Packing for Moving Abroad: What will I need immediately when I get there?

During the planning stage of the move, I felt I wanted a checklist to tick off as I packed, just to keep everything in check, perhaps similar to lists I had been used in my years in scouting. In th…

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Packing for Moving Abroad: What will I need immediately when I get there?

During the planning stage of the move, I felt I wanted a checklist to tick off as I packed, just to keep everything in check, perhaps similar to lists I had been used in my years in scouting. In this post, I include thoughts and my experience during and after the move as well as planning checklists for parents moving abroad. Of course, everyone has a different story (see Our Story and Moving Abroad: What to do then? for more information), we decided to move in a house immediately so my checklists here reflect this choice.

It takes a number of weeks for a container to turn up. For us, it took 10 weeks. Without a good amount of determination, good will from everyone and some essentials, life can soon be harder, bringing down times and difficulties… Ten weeks with three kids can be long so better be best prepared in the packing phase! The packing phase was long, thinking about it every day for 6 months, but also very quick as when movers arrived they took over the house and it all went very quickly from that point so better be prepared…

During the planning phase, a number of questions came up: essential items, what to bring or not, what to sell or not, fear of forgetting something. I include different checklists related to these concerns and a checklist of items I did not think about, where I could have saved costs, if I had packed it.

Planning

We knew we had a lot coming in the container. We did not want to accumulate too much and spend too much money so it was important to buy the minimal initially. I include a checklist of items that I bought within a couple of days of being here, real essentials.

When we started planning our move back in the UK, I initially wanted to sell all kitchen electric stuff. It then became all a big mountain to sell everything and went on to sell more essential items we had to sell. We had a number of discussions and debates about what to bring or not. Some items may be precious to you and others not, and you then make a decision about what to keep or not. On hindsight, the decision would be perhaps better based on what needs to be bought straightaway. For example, toaster, kettle, cooking stuff were a must. I ended up buying these at low cost, because I knew we had our ‘nicer’ items coming in the container, but should I have sold these I would have replaced them with ‘nicer’ items here. We decided to bring all our televisions with us. We borrowed a television in the meantime. Good decision because our television was really good and it would have cost a lot of money to replace it. My point is here that there are a number of decisions that need to be taken during the planning phase and these will inevitably influence your packing.

We decided to bring our sleeping bags and very comfortable camping mats to sleep on initially. We did not decide what to do in the long run about sleeping arrangements. We were just going to see on the way. I had sold my youngest’s bed as he was ready to move into a bigger bed so I was able to replace it here straight away. For the rest of us, we eventually borrowed beds or bought at a cheap price beds. We also bought linen. I include a list of items we bought at a later stage and reasons for these decisions.

Avoidable expenses?

After a month of being there, my oldest went to a camp so I had to buy warmer clothing, boots, etc. as I had not planned for this in our luggage. Although these are unavoidable expenses, if you know the schools where your children will go to, you may want to contact prospective schools prior moving to ask whether they have planned activities within your first 10 weeks. These types of ‘out of the norm’ activities may need different items, and knowing about them, you could be prepared for them and pack consequently. Similarly, I had to buy all new uniforms for the children. On the first day of school, they did not want to look different so schools could be contacted about colours of uniform (or on their website) and you could pack similar coloured clothes for the first few days, until you can get to the school uniform shop.

Weather

Research the weather and seasons in the country you are going to to avoid surprises. Minus thirty in the winter in Canada is quite different to summer in Australia, although happening in the same months!

We brought summer clothes with us, but by the time our container arrived we had needed some warmer clothes for different reasons: cooler days, evenings or nights, activities in the woods, camp, warming up after swimming, basic heating system, changing weather. Some friends in Australia helped us in guiding what we should pack in terms of weather and clothing. Although we had some help, we have needed to buy some warmer clothes.

Technology difficulties

10 weeks on, we are still having IT problems. We packed phones but these were not fully ‘unlocked’. It has been particularly frustrating as we were initially unable to get in touch with each other with important issues to discuss. My husband was given a phone for work within a couple of days of us being there which was great. We thought we had unlocked my phone in the UK but it did not work. Children broke the screen of my Ipad so I was without any communication for a while. We eventually found an IT shop who have been great in helping sorting a few things, but overall we have had problems and communication initially was tricky. Don’t assume you will be able to get contracts with a phone company straight away. We were surprised to find out that you need to have a been a customer with a phone company for 6 months before you can get a phone with a contract. Also, don’t assume you will be able to have a connection for WI-FI/television straight away. It took a while to sort it all out. In fact, 5 weeks for television connection!

