How to Shop for Authentic, Thoughtful Souvenirs: Best British Gifts for Family and Friends

Whether you’ve lived in the UK for a while or are merely visiting, chances are you’ll want to bring back goodies for your family and friends at home. There is so much for Americans to love about British culture: afternoon tea, the royal family, the English accents. So why is shopping for souvenirs so challenging? There’s no way to know what your mom/dad/sister/uncle/cousin might want, so you purchase the typical t-shirt or keychain and call it quits.

Look, I don’t blame you! There’s nothing wrong with t-shirts and keychains (I have both). When I lived in London as a student, it was really important to me to find gifts that were local and authentic. At the time, I’m not even sure I knew what that meant, much less where to find gifts meeting that description. I was totally guilty of purchasing last-minute trinkets at the tourist shop down the street.

In this post, I’ll go over 1) how to select appropriate gifts for family and friends, 2) how to select the best souvenirs for yourself, and 3) the best British brands to purchase from, including a list of gift/souvenir suggestions.

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“Up at the O2” in London

So this was an especially fun, out-of-the-box activity. The O2 Arena is a well-known indoor arena in London, hosting sporting events and concerts. I’d visited the arena multiple times before, once on my way out to Greenwich and twice for concerts (5 Seconds of Summer and Demi Lovato). What you might NOT know about the O2 is that you can pay to scale / climb to the top for a panoramic view of the river and the city.

“Up at The O2” is a bit touristy, for sure, but probably not something first-timers would consider or even know much about. This is why I’ve put it on my list for seasoned Londoners, because it’s something to do with family or friends in an area of town you probably haven’t yet explored.

Unlike other sightseeing / touristy activities, this is more physical. Keep this in mind for the rare dry and sunny day (or evening!). We went mid-morning on a day in early August, and it was quite sunny and hot. We were drenched in sweat by the end!

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Allbirds Wool Runners (Sneakers) – Follow-Up Review

I bought a pair of Allbirds “wool runners” back in February, and wrote an “unboxing” review of sorts to capture my first thoughts concerning the shoes, the brand, and my overall opinion. How were the sneakers packaged? How did they fit / feel? How did they look as part of an outfit?

So I thought it’d be interesting to write a follow-up review, having worn the sneakers for months since! I’ve also just washed my sneakers for the first time, and thought I’d write a bit about that as well. (Are Allbirds truly machine-washable? How well did the wash clean the shoes? How do they feel after having been washed?)

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6 Months in London, England: My Top 3 Experiences

I’ve just returned home after spending 6 months in the UK, working for my university’s study abroad program. I wrote about becoming a Program Assistant back in February, and gave a brief description of what I’d be doing in London and why I’d applied for the position.

Anyhow, I can’t believe my time is already up – in some ways it feels like it’s been forever, and in other ways I feel as though time has flown.

But 6 months truly is quite a bit of time. It’s strange to think that I’ve spent half a year in London. In that time, my job kept me pretty busy, and gave me so many unique experiences and opportunities. I thought, rather than attempting to write about it ALL, I’d pick my “top 3” experiences to share with you all today. (This is excluding the three weeks of personal travel at the end of my trip – I traveled to Germany and Austria with my parents and met my friend / coworker Kyla in Ireland. These adventures are a whole other story!) I’m limiting this post to my time as a Program Assistant in London.

Also, know that for the purpose of this post, I am writing about concrete experiences. If I were truly writing about my “top 3” takeaways from my time as a PA, it’d be centered around the relationships I developed with my coworkers and students.

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September Desktop Calendar: Free Download

Happy September! Also, happy Labor Day. It’s hard to believe the autumn season is in full swing. Having just returned from London, it feels for me as though no time has passed, but also as if it’s been years (and not merely 6 months!). I’m excited to share this new desktop calendar (I sort of skipped July and August, whoops), as well as a matching calendar for your iPhone lock screen! The iPhone wallpaper is compatible with the following models: iPhone 7 Plus / iPhone 7, iPhone 6S Plus / iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S / iPhone 6. *You may have to pinch the image to rescale on smaller devices (I have a 6S and it worked like a charm.) Looking forward to posting new content on the blog very soon! Just as a quick reminder, new posts go up on Mondays and Thursdays.

Click on the link below the design to download the full-size image. Enjoy!

Click this link to download the full-size desktop calendar (2560 x 1600).

Click this link to download the full-size iPhone wallpaper (1080 x 1920).