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.
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.
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.
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.
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...