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Poland, 2011: DVD, title: "Best of the Witcher 2"
August 5, 2014 12:24 AM   Subscribe

Countries like to give President Barack Obama gifts. The Washington Post catalogued and ranked them for us:
It's really a funny collection of presents, for which, were you asked To what sort of person was this gift given?, you'd likely have a wide variety of responses. Argentina gave Obama a silver dagger in a display box in 2012, perhaps confusing the president with their 13-year-old nephew. Britain gave the family a shawl and some kids clothes in 2009, playing the role of America's eccentric aunt.
posted by quadrilaterals (65 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can only explain Singapore's dismal ranking by some civil servant going "We must only give Singapore-manufactured goods". What ever happened to kaya jam, durian candy, Tiger Balm and Axe Oil, my go-to gifts? Or at least a merlion statue, for shame.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:36 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


New Zealand's gift looks as though it was designed by the Head Priest of Cthulhu.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:38 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


A full box-set of "The Day The Universe Changed" on DVD? Damn, James Burke FTW!
posted by hippybear at 12:48 AM on August 5 [8 favorites]


And two first edition Yates books? Wow.
posted by hippybear at 12:50 AM on August 5


The Eastern Europe game development scene is heating up, Poland should rightfully take national pride in it.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:53 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


146. Tibet, 2010:
30″ × 54″ multicolored Tibetan scroll depicting a Buddhist deity on a gold-colored inlay.


Somehow I feel this is probably a much deeper gift than is portrayed in this description. Cultural barriers to understanding sometimes make these things seem insignificant.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 AM on August 5 [8 favorites]


In fact, I think this is likely true with many of the items on this list.
posted by hippybear at 12:55 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Israel, 2014: Ebola
posted by triceryclops at 12:55 AM on August 5


8. Germany, 2009:
14″ x 14″ Bauhaus chess set, with a lightly-colored wood board and pieces carved into the shape of their allowed movements on the board, contained in a carrying box with sliding top, designed by Josef Hartwig.


That sounds AWESOME.
posted by alasdair at 1:02 AM on August 5 [12 favorites]


Brb writing fanfic where Obama saves the world from CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN with the help of the greenstone Maori club New Zealand gave him.
posted by egypturnash at 1:10 AM on August 5 [22 favorites]


It's Gwynbleidd you ninnies. And Witcher 2 is an appropriate gift for any US president - a game in which your decisions have entirely unexpected consequences down the line.
posted by hat_eater at 1:10 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


Thirty-eight silk ties, most with matching handkerchiefs. And he won't be allowed to wear any of them? I like that China gives vases; they seem to have settled long ago on appropriate gifts for foreign dignitaries and their vases are lovely. That huge carpet, 26 feet by almost 10 feet was quite impressive, I thought. I wonder what what you say (to yourself) when you keep getting paintings, plaques. plates and needlework from all kinds of places with your image on them. Sets of French perfume and cosmetics seemed a little awkward as gifts to a head of state. I'd love to see the picture of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, she's adorable, just about my favorite royal personage and maybe taller than Michelle Obama!
posted by Anitanola at 1:31 AM on August 5


Here's the Bauhaus Chess set (yes, awesome! note that there are more photos under the write-up).
posted by taz at 1:34 AM on August 5 [9 favorites]


Colombia 2012:
Silver figure representing oversized coffee bean.


Oh hell yes, Colombia. Give me one of those too.

Some of the books, I can't figure out why you would bother. Scottish Estate Tweeds? The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer? A Selection of Papers From the Royal Archives 1834–1897? Instruction Dignitas Personae On Certain Bioethical Questions?
posted by Katemonkey at 1:53 AM on August 5


61. Ireland, 2010:
Two first edition volumes of William Yates books, published in 1906 and 1907.


I'd like to think Ireland really did give two first edition volumes of Billy Yates poetry, but I'm guessing that's a misprint.
posted by rollick at 2:03 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


The Witcher is such a weird thing for a country to be proud of and to use as a presidential gift. It's a game series in which you can collect pornographic trading cards of the women in the game that you seduce and have sex with. (Google image search "Witcher sex cards"... I'd rather not link.) Giving Obama a copy is like giving him a copy of Poland's premiere porn magazine.
posted by painquale at 2:03 AM on August 5




I might be misremembering, but I thought there was some kind of estimated dollar value threshold, below which the President is allowed to keep it, above which it has to go into storage. So, the cheap gifts aren't just random weirdness, but attempts to give gifts he can actually keep.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:38 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Canada's "enemy in sight" painting surprisingly fighty given that it appeared to be commemorating that war we had with the US.
posted by Phalene at 4:13 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


At least they gave him Witcher 2 instead of Witcher 1. I don't know that the president should be spending his time collecting video game Sex Cards. Although Trish did appear in Polish Playboy. (She is a video game character if this is not clear.) Maybe they slipped him a copy with the game.
posted by Justinian at 4:35 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


painquale: There are, thankfully, no sex cards in part 2. It's a more mature game.
posted by Justinian at 4:36 AM on August 5


Those bamboo bicycles (from the Philippines, ranked #14) are cool. Good gift!
posted by painquale at 4:38 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


There are, thankfully, no sex cards in part 2. It's a more mature game.

