I’ve moved my life overseas a few times now, and the more I do it, the easier it gets. I’ve observed many other people move overseas as well and often times I’ve thought, “Oh wow, I wish someone would’ve told you not to bring all of that medicine with you! You could have filled that space with almond butter instead and bought the pharmaceuticals here—and for so much cheaper!”
The truth is though, until you’ve done it, you really aren’t going to know what’s best, and that’s okay. I’ve seen a lot of people freak about what they can fit in their suitcases and what they can’t. Let me tell you, it-is-not-worth-it. You will be able to make wherever you’re going home and in the end, it really is just stuff. Plus, more often than you think, you can get care packages and you can take trips to other Westernized places to get some of the “pick me up” items that might be missing in your new host country. We tend to cling to the stuff that we can fit in our suitcases like it’s our lifeline. Let me assure you though, it isn’t. It’ll take time, but you will find your new normal and your new go-to purchases in your new town.
With that being said, there are some things that I can suggest that you do bring on that airplane with you.
But first! To the Dudes
I know some of you fellas might not make it all the way through this blog, even though there are some beneficial tips for you in here! For you, my guy friends, keep a pretty short list of what to bring: 1.) Cheez-Its. 2.) Duct tape. 3.) A utility knife. 4.) A good novel. So there you go, the essentials. You’re ready.
But keep reading.
Top 5 Things to Bring Overseas
Bring some sort of activity that you can play with people. You’ll find things in your host country, but bring something from your country too. You may find that there isn’t a lot of familiar entertainment; so having an activity with you that you can share with others will come in handy—often. This could be board games, like Uno, Banana Grams, a deck of cards, or even a Frisbee. Bring games that you can play with other expats and games that you can play with your non English-speaking friends as well. Games are also a great way to learn another language. Imagine playing Uno and hearing the number five and color green in a foreign language over and over again and picking up on other context clues. Plus, activities help to build relationships.
2. Clothes and Shoes
This depends a bit on where you go, but if you’re like me, you may end up moving to a place where the people are half your size. That means you don’t get to go shopping until you get to a Western-sized or Western-styled store. For one reason or another, a lot of times when people go on the field they bring “missionary” clothes that aren’t anywhere close to the clothes they would wear in their home country. Yes, you do have to be mindful of the culture and the climate, but in general, you’ll wear mainly what you wear at home. Bring that with you. Bring jeans. Bring comfy tees. Bring nice clothes that you can go out on the town in. Bring casual everyday clothes. Bring your workout clothes and your lounge clothes. Whatever it is that you typically gravitate towards, bring that. I’ve seen many people bring clothes with them that they don’t normally wear, and then guess what, they end up not wearing them in their host country either. You’re going to want to feel like you, so bring that. Also, IF you happen to find shoes in your new town that fit your feet, it’s likely that they won’t last past a couple of months. Bring just a few quality pairs of shoes with you and you’ll be set for a while.
3. Sentimental/Homey Items
Everywhere I go I bring a few sentimental items from “home” and I set them up in my new place. These items are going to look different for different people, but the idea is that wherever you go you bring the same pieces of home with you. It helps. It could be a blanket your grandmother gave you, a painting, a note from your mother, a family photo, the knife your dad gave you, or a candle that brings the same smell with you wherever you go. Whatever it is, bring something that feels like home and brings consistency. It’s also a good idea to think about the holidays that you’ll spend overseas and items that you might want with you on those days.
Yes of course you are going to be able to buy food everywhere in the world, but I still suggest bringing a few select things with you. What you bring will vary on what is available where you’re going, so do some research first. For me, I like to bring things that are either ridiculously expensive overseas or are just not available. Things like chia seeds, almond butter, quinoa, and even spices. I like to bring Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Cajun spices, taco seasoning, or whatever others spices aren’t typical where I’m going. It’s also nice to bring some powdered mixes, like Ranch dressing mix or a pesto mix. I don’t suggest going hog-wild on packing food, but it is nice to have a few things with you that taste like home every now and again. Just don’t do what I and several of my friends have done, which is to either be so stingy with our special food that we are mean about not sharing, or ration it out for so long that it ends up going bad. Learn from us. Don’t do that. It is just food. And sharing your special food with people who also view it as special is actually pretty fun.
5. Beauty Products and Toiletries
So this one is mostly for the girls, but I have to add it. It’s not impossible, but it is often times hard to find make-up or hair products overseas that you like. The key here is, “that you like.” You’re always going to be able to find things, but it may take awhile until you find something comparable to your normal. You will always be able to find soap, shampoo, and conditioner if you search hard enough, but additional products are sometimes difficult. I don’t suggest stocking up on a ton of products because you will find some things overseas. However, if there are particular products that you love (hairspray, mouse, product for curls), it’s not a bad idea to bring enough to at least get you to a place to where you can find an alternative. The same goes for make-up. I personally invest in Bare Minerals because it lasts forever and I don’t have to bring bags of it. Personal choice! Oh, and a side note tip: It’s likely that where you’re going will be sunny and hot, so bring and wear SPF on your face everyday. Seriously, I didn’t do this for the first year and I was shocked by how much my face aged because of the climate. Yikes! Lesson learned.
So there you are, the top 5 things to bring overseas. But remember, it’s just stuff. So don’t freak out about it. You’ll get there and you’ll be just fine!
This post is written by a Cafe 1040 Overseas Staff.