As I sit in my hotel room at 4:43 a.m. and contemplate moving into my new apartment in Germany in the morning, I find myself missing a few key items and cursing the gods of forgetfulness (and also jet lag). In case you ever find yourself moving abroad, here's a short list of things I wish I had right now:
• A towel — After all the times I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I cannot believe I did not bring a towel. Towels are easily acquired around the world, of course, but I should have packed one in my luggage to tide me over before the first Ikea trip.
• A functional cell phone — A cheap prepaid local cell phone would certainly make things like arranging meetings with the landlord much easier. If you don't speak the local language, they're essential. When I moved to Beijing a few years ago, I didn't speak a word of Mandarin at first. My husband greeted me at the airport with a phone with his own cell number already listed as a contact, which turned out to be utterly essential for getting around for the first few days. It can take a while to get a smart phone hooked up; a local prepaid can tide you over until you get a contract set up.
• Snacks — It's an annoying few hours when you're up at 5:00 a.m. and the bakeries, coffee shops, and grocery stores don't open until 8. I find myself eyeing the boxes of chocolates we brought as souvenirs for my husband's new bosses and wondering if he'd believe that hotel mice ate all of them.
• Knife, fork, and spoon — With all our silverware in a shipping container somewhere, the idea of bringing along a bonus knife and fork did not occur to me, but even a plastic set would do to stave off the need to spread jam with the end of a toothbrush.
• Better-packed suitcases — Even though I knew we'd be living out of suitcases for two or three days before we would be able to move into our new apartment, at some point back in the U.S. I thought it was a good idea to pack all my normal clothes first and all my formal shoes last. I can't find a pair of jeans or socks to save my life, but if I suddenly grow three more pairs of legs and have to go to a fashion show, I'll be set.
• Landlord's phone number — E-mail is all well and good until you can't get in touch with the landlord. Trust me on this one: Wandering through the streets of Germany calling, "Helloooooooo? Landlord? Helloooooo?" is not effective. Write down the landlord's phone number before you get on the plane.
What have I missed? Share your tips and experiences in the comments.