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Yes, You Can Move Abroad and Keep Your Sanity, Too

By Edited Jan 10, 2014 0 2

Part Two: Packing

This is the second article in a series about moving abroad without losing your mind. In case you missed the first article, you can find it by clicking here.

Now that you’ve done y

Moving overseas

our research and have a good idea of what to expect in your new country, it’s time to start packing. It’s best to do this gradually as you approach the moving date, rather than in a panic the night before. Set aside some boxes or suitcases and toss things in as you think of them; this eliminates the time required for making (and double-checking) lists and the potential of forgetting things in the last minute rush.

What you decide to pack will depend heavily upon your individual situation. Are you moving for a set period of time, or are you relocating indefinitely? Will you have a place to store items that you aren’t moving, such as a storage unit or garage? If you’re relocating with a company, are they providing international moving services, or are you responsible for moving yourself?

Based on your situation or your personal preferences, you will find yourself in one of three categories: moving everything you own, traveling with only the shirt on your back and some cash to purchase things in the new location, or some combination of the two.

Scenario 1: Everything but the kitchen sink

Moving boxes(124971)
Perhaps your company is providing international moving services as a benefit for your international assignment, or maybe you are relocating indefinitely with no plans to return to your current country. In these cases, you may choose to move [almost] everything that you own. Even if this is the case, there are a few things to consider before you toss everything into the shipping boxes.

There is a good chance that your living situation will be very different in your new country – perhaps your new apartment will be much smaller and won’t have room for your king sized bed, or maybe the climate will be warm enough that you won’t need all of your down jackets. For these reasons (and many more), carefully scrutinize everything before you pack through the lens of your new living arrangement.

Also, be aware that a long distance move can be rough on your belongings, even with the most conscientious of movers. Multiple transfers between trucks, ships, customs inspections, and everything in between will cause wear and tear. If you can spare your heirloom furniture the move, it’s probably best to leave your finest pieces in safe storage.

Scenario 2: Only the shirt on your back

One of the most flexible ways to move is with just a few essentials that you can fit into a suitcase and a wad of cash to purchase things when you arrive. This allows you to find local furniture to fit your space while bringing in some local flavor for your décor. Depending on the comparative economies of where you came from and where you ended up, this could potentially be a good financial decision or a very expensive choice. Regardless, you won’t have to worry about the fate of your belongings or wait for weeks (or potentially months) for your stuff to finally arrive and clear customs. Instead, you can hit the ground running and get started settling in as soon as you arrive.

A great approach is to find some second hand stores to search for furniture and appliances – especially if there are a lot of expats coming and going from your area. You might find some gently used items for a real steal, if you’re willing to be patient and wade through a lot of junk to find the treasures.

You might also want to look into the possibility of renting furniture, especially if you know that you will only be staying for a set period of time. Check with other expats or a real estate agency to find out if there are recommended rental companies in your area.

Even if you’re not bringing much with you, it’s a good idea to bring clothes and other essentials that you’ll need for your first month or so (don’t forget medicine, both prescription and your favorite over-the-counter goods). This will allow you to settle in a little before you head to the stores in a panic. Don’t assume that clothing (especially shoes!) will be easy for you to find – the sizes may be very limited or the styles may differ enough that you may be most comfortable in your own clothing from home.

Scenario 3: The best of both worlds

This hybrid approach will allow you to travel light but still have some key items to make your life as comfortable and familiar as possible. There will be plenty of adjustments necessary during your transition – it’s nice to have some comforts from home to help ease the stress.

Since you have thoroughly researched your new home and know what is readily available from the local stores (and what prices to expect), you should have a decent idea of how easily (and cost-effectively) you can set up your new home. Make a detailed list of what items you’ll need to pack and which items can be easily obtained once you arrive. Your lists will vary greatly based upon where you are going. If you have any specific questions, this is where your contacts will come in handy – be sure to ask if you are unsure about what to bring!

Packing to move abroad
Depending on how big your packing list is, you may need to ship some items instead of traveling with everything as luggage. You’ll want to research your options for how to ship these items in order to make the best decision – either by mailing them to yourself or enlisting the services of a shipping company. Again, this is a great topic to enlist the help of someone who has already gone through the process.

Some suggestions for comfort items to pack might include favorite foods (be sure they are legal to bring into the country), blankets or towels, specific kitchen utensils, books, games, etc. As much as you may want to fit into the new culture and lifestyle, there will be times that you crave a taste of home, so plan ahead to have some favorite items on hand.

Getting organized

Regardless of how much you bring with you, be sure you are well organized when you go. Make a detailed list of which items are in which box. This will not only help you to find things when you arrive, but it will also come in handy in the unfortunate event that items are lost during transit.

Be sure that your essentials (medication, contact lenses, important documents, etc) travel with you so that, in the worst case scenario, you have the most important items in hand. No matter how reliable the companies involved may be, there is always a chance that items may be lost or damaged during the complex operation of moving around the globe. Do your best to minimize the risk by being prepared and well organized.

Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the process, too. This is the chance of a lifetime to experience something new and exciting, so don’t get too lost in the preparations. When your packing is done, treat yourself to something special and celebrate the accomplishment!

Stay tuned for part 3 in this series: Leaving home.



Mar 1, 2013 1:20am
Hi cascade, you have featured some really good advice in this series of articles. I like the 'only the shirt on your back' scenario. I can imagine that would be a very liberating way to move to a new country! I look forward to Part 3. Thumbs up!
Mar 1, 2013 6:45pm
Thank you for your kind words!
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