Taste the world with a Snack Exchange
Have you ever wondered what sort of snacks they eat in other countries? Is the international section in your local super market way too small? Do you enjoy interacting with people in foreign countries and learning more about their culture and customs? Do you ever daydream about that glorious chocolate you had once when you were abroad?
If you can say "yes" to any of the questions above, then a snack exchange might be just the thing for you!
What is a Snack Exchange?
A snack exchange is when you pair yourself up with a person in another country, or maybe another region in your own country, and you each prepare a box of snacks that you send to each other. The box can be filled with candy, salty snacks, cookies, biscuits, even food items. Anything that is legal to send via post and doesn't spoil!
Now, while there may be several places on the internet where you can arrange a swap like that, I personally only have experience of one: r/Snackexchange on Reddit. Therefore, this Hub will only discuss swapping snacks there and not on other websites.
Before we start, there are two requirements for making a post on r/Snackexchange:
- You must have been a Reddit member for 3 months. If you're not a member, just join and then wait.
- You must have 600 combined karma. Karma is the name of the points you get on Reddit for posting and commenting. It's not as hard as it sounds! If you don't have 600 karma, just find some subreddits you like and get chatting with some nice people.
To read more about the requirements and why they've been implemented, have a look at this page (and don't be put off by the strange sense of humor).
Now, provided you meet the requirements above, there are 5 steps to swapping on r/Snackexchange:
- Making a post to request a trade
- Picking a swap partner
- Setting up the trade
- Preparing and shipping your partner's package
- Receiving your package from your partner
I will outline these steps below, one by one.
Step 1 - Making a good post
In order to start your journey toward goodies from abroad, you must first make a post in which you outline what sort of a trade you are looking for. To make a post, click "Submit a new text post" in the left-hand menu.
Here are some things to keep in mind when making a post:
- Be sure to include your location in your post title. This makes it easier for interested parties to find you. You can add your country's flag by finding the code for it on this list and including it in square brackets.
- If you want to swap with someone from a particular country, state this clearly in your post title. This will increase your chances of finding a partner from the right country, but keep in mind that some countries are under-represented on the site and as such it might be easier to get a swap going if you don't have your heart set on a country.
- If you are looking for a particular product, state this clearly in the body of your post. This way potential swap partners can easily assess whether they'll be able to find the items you're looking for.
- If you don't have any particular requests, or only non-specific requests (such as "I want only chocolate"), state this in your post as well.
- Try to briefly summarize what sort of items you will be able to get for your swap partner in your post.
You can also make a swap by responding to a post someone else has made. If you do this, make sure to read the post carefully so that you can assess whether you can get the sort of items the person is looking for.
Step 2 - Picking a swap partner
One thing to keep in mind when swapping on r/Snackexchange is that the trades aren't moderated. That means that the success of the swap is entirely dependent on you and your swap partner; the moderators of the website cannot in any way guarantee that the swap will be successful. While most trades on the site are successful, some trades to fall through so it's important to be careful when selecting your swap partner. Here are some tips to help you chose:
- Make sure that the user fits your needs. That is, that they are from the country you want to swap with and can get the items you want.
- Check their userpage. Most of the trades that fall through on r/Snackexchange are with users who haven't been member of Reddit for very long and who have made quite few posts.
- If you're feeling nervous about swapping, pick a user who has a small AK-47 icon next to their name. This means that another user has shown the mods picture proof of receiving a package from that user, so trades with a user who has such an icon will be more likely to be successful.
- Pick someone who seems friendly, and if you get more replies than you can make trades with, be friendly to those you turn down.
Step 3 - Setting up the swap
Once you've found a swap partner you feel good about, it's time to set up the swap. This is all done via private messages (PMs) for increased privacy. The most important thing is to agree on a value for the swap. This is usually done in $US, Euro or British Pounds, so if your country has a different currency you may want to use a currency conversion site to figure out what that amount equals in your local currency in order to avoid surprises. Keep in mind that apart from the amount spent on the items for the swap, you will also have to pay for shipping the package. International shipping can be quite steep, so don't overreach when it comes to the size and value of the package.
After agreeing on how much to spend on the swap, it might be nice to find out what you can do to be as good a swap-partner as possible. This can be done by asking your partner some simple questions: are they looking for any particular items or would they prefer to be surprised? Do they have allergies, other dietary constraints or are there items they simply do not like? If there's something you would like to send but you're not sure if it will be appreciated, you can always ask specifically about whether they would like it (unless, of course, they've asked to be surprised!). Answer any questions they ask you, and be sure to make note of any dietary restrictions of your own.
Finally, it might be good to agree on roughly when to send out the packages.
Step 4 - Preparing and Shipping your partner's package
Now it's time to hit the stores! I actually find picking out items for my swap partners to be one of the most fun parts of swapping. There's something exciting about trying to put together a package that the person will like, hunting for things they've asked for, selecting items "typical" of your area and maybe throwing in one or two surprises, too.
Here's a pro tip: If you're interested in swapping regularly, keep a swapping stash hidden away somewhere. If you spot an item that has a long expiration date and doesn't spoil easily in the store at a discount, you can buy it and add it to your stash. Then when you're putting together a package, you'll have a supply of cheaper items at home (so long as you don't eat it yourself!) and you'll be able to send more items within the same swapping budget. Once it's time to swap, just select things from your little supply and purchase any additional perishables just before shipping.
Once you have all the items, make sure to package them safely to avoid damage during the transportation. It's considered good form to take a photo of the box before shipping it off and send to your trade partner, but it is not required.
Which courier company is best to send items through is quite country specific in a lot of cases, and since I only have experience of my own country I will let you research that part yourself.
Once again, I urge you to keep in mind that international shipping can be quite expensive before you set up a trade. Make sure that you are not sending anything that is not legal to send and that you fill in the customs forms accurately and neatly. Sloppy customs forms can result in packages being opened and even confiscated, so be careful!
Send your swap partner a message when the package has been sent, so that they know to expect it.
Step 5 - Receiving your package
Now comes the really fun part: receiving all those goodies! But before you get busy tasting everything that's been sent to you, there's one more thing to do. This part is optional but fun: take a moment to photograph the box (or just it's contents) after opening it. Post the photo on r/Snackexchange (after making sure that no addresses are visible on the box). This is a way of saying thank you to your swap partner, whose username you should of course include in the post title when you post the photo. Ask your swap partner to do the same with your box. This is particularly important if it's your first trade, because then you can send the link to your swap partner's photo of the box to the moderators and get the AK-47 icon I mentioned before next to your name. That way, future swap partners will know that you're trustworthy and it may become easier to find people to trade with.
Now all that's left to do is to enjoy the contents of your box!
My Own Experiences
Well, now you know how to make a snack swap on r/Snackexchange. If you decide to try one out yourself, there is more information about swapping, international shipping and foreign snacks in the right-hand menu of the subreddit.
I have personally made 5 snack exchanges through r/SnackExchange (and one through another website). They've all been great experiences! The people I've swapped with have been friendly and generous and I've never had any problems with the exchange or with receiving my packages. I have swapped three times with the US, twice with Germany and once with Australia. Each package has exceeded my expectations and snack swapping has become a bit of a hobby of mine! In spite of the steep shipping charges, I consider it to be a very worthwhile and fun experience and I encourage you all to give it a go!