Monday, October 28, 2013

6 Things to Consider Packing When Moving Abroad


When I moved to China for about 6 months, I thought I had thought of everything I could have needed when I packed my bags.  I practiced packing my bags several months before leaving, and spent two weeks actually packing them to make sure that I didn't forget anything.  Inevitably, there were some things I just didn't think about needing in another country.  This small list encompasses most things that I hadn't already thought of...

A small list of things you might not have thought to consider while packing for another country:


Measuring Utensils:  If you're from the good 'ole US of A, I'm gonna go ahead and guess that you are not very familiar with the metric system. (Why are we one of the only countries who still haven't implemented this system into practical use?)  Even if you have a general understanding of the metric system from science class or elementary school, it is just hard to use when it isn't how you learned to cook food.  One thing I wished I had brought with me to China were measuring spoons and cups.  While I could guestimate well to an extent, it would have been helpful when I wanted to cook for the holidays if I'd had some familiar measuring utensils.  Even when cooking simple recipes like pancakes, I had to think of things in terms of percentages instead of being able to whip out a simple measuring set.



Spices:  If you plan on cooking some familiar foods while you live abroad, I would suggest bringing some common spices that are not widely available around the world.  If you're moving to Asia, I'd suggest if you're used to using any Italian or Mexican spices to bring those.  If you'll be there for the holidays, don't forget to read up on your favorite recipes.  Chances are many of those spices included in the recipes will not be available in your new country.  But do research spices before you leave, as most countries will carry spices such as cinnamon, curry, and other spices that are used worldwide. Some spices I had my mom send me might have actually been available in China, I just couldn't find some of them.
I just took a picture of some random spices that I guessed might not be widely available everywhere.  They might actually be available in many places.  But as each area's food culture varies, you'll have to do your own research on what spices you won't have access to.


Recipes FROM SCRATCH:  I would advise anyone preparing to move to another country to read up on how to make some of their favorite foods from scratch.  Especially holiday meals.  Have you ever made green bean casserole without Cream of Mushroom Soup?  Have you ever made pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin, or without evaporated milk?  Nope, you're not going to find a ready-to-go pie crust in China.  Even if you can find these products, they will most likely be sold at the import price in a specialty import store, which is 2 or 3 times the price that you would pay for it in your home country.  If you are prepared ahead of time to make your dishes without processed foods, you'll be thankful in the long run.  You're welcome.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner in China...Roast Duck, Deviled Eggs, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Potato Salad...basically all this stuff was what we could find to buy at the market.  For Christmas we attempted to have a few less carbs on the table and planned not being able to have typical ingredients a little better.
I learned how to cook for real in China, and I also learned how to "DIY" a chicken...meaning I had to cut it up myself. ;)  If you're a youngster moving abroad like I was, you might get some cooking lessons from your grandma before you leave.  I would have found it quite beneficial.  But I digress...




Gifts:  In many cultures, it is customary to bring small gifts for people who come into your life or who help you.  I cannot even count how many international and exchange students would give me a small gift just for helping them move in at the beginning of the school year.  Sometimes I did not even see that person again, but I still remember them because of their small token of appreciation.  When I went to China, I brought some dream catchers and rose rocks - both which are very relevant to Oklahoma - that I gave out to friends.

via


Shoes:  I'm including shoes on this list, because EVERY SINGLE TRAVEL ARTICLE I've ever read has said to bring fewer shoes.  I'd just like to combat this, because I have a somewhat large foot, and it was extremely difficult to find shoes in Asia that would fit my foot.  When it got cold for the winter, I needed some warm shoes and couldn't find anything that fit.  When I finally did, the quality was so poor that they stretched out and didn't fit anymore.  I was also glad I brought several types of shoes, because during the rainy season I would often have to wait a week for a pair of rain soaked shoes to dry in humid weather.
When I left for China, I only brought my brown TOMs, black tennis shoes, and flip flops.  By the end of my time there, this is the equivalent of the shoes I already had plus the shoes I bought.  (The house shoes and black boots are "stand in" props for the real shoes that I left in China before I came back).


Keep Weight Fluctuation in Mind When Packing:  I have stayed in two different places in the world besides my home country.  I lived for one month in Cardiff, Wales, and for about six months in Kunming, China.  During the small month I lived in Cardiff, I gained between 5 and 10 pounds.  Sad, sad...I know.  But I only get Nandos once in my life (as far as I know) and I was going to eat it up!  Then, when I lived in China, I lost about 10 pounds.  Luckily I went to Cardiff first, eh?  Keep in mind the different diets you are likely to have in different countries.  I expected that I would lose weight in China, yet I brought a pair of jeans that fit but weren't snug when I left.  The other jeans I brought were tight, but fit just about right (a little loose) by the time I was coming back to the states.  By the time I'd been there a month or two, I couldn't even stand to wear the pair of jeans that weren't tight to begin with anymore because they were falling off.  Oh, and it is hard to find jeans in China (even if you are only 5'2) because Chinese girls don't have "them American thighs."

