/ Travel & Leisure

Holiday souvenirs – treasures or tat?

Eiffel Tower keyrings, Coliseum snow globes and brightly painted wooden maracas – there’s certainly no shortage of tourist souvenirs gracing popular holiday hot spots…

…but what is the point of souvenirs and why are so many of us susceptible to their luring powers?

I’ve not yet walked into my newly painted kitchen and thought ‘well this is all very nice but what it’s missing is a Statue of Liberty fridge magnet’. Yet, I’m as guilty as many other holidaymakers when it comes to buying holiday souvenirs that serve little purpose other than to fill up much=needed wardrobe space.

A car made of beer cans

In recent years I have managed to cut down on the amount of souvenirs I return home with. My recent trip to Turkey saw my purchases limited to two ceramic door numbers. Naturally it only took me a couple of minutes of arriving home to realise these brightly coloured plaques of tat would look completely out of place on a Victorian cottage and thus they are now stuck on my garden shed.

Yet, regrettably, these aren’t the only souvenirs that have made their way into my suitcase over the years.

I think I was at my most vulnerable on a trip to Cuba many years ago – I’m using the fact that this was my first holiday outside Europe as an excuse for my eagerness to buy most of the souvenirs in sight…

The hand-carved chess and domino sets were naturally an essential for every home, yet the pièce de résistance was a car made out of beer cans – yes you read right, a model of a car that had been made out of beer cans. How this was ever going to sit nicely on the mantelpiece of my Grade II listed cottage is a question I’ve never quite managed to answer.

I love Tenerife!

And not content with filling our own houses with tourist tat, we also like to bestow our family and friends, our nearest and dearest (the ones we are supposed to care most about) with gifts from our holidays.

Apparently I love Tenerife! Strange considering I’ve never been there, but if that’s what the t-shirt my friend bought me says… Other delights I’ve been given include a dead scorpion from Tunisia, a decorative plate from Portugal and a bandana of the US flag.

So what are your thoughts on holiday souvenirs? Are they treasures or tat and what’s the worst souvenir you’ve ever bought or been given?


The only souvenirs I have are those I collected myself – Like the Conch and other marine shells and crustaceans collected while diving in the Caribbean on my numerous visits – Insects – especially butterflies – from Africa – the Caribbean – South America – Europe – the UK – Russia etc These I mount on walls permanently.

I have been especially fascinated by entomology since a child and only didn’t become an entomologist when I found that my volunteer work at the British Natural History Museum required me to gain a PhD to do the same work full time. So I changed to Maths and Electronics instead for more money 🙂

The only souvenir I would have from the US would be a gun – as my 3 month trip there was somewhat fraught – frankly I have no wish to be reminded of it.

Although a reminder of having a good time, mostly, 99.9% “tat”.
The only saving grace is that this “tat” provides employment and an income for the populations of many of the poorer counties we visit on holiday. Better still however would be to set their industry to improving their general lot rather than producing “tat”.

I suspect that a fair amount of the “tat” is made in China like just about everything else and only really benefits the importers.

I don’t buy souvenirs except postcards and guide books, some friends who went to Florida some years ago brought me back a bright red Universal Studios T shirt which turned to faint pink the first time I washed it…as did everything else in the same wash.

I do buy “tat” but for relatives and friends as presents to remind them that I’ve gone on exotic holidays and they haven’t! 🙂

In some cases I’ve watched the “tat” being made.at the stalls.

Winged wonder says:
9 September 2012

On our honeymoon we bought some enamelled 3d metal fish/fronds which are a modern take on the flying ducks theme. They really brighten up the wall. Also, as previously posted some pinned insects and (dead) coral. We also brought back a piece of sun dried palm leaf with some dried fruit still attached (rescued from the beach, and still intact after 14 years…).

We LOVE tat, collected it for years in our office (trying to outdo each other with the worst!) – it was proudly displayed on the “shelf of shame” in our staff room. Recently we put it online – http://www.shelfofshame.com. Not a commercial thing – just made us laugh and it has struck a chord with other people too!

I collect costume dolls from different countries. I began collecting in 1990 and now it is 2012. I have got a wooden doll from Romania, a bead doll family from South Africa and religious doll from Israel. I have around 80 dolls and they only take up two shelves in my book case.

I have collected some fridge magnets from my travels too. They brighten up my kitchen.