Checklist/Essentials items to pack  
Clothes for 10 weeks providing you have washing facilities. Clothes for job interviews/work. Clothes for preferred activities such as sports, etc.  
Shoes and trainers  
Comforters and favourite books  
Swimming stuff  
Car seat/stroller  
Small packsack (for school/nursery, plane journey, days out)  
Camping mats and sleeping bags  
Pillows or pillow case (stuffed with clothes) if no room for pillow  
Slippers, pyjamas  
Cosmetics and basic toiletries  
Bag of medication: paracetamol, any long-term medication such as contraceptives (for more than 2 months); don’t expect you will access to health care straight away, registration may take some time.  
Electronic devices/laptops with downloaded films/programs for the journey and initial days on arrival  
International electric plugs (as many as you have, you will need them)  
Cards and presents from friends  
Paperwork  
Make sure movers do not pack essential paperwork such as passports, birth certificates, driving license, ‘baptism’ certificates, qualification papers, papers for your house and cars (if you are selling). Identification cards/papers you will need all the time, for lots of reasons. Although different important were sorted out on-line, we printed off the lease agreement, health insurance and visas; these were basically needed everywhere: registering with schools, childcare centres, medical centre, medical insurance, buying cars. For about 10 weeks, I carried a folder with all these papers with me. You will need identification papers for utilities and lots of reasons so best keep all these important papers at all time with you. I had them in my packsack on the plane, just in case our luggage got lost (It does happen a lot, trust me!)  
Bring with you, vaccination certificate for each child. I asked a full update at our clinic. Childcare centres and schools ask to see this and for children to be fully up to date to attend a setting (in Australia). I have heard some children can be denied entry to settings until full updated vaccination is done.  
Make sure your CV is up-to-date if you are looking for a job. Have copies with you; you may not have access to a printer straight away.  
Items I forgot/didn’t think about/could have saved costs  
Even if you are going to a hot country, pack some basics warm clothes. Speak to people about weather/read about weather and clothing  
Contact schools about special activities/uniform colours  
A bigger bag of toys/ Photographs/photo album to settle the children (see previous posts about my youngest who has found it difficult to settle)  
Sporting equipment that does not take too much space such as rackets  
Pack lunch boxes and water bottles  
Linen, duvet covers and sheets  
Towels/face cloths  
UNLOCKED phones…10 weeks on we are still having problems. Sell any unlocked phones before moving to save you time and money.  
Non-essential we enjoyed having with us  
Sonos: as soon as we had Wi-Fi in the house we were able to plug in the Sonos and play our playlists, a great comforter.  
Items we bought initially and a few weeks later  
Initially – within the first 2 weeks

  • As we were not intending to do camping, I did not think of bringing any cooking stuff. We got all the minimum pots, pans, wooden spoons, plates, glasses either from generous colleagues, charity shops or big surface store at a low cost. Costs can mount quickly. You could save by bringing with you plastic cups and plates, etc.
  • Towels/bathroom mats
  •  Toiletries
  • cleaning products, broom, dustpan and brush
  • Cooking/eating stuff: pots, pans, cutlery, plates, glasses
  • Food, spices, cupboard essentials
  • We also replaced some items we knew we had sold prior, not in the container, such as white goods (some brand new and some second hand, a hoover, a BBQ, bins (left all my rattan bins in the UK!)
  • Coffee machine, kettle, toaster
  • a few toys
  • swimming toys for the pool
 
A few weeks later

  • After 4 weeks on camping mattresses, we felt particularly uncomfortable (I was also worried about my husband who had been in hospital with a disc inflammation and still recovering) so we decided to borrow beds or buy cheaply on a local on-line selling page. We also bought low cost linen duvet covers, duvet and sheets.
  • We arrived at the end of summer so a few weeks later, evenings were darker, we bought some lamps for when the little one wakes up in the night.
 

Hope this helps anyone who may think of moving abroad!!!

Are we lucky?

Many people have said to us ‘you are so lucky’. Other people have said ‘I could never do this, you are so brave’. Others have said ‘look at you, moving across the world’, ‘look at you a little girl from Mont-Joli’. People’s reactions to someone’s ‘luck’ is interesting…Would I say I am lucky? Definitely not! I never won the lottery, hardly ever won great raffle prizes…I see luck as something your name being pulled out of the hat, out of the blue, when your effort has been minimal.

I would be tempted to say that we have made our luck, or even this isn’t luck. First, we worked hard to get to where we are, qualifications, work experience, children, house, etc. There were a number of setbacks, not always simple to solve. We have had to cope with lots of emotions over the years, being away from our families, needing to be self-reliant. It has certainly not been simple doing a doctorate with young children and a husband working away.

