Nappies, bread makers, tampons…what else do you pack when you move overseas?

We turned up in Pakistan with a bread-maker, three boxes of flour and about 400 little sachets of yeast. I realise this sounds a little strange – but in a country where it’s hard to buy any kind of bread product that isn’t basically flat, it helped when we wanted to make sandwiches. Or toast. In fact, we were the envy of the compound – and when we had to leave unexpectedly thanks to the Mariott bomb (in 2008), there was a mini scrum over who was going to relieve us of our bread-making ingredients.

Our next posting was to St Lucia, and once again we took the bread-maker. And again, it came in handy. Bread in many countries just isn’t what you’re used to at home – in the Caribbean, for example, they seem to add more sugar. Make your own and you can chose to have it just the way you like it.

In the Survival Guide, I recall how we also took boxes and boxes of disposable nappies. Our youngest, M,  was only one-years-old when we moved, and at that point we had no idea how much longer she would be in nappies for. But what we did know was just how expensive disposables – known just by the brand name “Pampers” in St Lucia – were. So we took our own. I recently read a post about another family living on a tropical island, this time in the Seychelles, who have decided to go down the reusable nappy route for their son (you can read the post, by Seychelles Mama, here). Looking back, this was the obvious answer – why on earth didn’t we do this ourselves? So much better than lugging our own two-year supply out with us, although in the end she was out of nappies just after she turned two so we had lots left over to give to friends.

Nappies by the beach

Nappies by the beach

Another item that many people take with them when they move to another country is,to give it it’s errr, “sanitary” name, sanitary products. Every country in the world seems to have its own policy on what it does or does not sell for women to use during their periods – and you don’t want to find that they just don’t have what you’re after when you get there and it’s too late. I have read many stories of women who either did or didn’t take their preferred make or brand with them when they travelled – tales which include confused conversations in foreign pharmacies, airport grillings by customs officers who didn’t know what they were looking at and suitcases stuffed with nothing else. In case you haven’t already read it, Kirsty Rice did a fantastic post on this subject on her blog 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle, here. All I will say is try and find out what’s available in advance or, as more and more women are now doing, invest in a Mooncup. At least that way you won’t have to ask everyone coming out to visit you to bring 20 boxes of Tampax with them….

This time, moving to South Africa, I’m not sure yet what we’ll be taking. It’s one of those countries you can get most things you’ll need or find a damned fine local equivalent.  Although I don’t think they’ve opened a branch of Hotel Chocolat there yet. I might well slip a couple of boxes in my suitcase to get us through the early days….

Did you take anything with you when you moved – and then lived to regret it? Or is there anything you wish you had taken, but didn’t? How did you find out about what you needed to take before you moved?



10 thoughts on “Nappies, bread makers, tampons…what else do you pack when you move overseas?

  1. I’m an expat in rural Argentina. I brought lots of feminine care products because they don’t use tampons with applicators here–and have never regretted it, thanks to a new-ish ban on the import of tampons. Also, I hoard (and continuosly con visitors from the states into bringing) peanut butter and hot sauce. We have a large supply of Reese’s peanut butter cups that we try to keep stocked as a little taste of home. We did a lot of research before we left, but in the end kind of winged it! We’re lucky we get an annual home leave, and I make it back a few times a year for business, so if we’ve forgotten something, I can generally smuggle it down in my suitcase.

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  2. It is interesting what we miss when we’re away from home. As well as decent chocolate, I usually miss British sausages, fish and chips and tea. Not to say there aren’t other great alternatives in the countries we move to, but sometimes we all crave the comfort foods of home. …


  3. I can sooo relate to this post and comments! Going to the former Soviet Union just after the collapse, there was very little available. I found the travel packets of tissue to be invaluable, used for covering nose/mouth on dusty roads (who knew what chemicals were being kicked up in the air), emergency toilet tissue (never left home without it), to keeping my hands clean during hot dticky summer days.
    I laugh now about taking 36 paurs of cotton underwear, 18 pairs of pantyhose, and 12 deodorants with me on my initial move. Later it was toothbrushes i couldn’t get. Tough to be away from home!

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    • I bet you were glad of those underwear, though, I never saw any clothing in Baku I wanted to buy while I was there. We too would also bring back a whole host of drugstore items whenever we made a trip “out.” When our cleaning lady saw my store cupboard she exclaimed “Kak aptek!” (like a pharmacy). Aptek remains our family name for the medicine cabinet 🙂

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      • I laugh now at the things I thought were “necessary”. And here at home, I marvel say what I now realize I don’t truly need. How travel bends one’s perspective!


  4. Pingback: Packing for Venezuela 2015… and $755 condoms |

  5. If I had a family I could see myself lugging around a breadmaker (or at least a dutch oven if I knew that I would have an oven)!

    When I was teaching in Mexico I was able to talk my school into getting my apartment an oven (I was sharing it with two other people after all). Then I found the yeast I needed and a bread pan and made my own bread. My favorite thing to do was make pizzas.

    In China I didn’t have an oven. Now, in Venezuela, I try not to eat bread for health reasons. Sigh. I love freshly made bread.

    -Amanda at

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  6. The fact that every expat has a food or ingredient story, says a lot about the importance of eating at least some familiar things to our general well-being. For me it was always liquid gravy browning. Not that I make a lot of gravy, but when I do I cannot live without my Cross & Blackwell. It’s terrifying stuff to transport in a suitcase as if it broke it would be a nightmare, but I’ve taken it everywhere. These days, as I’m now much more into a variety of cuisines, I would definitely also take spices.

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