I really never thought I would have quoted AC/DC ever in my life, especially on my blog.  ;)  But there you have it.

This is probably what Chinese society was singing silently the last few times I wore those pants before I decided to get rid of them...

Oh, and if you didn't get the point of that quote above, it is because American thighs don't fit in pencil shaped pants. haha

What things do you wish you would have packed before living a stint in another country?


17 comments:

  1. I have trouble packing for a weekend away, so I'm sure I would struggle with packing for such a long trip so far away! But these are some great tips! You are very organized!

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    1. Haha, thanks Laura! I don't think I'm really that organized, which is why I made sure to take so much time to pack! (My weekend trip packing looks like me throwing a lot of unfolded clothes of the same color scheme into a bag at the last minute and hoping something matches!) It does help to be more organized for those longer trips though! :)

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  2. That's a really clever list - I agree on the shoes, but more because they're so expensive and actually I should have left a few shirts and brought shoes instead of having to buy them, when I have them at home.

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    1. Yep, the boots I bought were really similar to boots I had at home. I ended up leaving a lot of clothes I didn't want anymore in China to make room for souvenirs...so glad I ditched those boots!

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  3. Oh yes. I could add cookbooks to that list too. I now look things up online, but all my American cookbooks are getting ready to head to the charity shop soon (not sure how well they will be received here in England). There are American cups and English cups and gas marks for the stove instead of '350' and boy its one thing I had not thought of. Def have to go with more of what is in the country than bringing stuff with you. Your Thanksgiving reminded me of our Thanksgiving last year. It was just my husband and I so we ended up just getting turkey legs (think Renaissance festival kind).

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    1. Bonnie, I agree...I think depending on the country you're in it might just be easier to go with their recipes and measurements. If I could have read a Chinese cookbook, or have had an oven, things would have been a little different. But alas, we only had two stove top burners to cook with, which made cooking anything for our holiday meals infinitely harder!

      I bet the turkey legs were still good...those are good no matter what country you're in! haha

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  4. My family's first thanksgiving abroad, my Mom tried so hard to use different ingredients to make the traditional dishes. And green bean casserole make with fresh instead of canned green beans, no cream of mushroom soup, and crunchy onions that are nothing like "french's" is just not the same. By the next holiday we'd learned our lesson--we loved Malaysian food anyway, so we made bit pots of chicken curry and stir-fried veggies and other local dishes: that makes life easier!
    And definitely bring good quality shoes! They are hard to find and usually more expensive if you want name brand shoes. Thankfully I'm very nearly "normal sized" in Asia so I can find clothes!

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    1. That sounds about how we tried making green bean casserole...it was a flop, unfortunately. (Not to mention we were trying to cook it over the stove top and not in an oven)! I think if I ever cook another Thanksgiving abroad, I would probably implement more of the countries food than I did the first time...but there's still no food like home food. :)

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  5. I would never have thought to bring measuring cups (I'm also terrible with the metric system) or spices but see how they would be completely invaluable! I remember when I lived in France I carved rootbeer so badly I had to go to an American store to buy some :) While I like rootbeer when I'm in the States, it's not something I ever crave but it was just so quintessentially American that I missed it. It's funny the things you miss when you go abroad.

    Amy | Club Narwhal

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    1. We had the same problem with Dr. Pepper! I remember a few months after being in China, he came back with a Dr. Pepper for both of us and it was one of the best Dr. Pepper's I've ever had!

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  6. Such great tips - especially about the measuring cups. I remember trying to cook in Scotland and not realizing that American and Imperial cups were different which made for some interesting meals. At least I could blame the measuring cups, rather than my lack of cooking skills.

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    1. Haha, I guess I never saw measuring utensils at the store, so I'm not even sure I would have thought about them being different either! I just always tried to guess amounts. I had this one little bowl I would use as a pretend "cup" and then base all the other measurements by what percentage of my pretend cup I thought they were! It was not good! haha

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  7. These are some great tips, especially the ones for cooking! I can't imagine trying to cook with the metric system although I definately think America needs to get with the rest of the world and switch to it!

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    1. Susannah, it was hard! haha Cooking anything that required measurements just turned into a big ole guessing game! But I agree, it would be so much easier for everyone if America could just hop on the metric bandwagon...

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  8. Ah girl!

    You nailed it with this one. Every single one!!! SO missing our measuring cups. Seriously. Going to bring some back with us when we go to the states for a visit. Spices are something we also miss, but loving using iherb.com to order almost all of our spices we get from back home. Shoes- A MUST for my husband who wears size 12 1/2. Impossible to find him shoes in Korea.
    Awesome post! Everyone who is moving abroad (especially to Asia) should read this.

    -Elicia @ lifesajournee

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    1. Thanks Elicia! I think you're right (especially after some comments from expats in other parts of the world) that this list is probably better off tailored to those living in Asia! Just went to check out your blog, so jealous that you get to live in Korea! Sounds like so much fun! :)

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