Second, we have continued to be sensitive to new opportunities, enquire, express interests, be in the right place at the right time, building relationships, talking to people, inviting people over, putting ourselves out there in different roles for voluntary organisations… all of which have continued to make us attractive to employers as it shows resourcefulness, creativity and leadership…we could have chosen a different path. It is easy to enter a mould of being at home, ‘waiting for the bus of luck’; it is much harder to get out there create connections and have extra responsibilities. The problem is ‘the bus of luck’ rarely comes, it will go by…If you feel you are not lucky and looking for changes in your life, look around you ‘where am I needed’, ‘what could I do to help’, ‘talk to people about your dreams, talents and interests’…think out of the box…

Third, it takes a huge amount of flexibility to live in other cultures as you need to expect that normal routines, food, language, etc. will not be the same as your native country. You need to continue be open minded and discover new things every day. Yes, it is appealing and exciting but it can also be tiring because things are never familiar, it is always new. It takes adaptation to respond to these new demands and concepts. It may not be for everyone either as some people may prefer the comfort of home, routines and familiar people. Moving abroad certainly brings all the opposite. If you are thinking of moving abroad, perhaps it is important to reflect on the type of person you are to ensure that familiarity and comfort does not outweigh discovery and adventures.

Finally, we always see the positives in a situation or solutions to resolve a problem. Yes, there are moments that are particularly stressful and we experience difficult feelings too, but with communication and positive thinking, solutions eventually evolve.

So are we lucky?…well, we have been proactive, creative, flexible, resilient, self-reliant, positive. Interestingly, I was reading in Psychology Today an article about the 8 habits of Highly Lucky People (www.psychologytoday.com). The different habits explained in the text, be mindful, proactive, be opportunistic, be insightful, be flexible, be optimistic and think out of the box, particularly reflect my way of thinking about our luck…not sure it is to do with luck…

Moving Abroad: Initial feelings

After a long and rigorous interview process, the initial news that we were moving to Australia was real, we decided to go! Some people may not have a choice to move to a different country, in which case, these emotions may be experienced differently.

Initial feelings: shock, overwhelmed, excitement

I think I was in state of shock initially, full of emotions, but my head also full of things to do and sort out. I became particularly overwhelmed, trying to combine work, children and a move abroad. I felt like I was walking through a long and dark tunnel of organisation, bureaucratic processes and logistics. I kept feeling determined enough to keep everything ticking and trying to take everything in, but there was so much to take in, so much unknown… Yes we were making a decision, I never felt that I was pushed or that I was made to go, we could have decided not to go. After long debates and discussions, we felt we had to go for it, live life to the full, take a great opportunity on!

Denial, unknown and fear

Initially, I felt the move was far ahead and could not necessarily envisaged how we would make it work. I was upset to announce my leaving to my colleagues and friends. I was not ready for ‘for sale’ board to go in front of MY house…Not sure it was denial, I had agreed to move and shared this project. I felt more shock that I agreed to do this, such a long way away on the planet. As a child, I had always felt that Australia was way too far to go to (from Canada). After living in the UK for 18 years, I felt more connections to that country as we had met Australians, but my knowledge of that country was still very limited. I was not sure I would be able to live the daily life. Being there on holiday is pretty different to living daily life. Yes there were fears of not being up to it, ‘what if it fails’, ‘what if we don’t like it’, ‘what if we end up in difficulties so far away’…

What do we tell the kids?

We felt that the full interview process and initial thoughts about a potential move was not for the kids to be part of. We told the kids we were moving when it was a reality. Yes, we had alluded to it along the way, just asking them their thoughts about possibly moving one day, but we never talked about it firmly before we were not 100%. We chose a moment where we are all together to announce the news, after we had been given a go ahead from the company. We invited friends over to tell them the news too. We felt it was important for it to be a celebration. Yes, there were tears but also laughter, celebrations and talks of opportunities and exciting times ahead.

Staying strong and positive

There were moments (and still are) where kids were anxious, upset and doubting our decision as parents. There were many situations where we had to bring positive thinking into discussions. I have found that it’s important children see you do that, as parents, as it will set example and shape their ways of thinking too, showing them how to think positively.

“it will be a great adventure”

“we will be able to see this and this”

“think about the weather”

“let’s look at houses together”

“let’s look at new activities you could do over there”

“you will be able to make new friends, have friends all over the world”

“what about we set ways to speak to your friends” (technology really helps nowadays)

It has really helped to talk to the kids in this way. It has allowed the future to be present in our lives and bring excitement to our move. There are occasions where we could have dwelled into the negatives and doubts, but this had the danger to bring us all down. We remained strong, turn possibly negative thoughts into positive ones, and carried on.

