I am not the first person to write about what you should and shouldn't pack when moving abroad, and I am certain I won't be the last either. However, having moved overseas twice now, with my luggage at least 5kg overweight each time, I figured that I could do with a little self-reflection. I've always been taught that it's nice to share, so allow me to share my newfound packing wisdom with you.
The first point I want to make may be blaringly obvious for most of you. For others, like myself, it may be a helpful hint to help you save a lot of space in your suitcase. You do not need 13 pairs of shoes. Yes, they may be beautiful but how often do you really wear those bedazzled heels? Those sky-high black ankle boots your wear once every few months, leave ‘em at home. The only benefit I have found to bringing so many shoes is that I get my money's worth out of the shoe cabinet which came with my apartment. I know who the real winner is here. It's the airline. The airline who made a killing from me in overweight baggage fees.
With so many shoes, I had to save space in other ways. My clothing was already down to a minimum after many, many, many rounds of painful deliberation. So, I left my toiletries at home. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but hear me out. I bought travel sized versions of my essential products such as face wash, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant to get me through my first few days in a new city. Come my first weekend I'd found multiple stores each with dozens of new products that I was desperate to try. Some people even believe that certain companies change the formula of their products depending on the location. They reckon this is due to the resources available and also in order to work better with the local water. I've never found any research to back this up, but it's always been a great excuse for me to try out some new products.
You may need some amount of familiarity in your life though. I know that the prospect of being so far away from home can be a little daunting for some people. Prior to my departure, my recruiter recommended packing some home comforts such as snacks. If you have the space in your suitcase for your favourite snack, then I'd say go ahead. It may get you through a “what am I doing here!?” moment during your initial few weeks, or it be the perfect pick me up after a long day of apartment hunting. I don't really have a sweet tooth so didn't bother. However, I did pack some home comforts. These were in the form of photographs of friends and family. Do I regret bringing them? No. Do I regret bringing them in bulky photo frames? A little, yes. The frames don't match my apartment and they are pretty cheap to buy out here anyway. If I had a do over then I'd definitely leave these at home. It's also worth noting that some apartments might not allow you to put things up on your wall, so do check with your landlord. I got some nifty fridge magnet photo frames and they are awesome.
Despite over packing on shoes, I did leave a lot behind. Electrical items can be found in China for next to nothing and so I left my hairdryer at home. If you are bringing electrical equipment, double check that they will work okay when you get to your destination as different countries do have different voltage outputs. It is also useful to check out what kind of weather you should expect in your new home. When I arrived in China, it was around 25 degrees Celsius each day for the first few weeks. I saved a bunch of room by getting rid of my big winter coats before leaving the UK.
I think the biggest piece of advice that I can give you for packing is not to panic. You are not moving to outer space. If you forget something, it's okay. Your new city will have stores, perhaps even more than you're used to at home. Surrounded by fellow EF staff, many of whom have made a similar move to you at one point or another, you will not be short of a friend to point you in the direction of the right store.