You’ve already made the decision that you’re going abroad. You have your passport. Your program has accepted you or you have your funds together to do whatever it is you want to do. What follows now is my list of the 7 things I think you’re going to need for your journey abroad. These are my theories for living abroad for an extended period of time.
1. An International Bank
I have never been one to carry a large amount of cash on hand no matter what the country. I’m a “plastic” man. One thing that I have learned is you want to always be able to pay for anything anywhere. The best way to do that is to have a bank account/debit card for a bank that operates internationally. Ideally, you want a big bank that has actually branch offices in your new country. I, myself, bank with Chase and I have not had any problems. But notify your bank that you are going abroad. Thanks to Chase’s protection my card was declined at an airport while I was in China…definitely a bittersweet moment. And if for any reason, your family/friends need to send you money (even if it’s to buy them something) they can deposit it into your bank account. No wire transfers, no fees, no drama.
2. The Apps of the People
Facebook is a megastar of an app, but a lot of countries have their own way of talking to each other. China has WeChat and QQ, Korea has Kakao Talk and Kakao Story and there are many others. Even though you may not use the app (you should), it still comes of as a great gesture to the locals to show that you are at least attempting to embrace their culture.
3. Skin/Haircare Products
Countries carry products for their local customers and not so much for foreigners. Meaning if you have a particular hair product that you are very particular about then there is a good chance that a foreign country like China wouldn’t have it. Prime example: for many reasons I don’t use regular shaving cream. I use a special brand called Magic Shave and you best believe I have never seen that particular brand of shaving cream anywhere other than in my own neighborhood in America. So, usually my family either ships it to me (very expensive) or I bring a bunch of bottles with me at the start of journey. I also suggest seeing if you can get them to ship boxes of your special brands straight from the manufacturer to your location. I didn’t have luck with it, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
4. Google Translate
I am all for learning a country’s language organically, in fact you should. But Google Translate has evolved to a very useful resource. Now Google Translate allows you to take pictures of signs and it can translate the words in the pictures. Granted it's not perfect but it definitely helps you when you are lost.
5. What’s App and Skype
Nothing is better for being far away from home than being able to call home after you factor in time zones. Whatsapp and Skype are simply great tools for calling home for free. Whatsapp allows you to make phone calls and send text messages as long as you’re connected to some form of wifi hotspot or data plan. Skype is just next level. Two or more people on Skype can video chat with each other. If you are using desktops and laptops, Skype is free! There are far more communication tools than these two. These are just the ones most successful for me.
6. Money, local currency
While I prefer to carry more plastic than paper money, it does not devalue paper money in the slightest. A lot of countries have taken to the pop-up food stands or the mobile vendor carts. These places often have the best food and they do not except credit or debit cards. Besides the food is so cheap I often just grab a hand full of change from somewhere and make due with that. Money on hand is always perfect because you really rarely find yourself in a situation where money will not be able help you. Get local currency at the airport when you arrive or at a local bank. You don’t want to incur a lot of fees by using ATM machines. Save your money for the experiences.
7. The Phone
A disposable phone, depending on your current phone plan, may save you a lot of money by putting your personal phone on a “seasonal standby” and getting a burner phone in your new location. In these modern times, you want to have the phone option available, but not the expense of every single call being an international incident/charge. With the prepaid phone, you can store all of the local people and places you frequent and the phone itself is already hard-wired to function locally. In China, it was essential. And when my Mom visited, I gave her one. She got lost a lot and I was able to quickly talk her home.
While there are many more things you’ll need and need to know, hopefully, you found this list of items useful as you prepare to embark on a life-changing adventure. Pack right and be ready.