So if you are moving abroad:

  • allow time for your emotions to be lived and talk these through
  • plan discussion time within your family routines
  • encourage everyone to think positively about the move and choose a new activity or projects so that it is a move for everyone

 

I want another family, my bedroom light is not working, I don’t have many toys and Maman’s bed is now pink. I want a blue house! (Émile, 3 years old)

It’s interesting how children tell us messages…that this new situation and the changes around them are possibly not working as much as they would like. Initially, when preparing the move, I was particularly conscious of the oldest two’s needs as they were able to express themselves, have discussions, ask questions. For the little one, we kept saying he will not remember our last house, it will be alright. A colleague of mine had said do not underestimate the little one’s needs when packing. She had experienced a move with young children and felt that the youngest had had a hard time adapting and was still recovering from it. I packed as much as I could within a limited frame of time. And yes I should have been wiser. We arrived in Australia with some toys, books and his special blanket, but not enough to keep the little one going. Luckily, technology can do wonders in providing some anchor points to him such as programs he knows and he is used to. His brother and sister have also needed to help in playing different games together. The garage, an empty space, with a high number of empty boxes, has been a great source of imaginative play. They have also played 40-40, hide and seek, and lots of games in the woods around the house. The problem is that 5 weeks of no television (with some devices but limited Wi-FI), sleeping on camp beds, with little around, it can be a long long time with young children…

Within that period of time, I also wanted to ensure that he settles at nursery so that when I am ready to go to work, ‘he is ok and I am ok’…Although he was used to a childcare setting, he has found settling in a new childcare setting very tricky. We have had lots of discussions together and with the ‘ladies’. We have had a lot of tears, and tears, and tantrums. It has been particularly challenging.

Yes we have gone shopping and bought him some toys along the way. I feel that although these have helped, these toys are not his, the ones that come from ‘home’ and perhaps lack familiarity and belonging.

On reflection, I should have been a little more sensitive to my packing in regards to our little one. The following would have helped:

  • A bag of little figures/people and cars, furniture
  • Books about moving
  • Photos/scrapbook
  • A bag of lego/puzzles
  • Some soft toys (these take a lot of room in suitcases, so they would need to be chosen carefully to only bring the significant ones)

My best buy has been an enormous ‘Scooby Doo’ teddy he found in a charity shop last week.

They are both about the same size. They have eaten, slept, sat on the sofa, cuddled, gone walking together. When he saw the teddy, he said he wanted to show it to his friends at nursery. Today, he went to nursery with ‘his friend’. He was given a little plane bag to go with his teddy (socks, toothbrush and put a few other things in it). After a long 8 weeks, he has finally gone to nursery without a tear, hooray! It has taken a while to find something that worked well to settle him. This strategy seemed to work very well, the following strategies have also been helpful:

  • Talking to staff about his interests
  • Talking with us about what he likes at nursery
  • Talking with the ladies about an activity we did at home
  • Communicative and positive transition times: morning and home times
  • Transition times with family members i.e. brother and sister coming in to the nursery and talking about what he does there
  • Bringing a toy from home to show his friends and the ladies (often a new toy we purchased as we had little)
  • imaginative play about nursery and school, talking about characters having similar feelings, what that means, how it can be resolved, with siblings and parents
  • Looking at pictures of him doing an activity in the nursery portfolio
  • Mum and dad coming to play for a little bit at nursery
  • Surprises at the end of the day such as choosing at the supermarket what he wants to eat for dinner

I have to admit that he has been playing up, demanding a lot of time, cuddles and showing some interesting behaviours such as experimenting with ‘wees’ and ‘poos’, hitting, biting and having many tantrums. One tantrum was on the high street, great stuff when you feel observed by everyone! Yes he is at that age, but he is also testing because he can, rules and routines have changed so he must feel he can change things too. It is hard because we have a rental house with not much in it and a lot to sort out so routines of bedtime, etc. have been a bit different. It has required a lot of adaptation from everyone (and it is not finished!) and he has felt that too. Respecting my rules and values, continuing to be firm with rules and repeating scripts have also worked. For example, ‘let’s go to nursery’ (not giving a choice such as ‘do you want to go to nursery’). He often replies ‘I don’t want to’. Every time, I will reply ‘Maman is going to work, lots of work to do, you know I love you and will come back at the end of the day to pick you up’. But ‘I don’t want to go to school’ and then I repeat the same script…and so on.

The little one is having amazing days, but we have some tears again. Ladies reassure me that he calms and settles quickly. As he is having amazing days, I have changed my script a little to highlight all the things he loves to do at nursery, such as ‘You will have a great day on the swing with Scooby Doo and play in the sand pit’, and reinforcing that I will have a boring day.

Routine is the same every morning, we say the same thing, we do the same thing (except on our days together). I try not to be too anxious and worried…It’s a process…