Moving to another country? Here are 10 items you absolutely must bring along on your move! From momentos from home to travel docs, this list covers it all.
Moving to another country is a big decision. There’s so much to account for before making the big move — are you comfortable moving somewhere you don’t know anyone? Are you willing to live in temporary accommodations until you find your “perfect” apartment? Are you okay with the thought of moving back home eventually with all your stuff all over again? Once you sort out those emotional logistics, it’s time to turn to the more practical matter at hand. Namely, figuring out how to heck you’re going to pare down your belongings and transport them overseas.
When preparing for my move to Germany, I read a lot of articles about moving to a different country. It seems like everyone has a different packing philosophy. Some people adopt the mindset of “You can buy everything you need when you get there!” Whereas others think it’s best to bring all of your possessions with you through a combination of overseas shipping and checked luggage.
My main thought on packing is that the amount and type of stuff you bring abroad with you really depends on what your living situation is going to be. I brought two jam-packed suitcases and a carry-on with me to Germany, which I deemed as “packing light.” Admittedly, I didn’t need to bring all my shoes and winter sweaters with me when I moved. But there are a few key packing essentials I’m glad I brought with me when I moved away from the US, and those 10 items are what I’m going to be sharing with you today.
Your Favorite Foods & Drinks
Seeing that I’m an avid cook, you’d think that I would have remembered to bring more of my favorite American foods with me when I moved to Germany. But nope, I didn’t even think about all the foods that wouldn’t be available to me in Berlin. Although many German supermarkets carry “American” products, they’re poor substitutes for the versions you can buy stateside. I really should’ve known better — when I studied abroad in Freiburg, I missed good Mexican food like you wouldn’t believe. I’m pretty sure I ate tacos at least once a week those first few months I was home! With that said, I’m lucky that American imports are becoming more common in Germany, but if there are particular foods or drinks you grew up eating you may want to consider packing your faves in your suitcase just to be safe.
A few of my favorite American foods I wish I had brought with me when I moved are:
- Chili powder
- Taco seasoning
- My favorite tea (yes, tea exists in Germany, but they don’t carry the same brands)
- Graham crackers
- Powdered ranch dressing mix
- Barbecue sauce
- Peanut butter
Again, this is geared more towards my fellow Americans, but something else I forgot about when I moved to Berlin is that Europeans measure everything in grams. Most German recipes ask you to use a kitchen scale at some point, and adapting American recipes measured in cups to the European way of cooking is pretty much impossible. When I went home for Thanksgiving, I grabbed myself a set of measuring cups and tablespoons and have used them pretty much every day since I got back to Germany.
To save space in your suitcase, I recommend finding a set of measuring cups that can stack easily within one another. I used to have a set of measuring cups in the shape of Russian nesting dolls, which were kitschy but oh-so practical. You can also buy silicone measuring cups that don’t have handles, which are also very easy to pack.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack a large enough supply of your medications to last until you can start getting your prescription filling in your new country. I had to call my insurance company to ask for a larger refill of my prescription (you typically only get a one- to three-month supply at a time). Depending on where you’re moving to, you may want to pack an extended supply of your vitamins as well. Chances are good that you’ll be able to stock up on your meds and vitamins while abroad, but those first few months will be more stressful than you bargained for. Knowing you don’t have to find a pharmacy to fill your prescription within a few weeks of landing in country makes things a little easier.
I sincerely hope this packing essential is a no-brainer for you, but in case you forgot here’s your reminder. PACK YOUR VISA DOCUMENTS. Or, if you don’t need to have all your documents ready to go upon arrival, at least begin prepping your visa materials before moving out of the country. Again, those first few weeks will be more stressful than you bargained for, and having as much of your paperwork locked and loaded upon arrival in your new city will help you tremendously. Triple check that you’re bringing all the materials you need after you’ve packed. Have you made copies of the right forms? Are there any documents you need to bring the original copies of? You don’t want to risk mailing any important visa documents to yourself — you never know if something will get lost in the mail!
