Useful tips & information

My 10 tips to pack for an expatriation

You are relocating soon to France and you need to start packing your luggage? I hate packing but after relocating several times on my own and forgetting things I would have liked to have, I thought I would share my tips with you! You will find here my 10 tips to pack for an expatriation.

Packing for several months or a few years in a foreign country is not the same as packing for a holiday.

How to fit everything you need in 23 kg (depending on your airline/transport luggage allowance) if you don’t want to pay for extra luggage?

Or if you just can’t carry much more than this…?

Make a list to prepare for expatriation
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

Tip 1: Make a list and pack better for an expatriation!

This is a must-do and the first thing to do to pack for an expatriation!

Otherwise, you will for sure forget essential items, which might be difficult to get afterwards. Asking relatives to go through your things to send them to you can be annoying for everyone.

So take time to write this list to put all the chances on your side and not forget anything essential.

I find it easier to breakdown my list into the 6 following categories:

    • Important Documents
    • Medicine
    • Electronics
    • Clothes
    • Toiletries
    • Miscellaneous
pack for an expatriation
Photo by Sarah Brown

Tip 2: Make sure to start in advance to pack for an expatriation!

Do you want to avoid stress?

I strongly advise you to start packing for your expatriation some time in advance, at least 2 weeks. Starting packing will remind you of things you need to buy or administrative processes you haven’t done yet, so it is best not to leave it for the last minute.

Relocating should be exciting, so let’s be easy on ourselves 😉

When I start to pack for an expatriation, I usually open my big suitcase in my bedroom and start following the list you have just done. Be selective in the elements you choose because for sure you will always take too much!

This process can take a while but may vary on how minimalist you are. For me, it usually takes up to one week, especially if I still have some shopping to do.

2-3 days before travelling I completely redo the luggage, taking out every item I’ve selected to decide if I need to take it or not (taking out the useless things after seeing you can’t close your suitcases)

Tip 3: Bring only the elements you love or need

It can often be difficult to make a selection of the clothes you want to bring (often more for ladies, but not only 😉 )

So I advise you to take the items you like (according to the weather in France, check the weather forecast depending on the region you are going to) and bring your basics as well (jeans, runners, black dress/shirt…).

If you are from a tropical country, for example, do not bring too many summer clothes, as it represents only 3 months of the time of the year. Bring the warmest clothes you may have, and plan a budget to buy winter clothes in France.

multi plug for your expatriation
Photo by CovertKit

Tip 4: Bring a multi-plug

A good friend of mine has given me this tip, and I find it very useful if you have more than one electronic item that you may need to plug in at the same time.

This is, of course, useful to bring only if you do not use the same plugs in your current residence country.

So you will be able to charge your mobile and your laptop at the same time as drying your hair, using only one plug converter!

People who liked this post also read: 10 tips to prepare a stress-free expatriation

Tip 5: Bring cash in € 

Photo by Markus Spiske

This one is for people not from the Eurozone. Make sure to bring some cash in Euro (I usually have 500€ euros with me minimum). It may be expensive for you to withdraw money from your home country’s bank account. And you also want to avoid the bad FX rate at the airport. Check if it is relevant for you depending on the country where you are from.

Also, it may take you a few days or weeks depending on your situation to open a bank account in France or to receive your first paycheck if you are coming for work. So always better to plan. You will spend more than you imagine during your first month in France.

Tip 6: Small presents from your country

I like to bring some small presents from my country to the friends I will make or for the people that might host me… It is always nice to give a present from your home country, it makes it more personal. You do not want to take up too much space in your luggage, so I like bringing magnets.

Tip 7: Use space-saver bags

This is useful for people always taking too much clothing (like me…)… There are many different types on the market. I use vacuum bags, the basic ones, but there are more elaborate and expensive ones if you want to explore this.

Also, I know that some people roll their clothing instead of folding them, it seems that it takes up less space, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Tip 8: If you don’t have it, don’t bring it

Unless it is specific to your home country, if you don’t have an item, buy it in France instead of making your suitcase heavier…

If it will be needed for the first week of your stay, you may want to buy it, as you will have a lot to do when you first arrive. You want to minimize the shopping for the first few days. If you haven’t done much grocery shopping abroad, you will see it can be confusing as the brands, the marketing and the products are different, so shopping can take some time! It is a discovery in itself. I love it, it is like going to a museum! It is a cultural discovery in itself!

Tip 9: Bring a foldable travel bag

You can be sure that you will bring back more things than what you are packing now… You will want to buy souvenirs, presents, and clothing from France of course but also the different countries you will have the opportunity to discover.

If you do not already have one, no need to buy it before leaving, you can buy it in France (as explained in point 8)

Tip 10: Bring the essentials with you

If you are part of the lucky ones that get relocation assistance from their employer, good for you! Whether your household goods are shipped via air or road, there can always be unexpected delays…

First, it is essential to follow your household goods move provider instructions, as there might be some customs instructions to follow. If you don’t, your goods could be blocked at customs for a while.

Your household goods move provider will give you an estimated time for the delivery of your goods. 80% of the time this estimate is correct but you might fall under 20% and have to wait a bit longer.

I advise you to take the essentials for the first 2 months and adapt depending on your accommodation solution.

Will you stay in a fully furnished and equipped flat?

You want to have everything you need for the first 3 nights (towels, bedsheets…).

If you arrive on a Saturday evening in a small town in France, all the shops will be closed until Tuesday! So better to anticipate.

To summarize, anticipation and organisation are key to packing for expatriation and having a stress-free move.

Good luck with your packing! The best is yet to come!

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