Think back to the day when you were packing for your big international move: Remember the stress of deciding what you should bring or leave behind? Due to limited luggage space and budget constraints (we can’t all hire movers to ship every piece of furniture we have to our new home), was there anything that you wished you packed but didn’t? How do you decide what you should bring along?
Packing to move abroad is a whole different ballgame from packing for a vacation. You’re going to be home away from home for an extended amount of time, and unless you have relatives to house-sit for you back in your home country, you’re likely going to sell it, along with most of the items you own. How you decide what to keep and what to sell requires you to do some research about the country you’re relocating to.
To help you along, Team Expat has compiled a list of items which, according to expats like yourself, they regretted not packing:
1. Converters and adapters
Unless your home country has the same electrical configuration as your new country of residence, you’ll need converters to change the voltage of the electricity to match your devices, and an adapter to allow your chargers to fit into the wall sockets. While converters and adapters are readily available in most countries, especially Singapore, it isn’t worth shelling out additional money for them if you already have them, plus you will definitely need them for the first few nights to charge your devices in case you don’t have time to run out and buy some.
This is one thing that many expats tend to forget, since bed sheets and pillowcases can take up a lot of luggage space. However, unless you’re arriving early to a home furnished with a washer and dryer, or planning to sleep on a sheet-less bed, you may want to pack a couple of bedding sets. Doing this also ensures you don’t have to worry about doing laundry immediately when you land, but remember to check out the size of the beds in your new home.
3. Extra clothes
Singapore is not so bad that you can’t buy clothes, but you might want to bring enough clothes and undergarments for you and your family to last a week, and without having to wear them for more than a day (Singapore is a tropical country, so you’re bound to sweat) to avoid having to spend a huge sum of money to replenish your wardrobe. Some expats recommend bringing extra clothes for your children to grow into, especially if you’re staying abroad for more than a year, as good quality children’s clothing can be expensive. It’s not worth paying for a major wardrobe overhaul as your kids are going to grow out of them quickly.
Additionally, if you need to wear custom-made jeans, blazers, or shoes due to health reasons, you absolutely need to take them along with you when you move in case you can’t find a good tailor or shoemaker over there. In fact, even if it’s not custom-made, if your sizes are above average and you’re moving from the U.S. to Singapore, you might want to bring extra pairs of shoes and underwear because the biggest Asian sizes are still smaller than a U.S. 8.
4. Kitchen utensils and appliances
Definitely don’t forget to pack the kitchen utensils that you frequently use—utensils like your high-quality knife set, Pyrex dishes, basic cutlery and plates; and appliances such as your KitchenAid mixer and coffee machine can be costly to buy in Singapore, not to mention if you’re not going to be staying permanently in the country, it might not be worth the investment. You don’t want to be stuck eating with your hands and tissue papers or having to rush out to the nearest supermarket to buy cutlery and plates when you order Chinese takeout or pizza—when you can easily have them ready for use in your moving boxes.
You don’t have to move your whole house, but consider selecting a few key pieces of furniture that have been with you for quite some time. They will serve as soothing reminders of home in your new place to help you better adapt to your new environment—the place will seem less foreign. Most of us tend to discard or sell off everything we have because it’s too tiresome to ship furniture to another country, but trust us when we say that you’ll be glad that you saved that old rocking chair or that vintage record player with you when you feel homesick.
6. Medicine and vitamins
You’ll be thankful that you packed some medicine if you happen to fall sick within the first couple of weeks, before you find out where the nearest doctors are in regards to where you live, their rates, and their methods of treatment. Of course, it all depends on you and your family’s current health conditions and history—for example, pack some antihistamines if your children tend to get allergies. It’s also a good idea to bring extras, just in case of emergencies and accidents, such as losing your inhaler in the cab. On that note, don’t forget to bring your vitamins as well, in case you can’t find them at the local pharmacy.
Items like deodorants, menstrual cups, tampons, and soaps fall under this category. Yes, it seems such a stretch to imagine that you’d be hard-pressed to find these items in Singapore, but sometimes you absolutely must use a specific brand of deodorant or soap due to skin allergies, and not every country carries menstrual cups and tampons in their local pharmacies. So unless you have no difficulty adjusting your lifestyle, stock up on these to bring with you.
Singapore generally is bicycle-friendly and a great place to ride, with a growing community of cyclists. More and more locals are opting to commute to work via bicycle, as it’s one of the fastest ways to get around town, and it allows you to get a good workout. Although you can easily purchase a bicycle in the island city-state, if you’re used to cycling to work in your home country, pack your bicycle so that you don’t have to go cold turkey—it’ll also give you something to do on weekends.
9. Picture frames and photo books
This one’s for nostalgia purposes, but you and your family will feel more at home if you brought your picture frames with you or print out your photos and stick them into a photo book so that you could look through them one weekend on the couch. Most expats won’t think of bringing their photos with them as everything is mostly stored digitally these days, but scrolling through photos on your laptop or phone is not the same as flipping through a photo book with your spouse or children. Besides, there’s always the possibility of losing your laptop or phone.
10. Speciality food items from home
Last but not least, you should pack in a few jars of your favourite sauces, seasonings, and snacks, so that you can have a taste of home with you. For example, if you’re an Irish expat, you might want to pack in a few bags of Tayto, which are basically potato chips from Ireland. At first, when you unpack your bags and boxes, you may wonder why you chose to bring that bag of chocolates and box of tea, but as homesickness and cravings kick in, having your familiar foods close at hand will no doubt help cure the homesick blues.
We hope this list helps alleviate some of your relocation blues, and you suffer no regrets later on! As for expats who have been through the big international move, do share with us if you think we’ve missed out on anything crucial.