5 Things Cabin Crew Will Go Overseas to Buy

May 29, 2017

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TPG’s favorite Flight Attendant Insider Carrie A. Trey is back, this time to talk about the lesser-known perks that come along with the job — in this case, the ability to shop all over the world.

Cabin crew the world over undoubtedly have one thing in common: We love to shop! Whether we’re on the prowl for the latest looks at boutiques in Paris, shopping for leather goods in Buenos Aires, having cosmetic procedures done in Bangkok or buying beer in Belgium, we know what we like and just where to get it. Most of us will even go out of our way, forgoing days off or volunteering for a less-than-desirable route just to go buy that special something in just the right spot. Here’s my list of the five most common things cabin crew buy overseas.

1. Household Goods and Groceries

Definitely the most common thing we leave the country to shop for are groceries. Whether it’s because you can’t get a particular brand at home, it’s too expensive in the US, or you just like saying, “It tastes so good because I bought it in Paris,” we love to go overseas to grab our favorite household goods. For example, if you come to my house, you’ll only find Le Petit Marseillais soaps — and shampoo, if you’re in my shower! — which I, of course, buy in France. I know a flight attendant who hauls back cases of bottled water from Italy because she swears by Acqua Panna and refuses to pay the extortionate prices at Whole Foods. My coffee and brown sugar are Brazilian, my dish soap and laundry soap are German, my honey is British and my ice cream is Japanese. Welcome to a flight attendant’s pantry. Green-tea Kit Kats from Japan, hummus and spices from Israel, Fairy dish soap from Europe, Appletiser from South Africa — which mixes brilliantly with vodka! — delicious cheeses (Camembert from France, Edam from Holland) and, of course, olive oil and feta from Greece. You name a product, chances are we’ve found the crème de la crème overseas and we will go out of our way to get more of it.

Cabin crew love their French soaps. Image courtesy of Westend61 via Getty Images.
Cabin crew love their French soaps. Image courtesy of Westend61 via Getty Images.

2. Pharmaceuticals

When it comes to drugs, most flight attendants keep a veritable pharmacy in their bags at all times. Passengers love to fly sick, but we certainly don’t love catching whatever it is you were irresponsible enough to travel with. Uppers, downers, probiotics, antibiotics, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills — whatever pill, potion or salve it is, we have it, and we know just where to buy it. Most of us stock up in India or South America (Peru and Colombia are particularly liberal), but some of the more conventional meds are available elsewhere, too. Synflex is a painkiller available over the counter in Italy, and I never leave home without it — a dose of 550 mg will wipe out a hangover faster than you can say “Cross check!” And Donormyl is a little French miracle pill that can knock even the Energizer Bunny out for eight hours straight.

India is famous for its cheap, easily obtained pharmaceuticals. Image courtesy of kadmy via Getty Images.
India is famous for its cheap, easily obtained pharmaceuticals. Image courtesy of kadmy via Getty Images.

3. People

Yes, we go overseas for people, or rather, their services. Most cabin crew have their very own staff, dotted all over the globe. Example: My tailors are in Hong Kong and Bangkok, my chiropractors are in New York and São Paulo, my acupuncturist is in Tokyo, I have a genius personal shopper in Barcelona, and if I can’t get my hair done by my darling hairdresser in Paris, my plan B is in Los Angeles — if you see me with a big, platinum-blonde bird’s nest on my head, you’ll know I didn’t get CDG or LAX on my roster that month. FA crew love to go overseas to get just about everything done that they don’t want to spend precious time doing at home during their days off. Teeth-whitening is popular in Bogota and Bangkok, and Botox is cheap as chips in Moscow, thanks to a weak ruble — we also love to get it done in Seoul. You name it, we’ve found someone to do it overseas better or cheaper than here in the US. I’ve even had crew go under the knife on a layover, which is not something I’d recommend at all, but more about that in my next edition of Galley Gossip.

Shoe shopping is fun pretty much anywhere. Image courtesy of fotofojanini via Getty Images.
Shoe shopping is fun pretty much anywhere. Image courtesy of fotofojanini via Getty Images.

4. Unique Gifts

Last but not least, we make a point of shopping for gifts abroad. It’s a great way to guarantee that nobody else will bring the same present to the party and even if they do, you can always say, “Well, mine is from Rio.” Buying gifts abroad is a great way to show your friends just how much you care. Make sure your flight-attendant friends are on the list for your next intimate get-together — they’re likely to turn up with goodies like chocolates from Belgium, small-batch vodka from Russia and Scandinavia, irresistible wines from Australia, rugs from Turkey, silks from China or Champagne flown in earlier that day from Champagne. But even better than the gifts themselves? Solid proof that we care enough to schlep something bulky and dreadfully heavy across an ocean, through customs and onto a train/bus/another trying form of public transportation just to see you smile.

How can you beat actual Turkish rugs from Istanbul? Image courtesy of RoBeDeRo via Getty Images.
How can you beat actual Turkish rugs from Istanbul? Image courtesy of RoBeDeRo via Getty Images.

5. Clothing

Of course clothes were going to be on this list. There isn’t a flight attendant out there who can resist the bi-annual sales in Europe, the made-to-fit garments from the brilliant tailors in Asia and India or a cheeky trip to Primark in the UK. Personally, I refuse to wear all but two brands of pantyhose at work and I can only get them in Italy or France. Leather goods are simply not the same if you buy them somewhere other than Italy or Argentina. And of course we looooove to shoe shop pretty much anywhere that isn’t home, although stopping by DSW on layovers in the US is always a guilty pleasure.

What do you always buy overseas? Let us know in the comments, below.

Featured image courtesy of fotofojanini via Getty Images.

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