Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: How to leverage visitors to keep your American expat survival kit stocked

(Official disclaimer: Dispatches would never encourage you to break the law. Travelers generally are allowed to transport medicines in small quantities for personal use. Also, some over-the-counter medicines legal in the United States can be illegal to bring to the United Kingdom and European Union and vise versa. Always check local laws.)

August is peak summer travel season in Europe. Which means it’s the summer entertaining season for us expats as we welcome visitors from our home countries.

As with so many American expats, the more inviting our country of residence, the more popular we get. Over the years, friends and family have kept coming as we moved from Turkey to Germany to the Netherlands, and we are always thrilled to host them.

In fact, we’re even more thrilled now that we’ve levied an official price of admission to stay at our house, which is how we stay supplied with the few American things we can’t live without.

Your list will be different, but you get the idea: Convince your friends and family to load down their checked baggage with Jiffy peanut butter or Twinkies or whatever forbidden fruit you’re craving.

What do your friends care, right? They’re getting free room, board and transportation. Even if they have to pay a fee for overweight baggage, they’re getting – depending on your level of affluence – the equivalent of a hotel room worth 100 euros per night and up … and they’ll have extra room in their bags to take Euro goodies home.

Okay friends and family, here’s our 2019 official list price list for admission to the Boyd B&B.

BOURBON

We’re from Kentucky, so we know bourbon, and we know it’s very, very tough to get the good stuff anywhere in Europe for a reasonable price.

Our choices at our local Plus supermarket? Jim Beam White Label or the bottom-shelf Four Roses. That’s it. If we want to trek all the way to Gall & Gall or the chi-chi spirits shops, we can buy some of the Beam brands, Bulleit and Woodford Reserve, but prices start at 40-plus euros.

So now the price of admission to the Boyd Inn starts with one (at least) 750ml bottle of the following. (You might want to print this out for future reference.)

• Knob Creek. Any Knob Creek, they’re all good. But listen, if you see the small batch …

• Booker’s. We’re kidding. Even in the States, it’s $50-plus a pop. But Jim Beam Extra Aged is fine and if you’re going to share it with us, we suggest Baker’s or Basil Hayden.

• Elijah Craig, any version. They’re all good. And say hello to Max Shapiro at Heaven Hill, the most underrated distillery in Kentucky.

DEODORANT

You’re saying, “Wha-aaaaat?” Seriously you cannot buy deodorant that actually works in the Netherlands or anywhere in Europe. This is increasingly a must now that summer temps regularly top 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit from Spain to Sweden.

SCRUBBY PADS

Scotch-Brite Non-scratch Heavy-Duty Scrub Sponge, or as we call them in our house, “scrubby pads.” For whatever reason, no European consumer-goods company has figured out that you put a rough – though not abrasive – cover on the handy-dandy sink sponge and violà, the greatest thing ever to clean pots and pans.

HONEST-TO-GOD EFFECTIVE OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDS

So, let’s say you cut your arm off in a chainsaw accident. In the Netherlands, the doctor is going sew it back on, then give you paracetamol, count on it. From our experience paracetamol is some sort of panacea for the Dutch, but apparently a placebo for the rest of us.

So, we always ask our guests to bring ibuprofen, and any generic brand is fine. While we don’t use ibuprofen often, it’s much more effective than paracetamol for the occasional headache. We can’t get ibuprofen PM, either. We only use half a tablet and the bottle expires long before we use it, but when you have aches and pains or a nighttime headache, nothing works better than ibuprofen PM.

Nyquil capsules are another item that will get you entrée into the VIP club-level floors at the Boyd Tower. Again, this sort of remedy doesn’t exist in the Netherlands and it’s sometimes all you need to get through a nasty cold or flu. – Cheryl Boyd

AUTHENTIC MEXICAN INGREDIENTS

Take green chilies. It’s perplexing that these aren’t available in the Netherlands, but they are an essential ingredient in white chili and other Mexican dishes we make at home.

Also on our list is canned pumpkin puree. Because we live from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving. – Cheryl Boyd

JAPANESE STUFF

This is just us, but our daughter Lale is a fan of all things Japanese from TV shows to candies. So our friend and life-long expat Albrecht Stahmer gets upgraded to Gold Key status and the Muhammad Ali suite at the Leenderstrijp Four Seasons when he shows up with goodies from Tokyo.

VITAMINS

Your choices in Europe usually come down to Vitamin A thru D.

We need stuff no one seems to sell here. Let’s start with alpha lipoic acid and acytl l-carnatine. This is just me, but there have been studies that show these two vitamins – separately and together – can be effective mood stabilizers and help with memory. So I tried ’em because I’ve always worked long hours and was looking for a memory boost. They worked for me, or at least they didn’t hurt. But try to find them here in Europe. What was I was saying? – Terry Boyd

Zyflamend is another, a mixture of rosemary, turmeric, ginger, holy basil, and other herbs for inflammation. – Cheryl Boyd

CEREALS

Breakfast is a thing only in Germany. Here in the Netherlands, it’s a piece of bread with chocolate sprinkles. Thanks, but no thanks.

We really miss Cheerios. Okay, so we don’t really ask friends to bring Cheerios from the U.S. because of the size of the box. But after a three-year Cheerios drought, what we wouldn’t give for a bowl … – Cheryl Boyd

AMERICAN APPAREL BRANDS

One of the biggest mistakes I made during our move to Europe was having Cheryl ship me my favorite clothes including a Brioni blazer I’d just bought on clearance in the States. The box took weeks to arrive and the import duty was 130 euros to get my own clothes.

But clothes in Europe are expensive unless you’re still young enough (and skinny enough) to buy nothing but fast-fashion from Zara and H&M.

We’re a bit past that and we favor American mid-range foundational brands such as Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Which are really expensive here in the Netherlands. Okay, we could order them via Amazon and Zalando, but they’re still going to be 40-percent more expensive than off the clearance rack at, say, Dillards, T.J. Maxx or the outlet.

So, if you have a trusted friend who knows your taste and size, why not get that special person to pack a couple of shirts, maybe a suit and some slacks, then pay them back plus the over-weight bage costs? You’ll look better and feel better … and you’ll save serious money.

Price to entry to the Boyd No-Tell Motel? One Ralph Lauren blue polo, size L. – Terry Boyd

Thanks to our friends Hannah Bryant, Cathy Hill and Mike Eggers, we’re now topped up on ibuprofen, green chilies, scrubby pads and bourbon. But if you’re headed our way and are a light packer, could you pick up a box of Cheerios? Get the biggest one they have.

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