Moving overseas – Countdown to packing day

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Two or three weeks before your packers arrive

You’re now about two or three weeks away from packing day. Time to speed up the decluttering and organising now; your deadline is looming!

You’ll know whether you need to get rid of anything else if your in-home assessment threw up some potential expensive over-packing issues. So, get onto that now.

There’s more… sorry!

Consider a shopping trip

Just as you’ve spent ages decluttering, you might now have to consider buying more stuff!

Not everything you need may be available in your new country. You may be surprised at the high cost of certain items, especially imported goods, if they are even available at all. One of the most commonly sought after items are good quality children’s shoes, so keep this in mind. We actually took some extra, larger sizes with us when we moved to Japan because we discovered a very specific style of shoe was required as part of the school uniform, but that style wasn’t actually available in Japan!

Many people relish the chance to go on a massive shopping trip in preparation for their new home… So what might you need to get?

Research first

The country and culture you’re moving to may be radically different from where you are now, and that needs to be taken into account. You’ll have done lots of research already, I’m sure. I also recommend you join some of the expat groups in your new country/city and take the opportunity to ask any questions before you get there. There may be items you just can’t get there that you haven’t considered.

Search on Facebook for the region you’re moving to and you should find a useful, local expat group. Also, join Expatability Club Chat where you can ask questions like this.

Try to find out what’s available and not available in the country you are going to and don’t assume everything is the same as home.

Climate and clothing

Perhaps you’re moving somewhere with a completely different climate than you’re used to. Having a few items of suitable clothing for your arrival will help a lot. You may like to find out if your favourite stores have mail order delivery to your new country.

But how can you possibly know what you need to wear in a country where winter temperatures drop to minus 20°C, when the coldest you have ever experienced is a ‘mild’ 0°C? Just do your best to start – plan layered clothing. You’ll find in this particular situation that locally sourced items will probably be better than your home options.

On the flip side, if you’re moving to a country where the daily temperatures are regularly higher than your oven, do you really need to take all your winter clothing? The answer is actually yes, some of it. Why? Because you may go on holiday somewhere cooler.

When we moved from Germany to South Africa I put all my winter clothes into storage in the UK because, hey, it’s Africa. Africa = always hot, right? Wrong! A couple of months after we arrived we went on holiday to the Drakensberg Mountains. In winter. With only summer clothes. Brr! OK, so I didn’t need my snow boots and thick German Parka in South Africa, but a few more jumpers, a scarf and gloves would have been useful for that particular trip.

Other items of clothing you may wish to buy ahead of moving are shoes! Who knew you couldn’t buy women’s shoes in Japan that are over a UK size 5? I, with my apparently ‘masculine’ size 8 feet, was directed to the men’s department… So that was fun!

And extra bras if you aren’t a ‘standard’ size. No, I don’t know what a standard size is either, but better safe than sorry!


Organise a mass photo session for all members of your family. You need a surprising number of passport-sized photos for all the different authorities you need to register with at your destination. Sorting this out now will save you a load of hassle in your new country.


Different countries have different plug sockets, as you know, meaning that electrical products from your home country will be useless to you unless you have the right adapter. If you want to avoid a media blackout on arrival make sure you research what kind of sockets are used in your destination country and buy the relevant adapters. Carry some in your hand luggage.


Nobody should leave home without making sure that they have comprehensive medical insurance for the whole family. And contents and shipping insurance.

Purchase insurance for your belongings to cover them during the entire transit. Find out if your home contents insurance covers you for the packing day. While the removal company may insure your goods there may be a different company used for the shipping insurance and yet another for the relocation and unpacking at the destination. Protect yourself by checking this out in depth.

Don’t forget to read the insurance documents carefully to avoid any later hassle and confusion. And of course, carry all insurance papers with you on the plane.


Cash and credit cards, contactless payments and internet banking might rule your world – depending on where you live – but not all countries are set up like this at all. Having some of your new country’s currency in physical form can be really useful.

In your first few days of being an expat you need to have funds which can be accessed instantly. You will need currency right from the moment you step off the plane in your new country, without faffing around and spending a fortune in exchange rates at the airport.

If you’re moving to an ‘unusual’ country, your required currency may have to be ordered in advance.

Try to get hold of some currency coins too. Some airports have helpers for your baggage, and they will require tipping. And some airports have luggage trolleys that need a coin in order to use them. (Berlin airport, I’m looking at you here!). We arrived in Germany a month after the big earthquake in Japan. It was very traumatic journey on top of a very traumatic month. The flight was heavily delayed and we landed, exhausted, in the early hours of the morning with about a dozen suitcases. And no Euro coins to release the trolleys. Nobody was around and those that were, were not helpful. We had to make several back and forth journeys through customs just to get our cases out of the airport.


Buy some non-perishable foods and treats to take with you; tea, coffee, instant noodles, biscuits and breakfast cereals. You can’t underestimate the relief of having something familiar and quick to eat or drink when you’ve just arrived. And don’t underestimate how cranky a tired, hungry child can be when their beloved favourite breakfast cereal isn’t instantly to hand…

Key points to deal with now you only have a couple of weeks left before your packers arrive

  • Finish decluttering. You don’t have much time left.
  • Now go shopping! Yes, there may be things you need that you can’t get in your new country.
  • Make sure you have all the insurances you need.
  • Buy plug adapters.
  • Order some currency.
  • Have a load of passport sized photographs taken for all the family – you won’t believe how many of these you may need in your new country.
  • Get some easy food to carry with you, and tea or coffee.

Good luck with your planning and preparation for packing day!

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