Greetings from South Africa! I am visiting my best friend for the next couple of weeks and I can’t even tell you how amazing it is here. My friend has been living here since January and has said numerous times that she wishes she could stay forever. I can’t say that I blame her but her comments got me thinking, when moving abroad, what are the most important things to have before you get there?
People move to different countries all the time and for different reasons. Study abroad programs are often the highlight of many graduates’ college experience. Global companies relocate vital employees for long term assignments or permanent positions all the time. Adventurous souls move to countries to volunteer, military families are stationed all over the world, and some people just move somewhere totally new to simply start over. Whatever the reason, there are some things that will make the move and adjustment much easier.
Of course there are the obvious necessities: medication, passport, important paperwork, and clothing; but I want to focus on the most vital things to have on your person during such a big move. Please note, I’ve eliminated the aforementioned items so we could cover things that people may not consider. Below, are my top 5 must haves for moving abroad.
1. An extra copy of your passport: Make a paper copy of your passport and keep it on you, but in a different location than your actual passport. Accidents happen, passports may get lost or forgotten somewhere, and unfortunately pickpocketing is common in many countries. When you arrive at your destination, it’s best to keep your actual passport in a safe and secure place and to carry the paper copy around with you in case any of the above occur.
2. Local currency: It’s a good idea to have at least a small amount of the destination’s currency on hand before you arrive. The exchange booths that are found in the destination airport are not always the best rate, and are often incredibly inflated. You will need to local currency for public transportation, cabs, and a bite to eat when you arrive.
3. Language guide: This of course depends on your destination and your personal strength for the local language. In many cases, it will be very helpful to have a language guide, especially in the beginning, to help you ask important questions and to get around. Remember, many tourist areas will have signs in multiple languages, but not all areas experience high tourist traffic. Do not assume that there will be an English alternative to the signs you are reading.
4. Magic Jack or Skype International: These days, if you can connect to wifi, your smart phone pretty much does all the heavy lifting with iMessage and FaceTime. But it’s nice to know there are other options! Magic Jack is an electronic device that plugs into a USB drive in any computer or lap top. It also has a standard phone jack that will fit any standard telephone and allows unlimited calls back to the US and/or Canada. For first time users, you can also get a full year for free! Skype International allows you to use your computer to video or audio chat with another user through their computer or their actual telephone. Skype also offers promotional rates for first time users and then rates as low as $0.01 per minute.
5. Work clothes: It may sound crazy but, often times, different countries have different sizes than we are used to. For example, when my friend was living in Thailand a couple years ago, everything ran much smaller than in the US. Suits and other professional clothing are usually very expensive and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have an important work meeting and nothing appropriate to wear.
Moving abroad can be exciting and scary at the same time but knowing what you need and having it all ready can take a ton of stress off your shoulders.
Have you ever lived abroad? Share any advice on packing in the comments below.