The idea of writing this post came to me recently, while I was chatting with my best friend, who will soon be flying to London for one year. She was asking me for some advice about the things she should put in her suitcase because, I quote, “I don’t know how I will manage to make a choice between what I will take with me and what I will leave in France”. I immediately thought that it would make an interesting post, and here I am with a list of the things I took with me when I came to live in Malta.
As you may know, Gleb and I left the city of Rennes (Brittany, France) for the island of Gozo one year ago. From our 80m2 flat, we brought only five suitcases – two big ones, three small ones – and two travel bags (about 100 kg of luggage…). And our two cats, obviously.
Packing our things has not been easy and we had to leave a lot of stuff behind us. We’d decided to ship all of our belongings and furnitures by maritime container once we will be all settled in Malta, which should be quite soon. Meanwhile, we lent our furnishings to some of our friends to help them.
WHAT WE PACKED
+ MY RECOMMENDATIONS
→ A lot of clothes
Rolled and piled up like legos, it doesn’t take a lot of space. We only took summer clothes, a few mid-season pieces and a few jackets, given the maltese weather.
I only packed the clothes I was certain I would wear. This strange dress that I only wore once ? I left it in France.
The aim is not to clutter up your suitcase with clothes you will leave in the closet, but to take those you can’t live without. Be sure that these pieces fit you, and that you can create several outfits out of them. Otherwise, leave them : for a particular event or to renew your wardrobe, you will have all the time you need to go shopping later, in your new country.
It seems obvious, but think about the place where you’re going. The weather, of course, but also the type of place (if you’re going to live in the country side, your stilettos and sequins jackets might not be necessary). Also, find out about how the people dress themselves if your future country, in order to not become a local curiosity (except if that’s your thing).
Finally, even if you’re leaving to a warm country, always pack at least one pair of jeans/trousers, one sweater and one jacket, because the nights can be cold. Also think about the fact that you will probably need to come back to your home country one day to visit your family, and landing in shorts and flip-flops in London for Christmas might be perilous.
An example of what you can pack if you’re leaving for a short period (one year) : a night outfit (dress), a formal outfit (jacket/shirt/trousers), four everyday and office-friendly outfits (three blouses, two pairs of trousers, a skirt, a dress), three casual outfits (tee-shirt, sweatshirt, shorts, jeans…), two jumpers, one cardigan, two jackets, one coat.
→ Pajamas/underwear/workout gear
Take at least two sets of pajamas and five sets of underwear, more if you can. Also think about socks and tights and pack a workout outfit, you will necessarily need one one day or the other. I also advise you to bring at least one swimsuit.
→ A few pairs of shoes
I packed a formal pair of high heels, a pair of high-heeled sandals that can be worn with everything, three pairs of flat sandals/ballerinas and my workout sneakers. This is enough to last a while under any circumstances without having to buy new shoes.
→ A few jewels
I don’t wear a lot of jewellery, so I only took the valuable ones (including my two watches) and a few baubles I wear from time to time. Same advice as for the clothes : only take what you regularly wear, or what has a lot of value to you.
Also think about hair accessories (hairpins, hair ties…).
I was wearing a big handbag the day I left, and I also took a beach back, a clutch and two small shoulder bags in my suitcase.
→ A scarf
This is the type of thing you will need, one day or another.
→ Makeup and toiletries
For my makeup or body/skin/hair care, I only packed the products I use more than three times a week, or my expensive cosmetics, and I gave the rest to my mom.
I didn’t pack shower gel, shampoo or conditioner : I only packed some samples that I had in my bathroom. It was enough for the first couples of days, and I went to buy full-size products later in Malta. I just found it useless to clutter up my suitcase with products you can find in every store.
I also packed a hair straightener, a hair curler, a hair dryer, some hairbrushes and my makeup brushes.
There’s no need to pack all of your towels, one bath towel per person is enough for the first few days, and this is something you will easily find in your new town.
→ Bed linen
It depends of the context : if you will be housed with someone – for an au pair job, for example – you will probably don’t need to pack bed linen. But in our case, we directly arrived to the house we had decided to rent for 6 months. The maltese rentals are furnished, but home textiles are often optional.
→ A blanket
I hesitated to pack this in my suitcase, but I didn’t regret it ! Whether it was on the plane, during our first – chilly – night in our badly furnished house, or this winter on my couch, this blanket has been really useful. This is the kind of stuff you never think about, but there’s always a day when you need it.
→ Our electronic devices
Laptops, external hard drives, tablets, smartphones, iPod, cameras… Not forgetting chargers, memory cards or earphones !
→ A lot of movies
This will be useful during your travel, and also once you will be in your new place if you don’t have Internet yet ! And it doesn’t take any space in your suitcase…
→ A few books we cared about
→ A few sentimental objects
Personally, I packed letters written by my friends and family during the years, or birthday cards. It’s pleasant to read them when you’re missing someone. I also took a little music box that a close friend gave me before I left (Lisa, if you read this… know that I often listen to the melody of “one day my prince will come”).
→ Our papers
I only took the strict minimum. My wallet, my health journal, my identity card and the papers of my two cats (I will tell you more about that later). But depending on the circumstances, you might need a lot of other things : wage slips, banking papers, notarized documents if you own real properties, etc. Try to write a list of all the papers you need in advance to avoid forgetting anything (and make photocopies in case you lose them). Also think about your international driving license if you leave the European Union !
→ Cash money
Most of the time, you will need it in the first few days, to run a few errands, pay a cab, use a beverage dispenser…
→ I saved the best for last : a roll of toilet paper (…)
We arrived around 7pm in an empty house, after an exhausting day of travelling, on a small island with no shop opened in the surroundings and with no car… Thank you, Gleb, for thinking about packing toilet paper, you really are the perfect man (too much romance on here).
→ If you stick to these recommendations, you should have approximately a big suitcase + a medium suitcase + a travel bag per person.
IF YOU’RE TRAVELING
WITH AN ANIMAL
→ Passeport/health journal
I mentionned this earlier, but your pets need a passeport (given by your vet) and an updated health journal. It depends on the country you’re going to, but for Malta, the rules are quite stricts, and our cats have been inspected after we landed in the airpot.
They had to be chiped and vaccinated (otherwise, they would have been locked in quarantine). I advise you to do this quite early, because you might need to go to the vet a few times, and also because it is a bit expensive (approximately 200€ per cat + travel fees).
→ A small blanket
Our cats were both in their respective carry bags with a small blanket in it. First, it made the trip a bit more comfortable for them, and second, it allowed them to have a familiar “bed” where to sleep during the first days.
When we arrived at destination around 7pm, all the shops near our house were closed. Hopefully, we had anticipated that and we had packed cat food for Fluffy and Plioush.
→ A few toys
My cats love small bouncy balls or fluffy toys, and we took some of them with us, to give them something familiar and distracting during the trip, and to make the first few days in this new environment easier for them.
→ Tranquilizers for the trip
I don’t really advise you to give this kind of stuff to your pets, but I was really anxious about the flight and I gave them some Calmivet (prescribed by my vet). It depends on your pet and its personality, but try to have something that can soothe it, because there’s nothing worse than having a furious animal on a plane (except a furious baby on a plane)… Oh, also, it seems obvious, but don’t give them anything to eat or drink at least 10h before leaving, to avoid a smelly accident…
With all of this, we were ready, and we didn’t forget anything important !
If you’re an expat, did you pack your suitcase differently ?
Are you missing things, or do you regret you took some useless ones with you ?