It's still plenty tasteless though! Poland's still gifting Obama virtual prostitutes and cutscenes where sexy witches cast sexy disrobing spells.
posted by painquale at 4:42 AM on August 5


True enough. Still, when I am elected president feel free to gift me lots of free video games.
posted by Justinian at 4:47 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]




So Witcher is the video game equivalent of Poland's Eurovision 2014 entry or something?
posted by acb at 4:57 AM on August 5


Armenia's got to be moved up from #12: "a bottle of 100 year old Ararat brandy"?!? That deserves much higher ranking!
posted by easily confused at 5:25 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Canada's "enemy in sight" painting surprisingly fighty given that it appeared to be commemorating that war we had with the US.

As far as I can tell, Canadians as a whole are very proud of The War of Canadian Aggression, and miss no opportunity to lord it over people from the US in their uniquely polite and self-effacing yet subtly threatening way. As a matter of fact, the centennial of that even is coming up this month, and I fully expect Canadian hooligans to attempt to reburn our capitol in commemoration.

So it's a gift that keeps on giving.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Sorta dying to know exactly which compact discs Russia saw fit to put inside that CD holder.
posted by UncleBoomee at 5:34 AM on August 5


13″ bone-shaped chew toy with United Kingdom flag.

I hope Bo at least gets to keep his gifts.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:57 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Sorta dying to know exactly which compact discs Russia saw fit to put inside that CD holder.

Well, many of them show the Oval Office ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:59 AM on August 5


"Famous Presidential Private Conversations 2009-present"
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:08 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


Sorta dying to know exactly which compact discs Russia saw fit to put inside that CD holder.

A camrip of No Country for Old Men, Microsoft Office Professional Edition, screeners of Mad Men S02E01-03, Far Cry 2 and every Deep Purple album on one CD in 128kbps MP3s.
posted by griphus at 6:12 AM on August 5 [23 favorites]


Seriously people, tug the forelock, and promise (but don't deliver) the firstborn. Is it that hard?

If they want it, they'll take it anyway.
posted by pompomtom at 6:25 AM on August 5


36. Australia, 2011:
Green and white 2GB iPod Shuffle. Sherrin Match Australian football. Red, white, and blue Western Bulldogs Australian Football League on a field jersey; Red, white, and blue "U.S. Footy" football jersey with "USA Revolution" on the front and "25" on the back. Handcrafted 2.5″ x 4″ x 6″ Dragonfly silver ash wood trinket box with "Wood Works Gallery" sticker on bottom, presented in brown box with "Australia" sticker on top.
Hopefully the Sherrin Match wasn't made with child labour. I briefly wondered "why the Bulldogs?", but then I remembered.

Speaking of USA Revolution, I only just found out about US AFL. Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids! St. Petersburg Starfish! Cincinnati Dockers! (I guess it's on a river...) Also, the AFL International Cup is in just over a week. Three US teams (Freedom, Liberty, Revolution), three Canadian teams (Northern Lights, Midnight Suns, Northwind), plus the Ireland Banshees, New Zealand, Finland, Tonga and Fiji.
posted by zamboni at 6:27 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'll take that scented candle (Brunei, 2012) if nobody else wants it. Today's going to be a day that calls for a long hot bath and some aromatherapy...
posted by Naberius at 6:40 AM on August 5


I'm pretty sure in 2011 Brunei just stopped off at a yard sale and bought the whole lot

68. Brunei, 2011:
Small enamel keepsake box. One bag of coffee. One candle. Six steak knives. Four Christmas mugs. Book, title: "The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer," by J. Jorgensen. Glass "PEACE" plate. Small stainless steel tea infuser. Small stainless steel sugar bowl. Small stainless steel cream receptacle. Stainless steel coffee pot. 7″ tall crystal candlestick. 14″ high handmade shaker box. Bowl made from "Innervisions" Record by Stevie Wonder. 14″ x 11″ painting, title: "A Forest," artist unknown. Small white keepsake box. Decorative shell display plate. 7″ x 7″ shell picture frame. 10″ x 10″ Chinese checkers plate. 15″ x 15″ glass plate with game board painted on it. Large brown basket. Set of three faux books in multiple colors.

posted by ghharr at 6:47 AM on August 5 [13 favorites]


No, Brunei was totally re-gifting! They probably keep a box in their laundry room with stuff they've been given by other countries that they don't want and they figured Obama would never notice.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:49 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I remember once reading that Japan gave Bush Jr. a top-of-the-line, cutting-edge robot dog, which he liked a great deal but was unable to use because it only understood commands in Japanese.

