What to Bring or Acquire Immediately When Moving Abroad

Setting Up Home

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.

(Image: Shutterstock)