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The Ex-Pat Packing List

On a group that I’m part of, an American about to move to the UK asked “What are the top 5 things we should bring?” After some consideration, this is the list I came up with based on my own moving experience in 2009 and my current life here.

1 – US measuring cups, spoons, and a pyrex jug. While you’re still sorting out the Metric system in the kitchen, it’s nice to know you can use your old standby recipes. I got rid of most of my cookbooks before I moved and only kept the ones that were book tie-ins (I have the Anne of Green Gables cookbook and the Little House cookbook) and good old Betty. [I still use my US measuring cups. There are some recipes that I just can't translate into Metric and they are old favourites!]

2 – a 9×13 cake pan. I finally gave up and my mom brought me a pan when she visited as the only place I could find one was Lakeland and they wanted £30 for it! Also things like Bundt pans are a bit pricey here. But if you’re not a baker, ignore this.

3 – Die hard favourite items. I spent money on shipping 20 boxes of things over and I do not regret it at all. I even shipped (in a box) a massive 4 foot by 3 foot rug I had in my bedroom in the US and I’m so happy I did. I also brought a few throw pillows and my Penn State stadium blankets. One word of advice: If you are bringing ANY family crystal or dishes put these in your carry-on. I had loads of stuff get smashed by the shipping company and that was with me carefully wrapping things and marking the box as “fragile keep on top”. But the things I put in my carry-on wheeled suitcase all arrived in one piece. I also had my husband take a few of my dolls back with him after we got married, so I have part of my massive doll collection in the living room (I got rid of the rest of them and only kept significant ones) I packed up quite a bit of my kitchen items, even though a lot are going to be available here because it’s nice to use things that are familiar. Along this same line: family heirlooms, even the odd things. For example, I brought along this set of metal bowls and cups from my Nanny’s house because they remind me of her, my pappy, my aunt and uncle. My mom gave me a few pieces of her Corningware before I moved so I have pieces that I remember being used when I grew up. I also packed a few favourite mugs. You’ll probably buy loads more, but there’s something familiar about using the big purple coffee mug I had in my college dorm room! I also brought along some of my knick-knacks (got rid of the rest!) since I was moving into my husband’s house and I wanted to be able to look around and see a bit of me.

4 – Medical records. I went to my doctor’s office about a month before I moved and for $10 they gave me my entire file. Usually they like to send these directly to the doctors, but when I explained that I was moving overseas, they were more than happy to give me a copy. It took a few days as they had to get it all photocopied, but it was worth it to turn it over to the GP here….and the GP here had everything typed into the system, so they can go back and look at records from before I lived here. Also, 2 month supply of any prescription you are currently on as it might take you that long to get settled with a GP and get sorted for UK equivalents. While we’re talking about records, it’s best to make sure you pack all your important family docs – expired passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates, diplomas, etc. I also have my US tax records going back to 1997, but that was probably overkill. [I really can't stress this enough. Especially if you have an on-going medical condition. You also might want to write down family medical histories for your parents & grandparents just in case.]

5 – favourite clothing pieces. Bras & Knickers. Jeans. While fashion is a little different here, it’s still nice to have old favourites. Bras & Knickers simply because it might take you awhile to find brands you love and it will be trial and error to find ones that fit and ones you like. Jeans…..I still haven’t really found jeans here that I like the fit of so I tend to buy a few pairs when I’m in the US. Hoodies are always useful no matter what time of year it is, and I love wearing my “Jersey Girl” and Penn State hoodies. Comfortable shoes. Shoe sizes in the UK are different so again, just until you are more comfortable here it’s best to have plenty of shoe options. Also, you’re likely to do a lot more walking in the UK than in the US, so comfy shoes for walking are a must…as are waterproof shoes!

Now onto things you shouldn’t pack, don’t need to bring, or should bring in moderation:

1 – Books. No, don’t get up in arms with me over this. I love to read, but I managed to get my collection down to five boxes….and of the five, based on what books I still have I could have only taken two. I kept anything that was irreplaceable or special. Childhood series (Little House, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew) came along. US editions of Harry Potter, antique books, and books that had sentimental value came along. Everything else can be replaced by visiting charity shops and used book stores.

2 – DVDs and Videos. Don’t even bother with VHS videos at all, they will not play here. As far as DVDs go… you will first need to hack a UK player, but that’s not hard. Only bring DVDs that have meaning to you or were limited editions and then mark the spines so you know they are R1. I bought little green stickers at Wilkinson’s. Just like books, you can pick up DVDs for pretty cheap at charity shops!

3 – Food. Unless it’s something you know you NEED nearly every day, don’t bother. Many items are available here either at the regular shops or specialty shops. Sure, you’ll pay out the nose for some of the things, but then you can treat them as “treats”. Part of the fun of living in a new country is discovering the food! I will admit to having peanut butter on subscription service through Amazon and getting a steady stream of ranch dressing and instant iced tea, though!

4 – Toiletries. With the exception of a month’s worth until you find new UK products or unless you have specific needs (allergies?), this is also something I wouldn’t bother with bringing along. A lot of the major brands (Dove, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Olay, Neutrogena, etc) are here and do you really want to be stuck in a situation where you are constantly filling your suitcases with face wash or shampoo when you go back to the US for a visit? There are some great UK products here, you just have to be patient while you look for them. You’ll get used to the spray deodorant. I promise.

I can’t think of a fifth.

What would be on your list?

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2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Nikki-ann August 11th, 2013 19:08

    US videos will play here, you just need the right VCR player… and these days they’re hard to come by and expensive!

    I’m a big Kiefer Sutherland fan and there are a number of his films you simply can’t get hold of over here, so I ordered the US ones. Unfortunately, I unplugged my VCR which would play videos from anywhere and somehow my brother has ended up with it for his kids. So now I had the videos and nothing to play them on!

    P.S. – I hope you enjoy it here :)

  2. Rebecca August 25th, 2013 9:56

    Oh, I love it here. Been hear for four years now :)

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