Izzy Ashton | an expat living in Asia
Hey, congrats and welcome to #expatlife — you’re moving to a new country! Maybe it’s your job that’s taking you or you’ll be looking for a job when you get there. Either way, you have a lot to think about. It can be exciting and terrifying all wrapped into one.
Me? Our flight leaves in five days! This our second international move, from one part of Asia to another. My husband Michael and I have a family wedding tonight and still have packing to do. I have one more trip to the store planned. What are some of the other things we’ve been thinking about as we prepare? I’ll share them with you in two parts.
Part 1 is about shipping, technology, learning, and packing. Part 2 will be about paperwork, friends and family, and making space. I’ll lay out how we’ve been preparing like laundry piles, sorting the lights from the darks and the jeans from the rest. (This reminds me, I need to get one more load done!) So, here’s what’s been on our minds for the past few weeks.
Every country is different in terms of how much you can bring, what you can ship, and how you pay taxes on imported goods. Several years ago when we made our first international move from the U.S. to Asia, we could send a box with no weight limit for $60. (I brought so many books!) This time, moving from one Asian country to another, we aren’t so lucky. While we originally considered shipping a crate to our destination, we discovered that we could not receive it without a residency permit. That could take up to three months! Because of that, we decided to travel with all our stuff, checking seven boxes plus our suitcases, and paying the extra airline fees. Find out what the rules are for your destination country by searching online.
Type “shipping options international move” or “relocate to [name of your host country]” into your browser and you may find discussion boards, blogs, and sitting sites. Reading this glossary of international shipping terms* first will help you. And don’t forget to check with your employer to see if it can help with these costs.
What is the power voltage like where you’re moving? Because of different power set-ups, you’ll want to leave many of your familiar appliances behind. Some of your gadgets, like your laptop computer and mobile phone, could be plugged in with an adaptor. Here is a helpful link to determine the voltage and outlet plugs for each country.
What is the price like for electronics where you’re going? It may be cheaper to buy a mobile phone in your home country, and then get a new SIM card for it when you arrive in your host country. In some cases, it may be better for your budget to get a phone and SIM plan together. To find this out, do your research online beforehand: search for the name of the country where you’re going and keywords like “bringing my cell phone” or “cell phone prices.” Often you will find expat forums and other blogs that will give you information for what others have done and recommend. This is also a good question to ask your employer because they may help you with your phone plan on arrival.
You may also want to look into getting a virtual private network (VPN) for your time overseas. A VPN will allow you to access the internet from your home country. This gives you an extra layer of online protection for things like banking and other location-sensitive websites.
There’s so much to learn about your new host country! Don’t wait until the 20-minute, in-flight tourist video to learn about your new home. (Trust me, I’ve done this. Those videos aren’t always accurate.) Here are some suggestions for ways to learn about the new place you’ll call home:
You’ll bring your clothes, books, and personal items of course. But what else should you pack, especially if you’re not able to ship things in crates or containers? Michael and I had connections to expats living in our new country, so we asked them, “If you could return to the States, what would you buy to take back to Asia?” The answers surprised us: fitted sheets, oregano, and plastic zip bags. If you don’t know any expats where you’re headed, you can still learn a lot from expat blogs, websites, and social media.
We visited our favorite online store (cough-Amazon-cough) and made some orders. We also bought in our suitcases a few months’ worth of our favorite toiletries to tide us over until we see what’s available locally. Sometimes you just gotta have your favorite deodorant, you know? Some countries have an Amazon website of their own, but their products could be very different than what you’re used to.
And about those spices you’re bringing: empty the containers into labeled plastic zip bags. They’ll take of less space and less weight. Plus, you can rinse out and reuse the bags.
That’s it for a quick Part 1 to prime your planning for your first international move. I’d love to hear from you, whether you have a question or a tip from your own experience. You can reach me via email. ●
*Recommendations from the author are not necessarily endorsements by Missional Impact.
Izzy Ashton* holds a masters’ degree in counseling, is rarely seen without a book or pen in her hand and enjoys learning how to help people thrive. She and her husband Michael are experienced entrepreneurs who develop businesses cross-culturally that will make a positive impact on their communities. From her home along the Mediterranean, she is striving to learn the balance of well-being and self-care in a rigorous business world. Talk to Izzy.