Copies of Other Important Documents
While we’re on the topic of important documents, be sure to make copies of other useful paperwork. Think: your health insurance cards, passport, social security card, driver’s license, and so forth. If you lose one of the original documents in transit, you may be able to use one of the copies until you can replace the original. You may also want to consider leaving copies of your important documents with a trusted friend or family member. This way, if you lose all of your documents (say, if your luggage is lost or stolen), you have someone at home who can help you sort your life out again. Having digital copies stored on your computer can’t hurt either!
One of the often overlooked aspects of moving to another country is that the plugs in your new city will likely be different than the ones you use at home. This means you’ll need at least one plug adapter so you can easily charge your phone, laptop, and other electronics while abroad. I have two plug adapters: one European adapter and one universal adapter (i.e. one I can use anywhere in the world). I much prefer the European adapter since it’s lightweight and doesn’t fall out of the plug like my bulky universal adapter is wont to do. I highly recommend picking up two plug adapters for the country you’re moving to so that you can charge more than one electronic at a time.
Chargers for your Electronics
If you think you can skip buying plug adapters altogether and just buy new chargers in country, you’d be wrong. Why? Because the voltage of your home country may be different than the country you’re moving to. If I were to use a European MacBook charger on my American MacBook, I’d likely wind up frying it. American appliances run on 110 volts, whereas European appliances run on 220 volts. You see the issue? Most chargers nowadays can convert whatever voltage you’re using into a “safe” voltage for your electronic. Read the fine print on your charger to ensure it’s suitable to use in the country you’re using to. Your charger should list a voltage range it’s safe to be plugged into!
Photos of Friends & Family
Something I always forget to pack when I move are photos of my friends and family. I know, I’m heartless. Totally kidding! I’ve just always focused on the more practical aspects of packing, which makes me forget to pack sentimental items from back home too. Photos take up little space in your suitcase and they can all be stored in a large envelope or folder to prevent them from being crushed. Don’t bother packing the photos in frames — you can buy frames at your destination. If, like me, you don’t have many photos printed out at the moment, ask your friends and family to give you one or two of their favorite photos of you both as a going away gift. This way, you don’t have to think about printing off pictures before making the big move and you can decorate your new space with photos that have even more meaning to you.
Back-Ups of Your Toiletries & Makeup
Okay, the last two packing essentials on this list are going to make me seem extremely high maintenance, but I stand by my recommendations! I like what I like, and once I’ve found a skincare and body care routine that works for me I hate having to buy new products on the fly. Although many American brands are (thankfully) available in Europe, so many products at the drugstore are completely different. Most Americans use roll-on deodorant, but German drugstores are stocked primarily with the spray-on kind. And my favorite shampoo brand is insanely expensive here, as is my go-to concealer — as such, I’ve had to branch out and buy these products from different brands.
On the one hand, I know moving to Europe isn’t as big a deal as, say, moving to the middle of Africa (which one of my close friends just did, kudos to her!). But if you’re someone who gets stressed at the thought of having to buy potentially all new skincare and body products, do yourself a solid and stock up on your absolute necessities before moving to a different country. It also wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research beforehand to see which of your favorite brands are stocked where you’ll be moving.
Hi, high-maintenance Claire here again. If you love your pillow, bring it with you. It’ll take up very little space if you suck it into a vacuum bag before shoving it into your suitcase. Every night you go to bed with a properly supported neck you’ll thank your lucky stars you brought your pillow along! German pillows are typically giant squares that seem to be half filled. You have to fold them over to get any kind of neck support and are, in short, a pain in my rear. I seriously regret not packing my memory foam pillow when I moved to Germany, and many of my foreign friends have similar complaints. If you’re someone who can live without a good pillow in your life, congrats. I aspire to be more like you.
I’m sure your packing essentials for moving to another country will be slightly different than mine, but I hope this list gave you some ideas of what you should bring along on your big move. In general, I highly recommend using vacuum bags to pack your clothing and other belongings in since they really help compress everything and make it easier to stuff your suitcase full.
Tell me: What’s one thing you’d definitely bring with you if you moved to another country?
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- All the Reasons You Should Study Abroad in College
- How to Make the Most of Your Visits Home After Moving Away
- How to Save Money for Future Travels
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