"Souvenir" means "to remember"
June 8, 2024 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm hoping you all will share your stories of souvenirs!

I was chatting with someone today and told the story of one of my favorite souvenirs:

I am not much of a souvenir person, but I went to France on a school field trip as a teenager, and I figured, hey, I'm in Paris, I should bring home some kind of souvenir.

So I bought three things:

* a standard-issue tourist tchotchke mini Eiffel Tower, about 3 inches tall
* because I loved (and still love) pop music, a randomly selected 45-inch vinyl single
* because I loved (and still love) pop music, a music magazine, in (of course) French

The single was by Francis LaLanne, and I ended up really liking the songs.

The magazine turned out to be a GREAT purchase, because I could spend random moments over the next many years trying to read all these little articles, in French, about pop musicians I liked (there was an article on Todd Rundgren) and pop musicians I'd never heard of.

It made me wonder about all the souvenirs Metafolk might have collected.

Please share your souvenir stories!
posted by kristi at 6:15 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]

(45-rpm, 7-inch single. A 45-inch single would have been much harder to get home.)
posted by kristi at 6:20 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I can't hear the word "souvenir" without thinking of this song.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:44 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

On Longing narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection [gbooks] this book reminds me of many things
posted by HearHere at 6:46 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I'm also not a souvenir person, really, but I think the ones I do have are all from the UK: two tiny knit pandas from my first visit as a small child in 1976 (if you are wondering "what on earth do pandas have to do with the UK?!", the London Zoo had a couple on loan from China at the time), and then some magnets I picked up at the Museum of London and the Baker Street Museum.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:57 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

I'm not a huge souvenir person, either, but I love the small fossils I found on Dorset's Jurassic Coast in 2003.
posted by mollweide at 7:23 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

I usually buy souvenirs for other people. I went to Mexico during Dia de Muertos and brought a pile of Catrinas and Calaveras for for friends and family. I bought a stylized one in a coffee shop for myself that I still have, though. When I was in S. Africa, I bough stickers of wild animals for everybody, and one for me, that I thought would look good on my vespa. And on my trip to Great Britain, I bought postcards, yes I got cheaper as I got older. I also bought a couple of wild pattern shirts that reminded me of the kind of shit I wore in my punk rock days. I love those shirts. Mostly I take photos, those are my souvenirs. I remember that moment, or day and what me and my family, or friends were doing. Funnily enough, we never took pics back in my punk days we just did the shit we did and relied on our shitty drug addled memories to provide the connection. What a bunch of fuckin idiots.
posted by evilDoug at 7:31 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I kept the ticket for my Matusyama (W Shikoku) to Kure (Hiroshima environs) ferry ride last year and now it's on the dash of my LEAF, to go along with the Lake Tahoe and Santa Barbara parking daypasses.
posted by torokunai at 8:03 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

When I was leaving South Korea my carry on bag got flagged at security. Due to my almost nonexistent Korean language skills I had no idea why, so I just stood to the side trying to explain I didn’t have anything illegal in my bag as three people had a very hushed conversation while glancing at me. Finally the right person arrived with gloves and gingerly opened my bag and pulled out a souvenir keychain I’d gotten for a coworker.

When he heard where I was going he’d asked me for the most tasteless keychain I could find, and I had delivered.

Which is why I found myself trying to explain why I had a bunch of bullet casings attached to a metal ring with the word DMZ stamped on it. Because the gift shop we visited during the tour of the demilitarization zone had them and it was so terrible I bought it.

Anyway they actually gave it back to me but yeah, it was not my smartest souvenir purchase.
posted by lepus at 9:41 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

To paraphrase mikeand1:

I can't hear the word "souvenir" without thinking of this song.
posted by bryon at 9:55 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

I'm not much on souvenirs, but I have a collection of small figurines of mules/burros/donkeys, with about half of them being salt & pepper shakers. On my first trip to Albuquerque to visit my daughter many moons ago, I was pretty sure I could find something fun to stick up on the shelf being as how New Mexico has a bit of a history with equine beasts of burden.
Nope. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
We looked everywhere--truck stops, farmer's markets, pottery places. Found a couple really big garden decorations, but nothing in the 2–5-inch range. On my last day, we did sight-seeing in Old Town, and our last stop was a strange little eclectic shop with hand-made items, plants, and odds and ends. I mentioned to my daughter that there were cute--but expensive--figurines, but not what I wanted. The clerk overheard, and I explained that the whole city appeared to be mule-free. We had a nice conversation about long-ears--she had a pet burro as a kid, and I own/ride mules (and show pictures of them at the slightest provocation.) Her mother overheard and told me to wait. She dug around in a storeroom and pulled out three little ceramic figurines. She said they had been in there forever, she didn't know why, they were of no use, and she just gave them to me! I would have never expected a shopkeeper in a well-known tourist area to just give someone free souvenirs, but I guess we bonded over the long-ears.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:13 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]

My favorite souvenir is a large lump of salt.

We took our honeymoon seven years ago in Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur, where we went whale watching. It’s a dusty little city on the edge of the desert, but we had an absolutely wonderful time. Guerrero Negro also has an absolutely massive salt operation which we toured, and walked away with a baseball sized lump of pure salt which has sat on a mantel or a shelf ever since.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 7:34 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

I have lots of regular tacky souvenirs, but I especially cherish local gas station souvenirs. I have a statue of a roadrunner with googly eyes from a gas station in Arizona, and I have a whittled owl from a gas station in North Carolina. I also like local gas station food, but of the sausage roll from the North Carolina gas station, I only have fond memories.
posted by acrasis at 10:27 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

To paraphrase mikeand1:
I can't hear the word "souvenir" without thinking of this song.

I can't hear that song without thinking of this song.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:10 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

When you’re backpacking, any souvenir has to pass the size/weight test. I met a woman years ago who collected coins—a coin she found on the street of every country she visited. She said the country that was most difficult to find a coin on the street was Indonesia. I looked after that too which is why I have a 5 rupiah coin. Now worth a fraction of a penny, it’s no longer legal tender and was probably used in an offering. I’ve got a collection of bottle caps too. Various types of toilet paper. Beach sand and volcano ash. Sea glass/crockery…
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:26 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

I travelled a bit in my youths, but I was always really bad at getting souvenirs. Most of the stuff I have are like socks and underwear because I needed socks or underwear.
Example: they lost my suitcase flying into Barcelona in 2006. I still have the underwear I bought to tide me by until they found it.
posted by signal at 3:37 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

I went alone to the Women's March in Chicago and was adopted for the day by two older couples in the train parking lot - both of the women were wearing all their Girl Scout badges, all of them the nicest people. After the event they invited me to go to lunch with them, where they met up with some of their grown children. It was such a lovely time that I bought a mug at the end of the meal, from the Eleven City Diner. It's a squat little thing with the diner's logo, pleasingly curvy, I love it. I'm sure I have others but that's the one I thought of first.
posted by Glinn at 4:32 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

I'm so bad at souvenirs; when I was younger I would always cheap out and now that I'm an easily annoyed Old I get hung up on the logistics of fitting things into my perfectly Jenga'd carry-on, or of finding a home for them in my apartment. But I do have a beautiful scarf purchased in Istanbul (where it was ever so much colder than advertised). I have also purchased and then discarded dozens of t-shirts from local bars or attractions, because merch the world over assumes the only human being in existence is a slim, 6 foot tall man. I guess it's nice to see how much every nation has in common, lol.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:12 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

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