together, and no doubt bring a tear to your eye in the process! We might not have mixed tapes any more but the sentiment is most definitely still there. Think of your favourite nights out and places you’ve been.
You can gift this electronically on an SD card for example, or what about sharing a Spotify playlist?
Jewellery can be a lovely way to express yourself and show a localised touch.
Depending on where in the world you’re leaving from there are some wonderful pieces that would be great to buy in supporting a local artisan and use materials that are native to the country you’re leaving. Here are just a few ideas:
Whilst the move to all electronic and keyless entry is becoming real, tell me we don’t all have a set of keys somewhere we still use!
A keychain from your hometown is a small but sweet gift that your friend can treasure abroad. (It can make the perfect accompaniment to a Tile Mate!)
This one can be a little trickier for a leaving friend you’ll need to be organised in advance as they’ll likely need to fit this in their shipment. We have picked up some wonderful pieces over the years,
Here are just a few suggestions on the types of wall art that could signify the cities they’ve lived in or the journey ahead.
We have a great guide to travel memorably over here too.
The ideal way to decorate their new home abroad, don’t have all those memories tucked away on a hard drive or in a photo book that never sees the time of day.
A beautiful photo display not only puts all those fabulous memories out there for everyone to see, but it will also brighten your friend’s new home too.
Photo displays can be a great talking point for new visitors to your friend’s home.
A great keepsake gift for a male friend who is moving abroad is a set of cufflinks to remind them of their roots or places past in their life. A stylish reminder of your time together.
A Gift Certificate for Your Time
This is a wonderful sentimental gift for a friend whose leaving, particularly if your budget is tight, the best thing you can give someone in those last fleeting days is you and your time.
Create your own gift certificate using a free and easy graphics tool like Canva to gift them whatever they deserve that can be cashed in by you! Hugs, phone calls are all valid excuses!
For some more creative ideas, this could include:
- Dealing with their furniture sales
- Organising their farewell party for them
- Inspecting their property while they’re away
- Babysitting time while they prepare to move
Pet Sitting & Adoption
The same can be true for pet sitting services too.
On some overseas moves, you cannot always travel with your furry friends on the same flight. Offering to mind someone’s pet until they can get settled at the other end can be worth more to them than any physical gift.
Similarly, very small pets like goldfish, hamsters, and guinea pigs may simply be unable to travel aboard.
Offering to adopt their beloved small pets may take a huge weight off their mind and give you both a lasting connection – albeit they don’t live forever, knowing they’ve gone to a good home can mean the world.
Donate to a charity on their behalf
Are there any causes you know that your friend supported or felt passionately about, locally or internationally?
Knowing that you’ve contributed something dear to their heart could be one of the meaningful gifts you can give a friend that’s leaving to pass on the sentiment.
Remember a great gift idea for an expat or leaver doesn’t need to be a material item.
Make a video
Videos are always fun to look back on, months and years after your international move to remember all those wonderful connections you made during your life abroad.
To help you compile the video for your friend, there are some super-easy online services that can do the collating and final product for you such as Tribute.
Make it fun if you can – try and film at various spots over the city where your friend would have hung out so there are sentimental places as well as words.
A recipe book, prefilled by friends
A wonderful sentimental gift that works brilliantly in a multi-cultural expat community.
Buy a simple blank recipe book and have all your friends contribute something from their own culture or background.
It will not only make a wonderful addition to a friend’s new home abroad but help them remember the flavours and cultural traditions that you shared together too during your expat posting.
A care package
This might need a little bit of thoughtful gift research and understanding of what is and isn’t available where they’re moving too.
Sometimes it’s favourite medicines, feminine hygiene products or confectionery – all those important little things beyond the normal grocery shop that simply aren’t available in their new destination.
Putting together a small bag or box of useful or indulgent items for their new destination could be just what they need – even better if you can hide it in their moving boxes for them to discover at the other end!! (Just don’t land them in trouble sneaking anything without their knowledge, more below!)
Useful Gifts for A New Destination
If you’d rather not burden your friend with too much to carry or take from their place of origin, why not focus on their destination and the exciting times that lie ahead for your friend?
An experience in their new home country
It’s quite likely the place that they’re moving to will be new to them in relative terms, what better way for them to get acquainted with their new city than an experience,
Once they get past the packing boxes and the paperwork, get them something special to help them settle in.
