There is nothing scarier than moving abroad, especially to a place you know nothing about. Before moving to Korea in February of 2012, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would be living in a ‘real’ house (or if I would be living in a grass hut), eating fish heads, and having to hand-wash my underwear (wait, aren’t you supposed to do that anyway).
Just like every other first time expat, I had no idea where to begin with the whole ‘uprooting our entire existence’ thing and moving to a land completely unknown. Now, after two years of being in Korea I feel like I can impart some elementary wisdom I’ve learned on the subject of moving abroad, in order to shed some light for someone else. Disclaimer: I’m not an expert.
1. Research the area. THANK GOODNESS for expat blogs right?! I feel as if the last few years have been wonderful for encouraging us ‘travel folk’ to blog about our experiences. Now, if you google ‘expat in ______’ you’re bound to find a blog or two! I have discovered that reading blogs is a million times more beneficial for me when trying to get a feel for a place, than looking at a generic travel review site like TripAdvisor (which is also a great travel resource…don’t get me wrong).
Figure out what kind of shopping, recreational activities, and services are in the area. Never hurts to check for Facebook groups as well! You’d be surprised how many expat groups you can find!
2. Pack and repack. Initially Derik and I had two military grade duffel bags, two military grade backpacks (thanks dad), our own personal 40L backpacks, and two suitcases to bring with us, not to mention our carry-ons! When looking at the price of taking extra baggage aboard the airplane, we made the decision to go through and cut out half of what we were planning on bringing. Why? Time and money. Was it really necessary to bring all that stuff to travel and live overseas? There are certain questions you need to ask yourselves when packing: Do you really need two pairs of tennis shoes? Can you go without three winter coats? The answer is yes, it’s just REALLY hard to let go and actually pack the bare minimum. Really hard.
3. Learn (beforehand) what you need to stock up on. This is a hard one, but again, if you come into contact with someone who is in the area you’re moving to, don’t feel weird sending them an email asking what you should bring! Trust me, they’ve been in your shoes! I can guarantee you most would be more than willing to help. Unless they’re a jerk, then probably not.
Just an FIY for you though, if you send me an email asking me about what you should bring on your travel to Franc? I’m not going to have much of an answer for you. I don’t live in France, nor have I ever visited. I’d love to help you out, but I can’t sorry.
If you’re moving to Asia, I can specifically tell you that:
Girls- Stock up on foundation, concealer, tampons (I pay $8 dollars for 10, how depressing is that), and hair dye.
Boys:- Stock up on hair products (if you use any back home) and beef jerky. Especially if you’re like my husband and crave legit meat. You’d never guess how much a guy craves beef jerky until they don’t have the option to see it at the Walmart check out aisle every day.
Also, for both boys and girls: if you’re over 5’6″ tall, have an inseam of more than 31″, and a shoe size bigger than an 8? You’re going to have problems finding clothes in Asia. Stock up while you can! Just so you know stores like American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Urbanog, and Anthropologie all ship internationally.
Last but not least, bring a ridiculous amount of toothpaste and deodorant. It’s hard finding any toothpaste that has fluoride here, and deodorant? Good luck finding any that isn’t much more than a perfume stick.
4. Realize your life overseas is going to be completely different than home. First of all, you’re going to have to stop comparing your past and present living situations right off the bat. The two will never be even remotely the same, and you’re liable to drive yourself homesick or crazy trying to make them as similar as possible.
Embrace the change. You may one to realize that you’re (much simpler) expat life is just what you wanted and needed! I love mine, and I hope you’ll love yours too!
Feel free to ask me (anytime) specific questions you may have about how to prepare for Korea!
Are you an expat? Do you have any more tips to help someone’s move abroad? Please share them in the comments!