That's a moving target related to destination
. It's a fine line between being a patronizing Western rich bastard and a welcome supplier of small items not otherwise easily obtained.
Cubans used to welcome T-shirts back in the day, for instance, but I understand that the market economy is developed enough now that this is no longer the case.
Isolated islands in the Pacific welcome pens, pads and pencils, esp. coloured pencils for art. Other places love the cheapo reading glasses we can obtain for $3 each at surplus stores. Hand those out and make friends with every villager over 45, even if they only have a Bible to read. Perhaps especially then (small print, after all!)
We intend to separate the idea of "small gifts for the headman to distribute" from actual barter items. We feel that if we spend three unthieved weeks in some South Pacific lagoon
, hauling a Honda
2000 ashore and drilling beams to reroof a nursing station or a schoolhouse roof is going to get us plenty of local karma, whereas simply showing up with "stuff" is a little too easy.
Same principle as having a decent watermaker
. Handing out five gallons of really clean water
in the dry season makes friends.
So it's a case of research
before you go. The same goods or services offered may be very welcome in some places, and gravely insulting in others. I would endeavour
to listen, to keep humble and to look as low-rent as possible to deter theives who are going to be after more than toothbrushes.