What about a river boat cruise? A foodie tour? Vouchers for their new local spa? It might feel touristy, but trust us, after the first few months it just becomes everyday life and you forget to get out there and explore your new city!
Furniture store and garden centre vouchers
OK tell me it’s not just me who seems to end up with the pieced-together parts of others’ gardens and living rooms that won’t fit in their container or can’t be transported? And of course, friends refuse to take your cash, right?
Gift them a garden centre voucher or find out the local furniture chain they can use. A little something to put towards establishing their lives in a new city can go a very long way (especially if they’re also waiting months for a container to arrive!)
Is your friend moving somewhere they’ll need to integrate locally and pick up new skills?
Try a subscription service they can learn at their own pace from any device.
Some popular ones include Duo Lingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software.
Clocks With Time Zones
Forever with your body in one country but your mind in another, such is the life of an expat. Help your friend navigate their new time zones with these handy clocks covering multiple time zones.
We’ve linked in this article to quite a few of our favourite gift sites that work with international shipping. You can find our complete collection of ideas for the best online stores for unique gifts over here.
A few things to be aware of when buying gifts for friends moving abroad
We mentioned it at the outset but they’re really worth repeating to make sure you’re well-meaning gift isn’t taken the wrong way!
Check customs regulations where they’re moving to
Particularly if it comes along the lines of anything boozy, tobacco, religious, wood items or unprocessed foods; just check that your well-meaning gift won’t land the recipient in hot water with border control at their new destination. Remember foreign countries might have much stricter customs rules.
Along the same lines, whilst you might want something to be a surprise when they get to their destination, don’t let it be the wrong sort of surprise. They will need to declare what they’re carrying.
Also, if it’s anything fragile they’re expected to take in their luggage, make sure the gift is presented in the appropriate carry case so they don’t need to run around last minute finding something appropriate to carry it in.
Think about weight and size
Often we don’t have much lead time when thinking about a friend’s departure so we need to be mindful of what they can take carry-on size. Even large but long gifts like posters can be troublesome, every ounce can count on an international move so be very mindful of weight and dimensions.
Voltage can vary by country
Anything electronic, do be mindful of where their going, whilst adaptors can be helpful for plug changes, voltage step-up and step-down adaptors are far more expensive.
Beware expiry dates on vouchers
A voucher may sound wonderful for them to use, but
1. If its the country they’re leaving, will they have enough time to use it, and
2. If it’s the country they’re moving to, make sure they have time and accessibility to spend it before it expires – international moves are a big deal so give them time to settle and enjoy it.
More FAQ’s about expat leaving gifts and presents for friends moving abroad
Consider anything that’s digital or experienced-based, no packing involved and easy to use at a later date when life settles down.
Think small and portable. Even if it might seem the most exciting gift, those luggage scales or key chain mementoes can be the handiest and most thoughtful thing a leaving friend can hope for.
Think of something special the two of you shared; was it the same coffee shop or bar – would some awesome coffee mugs or glasses be a wonderful reminder? A framed photo of their favourite spot, an artwork they’ve dreamt of but never indulged themselves.
Think of all the senses – the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the fabrics, the landmarks. Can your find something that will reflect some or all of these in a leaving gift?
Always a tricky one as expat salaries and salaries abroad can vary vastly, as can the culture and traditions of what is expected when it comes to gifting.
If your budget is low, giving time and services to your friend can mean as much as an expensive piece of jewellery or an experience.
We hope you’ve found something here for that friend moving abroad. Practical or sentimental, all are appreciated but remember nothing is more important than your memories and good wishes!
Don’t forget things like a forwarding address (yes, real addresses! You never know when you want to send a physical gift or come for a visit). Exchange emails if all you have is a Whatsapp so you have a few different ways to stay in touch.
A few more helpful Expat guides
Friends coming and going can leave an enormous emotional whole in our lives.
Whilst the expat life and living abroad can undoubtedly be exciting and great life opportunities, it’s emotionally draining too for all involved – the departed, the left behind and those that need to repatriate, often before their time.
As long-term expats and involved in the expat blogging community for over a decade, some of these articles might be helpful additional reading for “leaving season”
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