Also:

24. Ireland, 2012:
...Certificate of President Obama’s Irish heritage...


Barack O'Bama indeed.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:55 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


What ever happened to kaya jam, durian candy, Tiger Balm and Axe Oil, my go-to gifts?

viggorlijah, those items might (except possibly the kaya) would probably have the drug and/or explosive sniffer dogs going crazy, setting off a possible diplomatic incident.
posted by Alnedra at 6:55 AM on August 5


zamboni: Sherrin Match Australian football.

Obvious in retrospect, but there's photos of Gillard and Obama having a kick in the Oval Office.
posted by zamboni at 7:11 AM on August 5


Sri Lanka gave him coffee beans. Does anyone use the coffee?
posted by goethean at 7:16 AM on August 5


Is there a similar list of gifts in the other direction, i.e. from the US government to heads of other nations? I mean "similar" in the sense of a list of gifts, not necessarily similar to a lift of gifts with GEE THANKS A LOT RUSSIA commentary.
posted by Flunkie at 7:27 AM on August 5


You can buy a replica of the Bauhaus chess set here. There's no question it's pricey, but it's perhaps not as expensive as you may be expecting.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:29 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I fully expect the FoxNews yapping heads to somehow, someway make some kerfuffle over these.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on August 5


"Witcher 2" stickers.

President Obama with stickers on his lapel.

PLEASE. MAKE. THIS. HAPPEN.
posted by Fizz at 8:36 AM on August 5


19. Algeria, 2009:
Four boxes of dates and twelve bottles of wine.


You see? Now that's an ally. Booze and food is always a winning combo.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:55 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


If Mexico gives you four bottles of fine tequila, and you don't make Margaritas for the public, Big-Block-o'-Cheese-Day style, then you are no longer my president. Harrumph!
posted by Navelgazer at 8:57 AM on August 5


Maybe the Poles gave Obama Witcher 2 as a subtle reminder of the importance of Eastern European game development, and that he should not abandon that bloc in its time of need, otherwise the West will never have another S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:02 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


What happens to all of it? And, in reverse, does the White House have a discretionary budget they use for diplomatic gifts? Are those small statues and bottles of booze ours? Is there a place we can go "borrow" them for a bit? Is there a middle manager in an anonymous mid-western federal office with an aztec calendar on his desk?
posted by maxwelton at 10:22 AM on August 5


What happens to all of it?

If you're North Korea, you stick it all in a giant museum dedicated to that purpose.

a VHS copy of Space Jam
posted by theodolite at 10:41 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I fully expect Canadian hooligans to attempt to reburn our capitol in commemoration.

We're sending a bunch of Canucks fans down for a visit.
posted by arcticseal at 10:54 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


If you're North Korea, you stick it all in a giant museum dedicated to that purpose.

There's also a whole section of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul dedicated to the monstrously tacky gifts that the sultans received from foreign ambassadors, yielding possible answers to the question "What do you buy the man who has everything?" such as "A silver model of something he could conceivably see from his palace" or even "A bronze model of the place where he lives and spends most of his days".
posted by Copronymus at 11:03 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


146. Tibet, 2010:
30″ × 54″ multicolored Tibetan scroll depicting a Buddhist deity on a gold-colored inlay.

Somehow I feel this is probably a much deeper gift than is portrayed in this description


I think this may be a picture of the thangka (wall hanging that can be rolled up like a scroll) and other gifts from that visit. It looks as though the central figure in the thangka is Buddha Shakyamuni (which is to say the Buddha most people think of as "the" Buddha).

61. Ireland, 2010:
Two first edition volumes of William Yates books, published in 1906 and 1907.


Really, State Dept.? Did you really misspell the name of one of the most famous poets of the 20th century?
posted by aught at 11:23 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


What happens to all of it?

This page seems to indicate that some or all of it goes to the National Archives Museum(s). The U.S. Constitution apparently prohibits U.S. officials from personally keeping gifts from foreign dignitaries, which is kind of quaint.
posted by aught at 11:41 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


painquale: There are, thankfully, no sex cards in part 2. It's a more mature game.

