It's one thing to bring back souvenirs so terrible that they land you on your friend's sh*t list, and quite another to tote home tchotchkes from overseas that send you straight to jail. To ensure you experience the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from hearing a US Customs agent say, "Welcome home, Gianni Jaccoma", here are eight souvenirs you should absolutely not bring back with you.
As tempting as it may be to wow your GF with a sexy Cucci bag or score a pre-release bootleg DVD of Winter's Tale, you should resist urge. It's a terrible movie. Also, under US law, counterfeit items -- or anything using a federally registered trademark -- will be seized at the border, plus you could face a fine so hefty you’ll never want to see another Colin Farrell movie again. Although it shouldn't take a fine for you to realize that.
2. Dog and cat fur
You might want to sit down for this one. Turns out some sneaky companies use dog and cat fur on their clothes and mislabel them, so that, well, you don't realize you're buying a coat MADE WITH DOG FUR! Needless to say, be wary when buying furs in China and Russia, where the practice is more common. You can also expect fines of at least $3,000 (and up to $10k) if you're busted at Customs.
Pretty much the only thing people bring back from Scotland other an annoying proclivity to overuse the phrase, "It'll be graaaaaaate" in a thick Scottish brogue, is the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, shoved into its stomach and made into a sausage. Unfortunately, you're better off working on your accent as the American government's banned importing any foodstuffs that contains sheep’s lung.
4. Raw Ackee
You were like, so culturally immersed during your trip to Jamaica – rocking cornrows, swigging Red Stripe, and eating fresh Ackee every morning, and you just wanted to bring some of that magic back home. Don’t. Jamaica’s national fruit is basically poisonous when not prepared correctly, so even if you avoid the $300 fine ($500 for repeat offenders) you might spend the day vomiting.
5. Real Absinthe
Assuming you didn't get too sick downing ungodly amounts of this stuff in Prague, you should think twice about bringing the green fairy stateside; absinthe gets its potent kick from thujone, a chemical compound found in the wormwood used during distillation. Customs'll seize the bottle immediately if it contains more than 10 parts-per-million of thujone, although souvenir bottle sans thujone are both available and legal.
6. Haitian animal-hide drums
Sorry to shatter your dreams of joining the neighborhood co-op's Thursday night drum circle in aisle 9 but, apparently, Haitian drums have been linked to cases of anthrax. Fortunately, the organic quinoa & flaxseed oil lip balm you've been meaning to pick up is still totally safe.
7. Kinder surprise eggs
Apparently, American children can’t be trusted to differentiate between creamy milk chocolate and hard, yellow plastic, which is why these eggs of death are banned by the US government. No joke -- you’re looking at a $2,500 fine PER EGG smuggled into the country. Which means Customs took in a pretty penny in 2011 when it seized more than 60,000 of them.
8. Cuban Cigars
Obviously, one of the more desired banned items from another country, even the slightest whiff of a Cuban cigar can get you slapped with a $55,000 civil fine and a prison sentence. Perhaps a stogie from Honduras would suffice?
Sophie-Claire Hoeller is Thrillist's über-efficient German associate travel editor, and just realized what a lucrative career she could be having with a Kinder Surprise black market. Follow her entrepreneurial spirit @Sohostyle