I always find my visits home very refreshing. Obviously it's a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family and friends. It's also an opportunity for an update.
First, I always update the hardware. A good thing to check into if you are planning on relocating abroad is the cost and availability of items you are going to need for your personal and/or business use.
I throw these items into two buckets: Nice-to-have stuff and Wanna-Gotta-have stuff
Nice to have stuff
Nice to have stuff is very personal, like books or sometimes things you don't realize that you miss until they're gone, like Hot Sauce. Argentina is a loong way from Mexico in terms of spice. Sure you can find Tabasco in BA, but I like to have a little variety in my hot sauces and have some favorite brands like Frank's. Other things I've heard people bringing down are maple syrup, peanut butter, brownie mix. I'll even confess to bringing down stove-top stuffing once, but highly doubt it will make it in this trip.
Stuff for work and play like computers and consumer electronics would fall into this category. These are typically higher dollar value items that go astronomic because, like many south american countries, Argentina levies high taxes on imported products. Unfortunately between these taxes and importer mark-ups the price can easily double for a product which often times is yesterday's model or an undesired configuration.
Just to give an example, an Apple corded keyboard I needed to buy costs $100 at the Apple store in Buenos Aires, but only $49 USD here. If I would have broken down and bought it in BA, I would have had to settle for the Spanish keyboard in a sense paying double for a keyboard in an undesired configuration. Instead I bought some crappy $25 local keyboard to get me by for a few months and made the apple keyboard purchase on my next trip. I still ended up saving about $25.
When it comes to trendy gadgets, prices are ridiculous. Check out Mercadolibre (South America's version of eBay) and lookup an unlocked 8 Gb, iPhone 3G. I just did...and it will run you $1,499.99 USD. If I compare apples to apples (sorry couldn't resist the pun), the same unlocked iPhone here goes for about $600 USD on eBay.
So as you can see, taking advantage of my one opportunity per year to buy Wanna-Gotta-have stuff is important. I always arrive home with a pent up purchase list that I've been adding to over the year. I go to the store with my list, checking it twice..feeling a little like Santa. Why Santa? Because all of a sudden I find many items on my list are for friends and I realize I will need a sleigh with 20 reindeer to get all the stuff back. But can you blame them for asking? I complain about the price differentials in dollars. Imagine if you are earning pesos!
So take the opportunity to be Santa to yourself and also to your friends. But be aware, you will have to prioritize and set expectations, less you should be seen as the Gringo Grinch. Unlike Santa's magic sleigh, your allotment with American Airlines is a measly 23 kilos per checked bag which fills up fast.
So now you know. Don't buy unwanted gifts for your friends in Argentina. Just consent to bring back one of their purchases and you can get a little bit of that Santa cheer any time of year. But be aware. Santa is welcomed by millions around the world with milk and cookies...you might be welcomed by customs.
What do you Gotta-wanna have from home and plan to bring back?