I would unironically take the Witcher's sex cards (which convey some interesting character beats) over Mass Effect's phenomenally creepy sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace simulator any day of the week.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:07 PM on August 5


The U.S. Constitution apparently prohibits U.S. officials from personally keeping gifts from foreign dignitaries, which is kind of quaint.

I don't think it's quaint at all.... the gift is given to the head of state, but it is a symbolic gift from one country to another. It belongs to all American citizens. It wouldn't be right for Obama to keep this at all.

Except for that tequila from mexico, all bets are off especially during summertime.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:27 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


The U.S. Constitution apparently prohibits U.S. officials from personally keeping gifts from foreign dignitaries,

So then Italy knowingly threw about $200,000 down the toilet? What the fuck is the point of all this?
posted by dgaicun at 4:59 PM on August 5


So then Italy knowingly threw about $200,000 down the toilet? What the fuck is the point of all this?

I wonder if Italy's gifts are meant to be displayed at museums/etc as property of the US.
posted by fermezporte at 2:23 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


The wikipedia article for the Maori Club of the kind gifted to President Obama - the Wahaika - is a stub but most of what is written in the article on the Mere applies and is interesting stuff.

The principle difference between the two: the Wahaika has a notch to catch the enemies weapon and then all that is required is a deft twist of the wrist to disarm them.
posted by Start with Dessert at 3:51 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


My dad collected antique meres and wahaika, and at one time he had a fairly plain but large mere that he put out on the living room table briefly. Briefly because while an object of beauty and history, it's also a big fucking stone club and one of us took a swing at another sibling and nearly killed them.

The amazing thing about them is that the antique ones were carved from other pieces of greenstone, New Zealand variations of jade, which took forever. The modern carvers use steel and diamond tips so the carving can be thinner and cleaner and is much much faster.

They had a hole bored into the base for a flax rope that went round your wrist and usually several ridges there for the grip. You had smaller ones for women, larger ones for men, and they have thin almost translucent edges when you hold them up to the light where the stone has been carved to an edge so they were sharp enough to smash through bone. Not metal sharp, but skull-bashing sharp.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:00 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


So then Italy knowingly threw about $200,000 down the toilet? What the fuck is the point of all this?

I assumed that Italy's contributions indicated something about the level of corruption in their government. It's a culture of bribes and palm-greasing. Maybe offering copious gifts is just baked into their conception of how the world runs. Maybe they don't even take the Constitutional rules seriously.

"We both know that the rules say you can't enjoy these silk ties, but I want to be a friend, so I'm just going going to leave them here in this room. Wink."
posted by painquale at 4:27 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


So then Italy knowingly threw about $200,000 down the toilet? What the fuck is the point of all this?

Um, I don't think anyone has suggested that the stuff gets tossed in a dumpster. This is one of the (many) reasons why there are so many museums. Also, as I understand it, the practice of presenting diplomatic gifts goes back centuries as a way for royalty to impress each other, so it's a long-established practice (that the U.S. Constitution threw in a clause to address).

It would be kind of amusing if the government ran a lottery to give away non-museum-worthy state gifts to random citizens. "You may have already won two silver sculptures of birds mounted on a maroon velvet stand made in Indonesia - click here to claim your prize!"

I don't think it's quaint at all.... the gift is given to the head of state, but it is a symbolic gift from one country to another. It belongs to all American citizens. It wouldn't be right for Obama to keep this at all.

Sure. "Quaint," given the quantity of financial perks (corporate salaries, think tank fellowships, professorships, lecture fees) that elected officials often otherwise receive after leaving office, is all I meant.

Also, while the WaPo's linkbait article and the FPP intro focused on protocol gifts from 2010 to Obama, he's hardly the only elected official or President who has gotten them.
posted by aught at 8:27 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


This is one of the (many) reasons why there are so many museums.

Wait, what museum can I visit to appreciate these ceremonial mp3 players, scented candles, and silk ties? More importantly, will there be a VHS copy of Space Jam in a glass display case? Because if there isn't, I hardly think it's worth getting my mom's signature for the field trip.
posted by dgaicun at 10:02 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


I've tried to research it, but I haven't found any solid links...

I think many of these sorts of gifts end up in Presidential Libraries and such. So you'd have to wait until Obama has been out of office long enough to have such a thing built, and then you might be able to go visit those objects there.

There are rules about what individual government officials can accept as personal property as gifts. I don't think any of what Obama has received can be taken as his own personal property. It will all end up either in some sort of National archive space or in his presidential museum.

(And to be honest, if I were a world leader, I'd probably not consume anything edible or drinkable given to me, just out of general paranoia. It's a shame he can't wear the ties or whatever, though...)
posted by hippybear at 8:12 PM on August 6


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