There are many stress factors that come with traveling abroad: 15-hour flights, saying goodbye to your family and friends, and moving to a new culture. For me, packing always shoots to the top of this moving abroad stress-level list.
This year was the 3rd time that I have packed my life into a suitcase, and every year I sit on my bedroom floor trying to configure my suitcase like it’s a game of Tetris. When I finally get everything packed, I feel like I deserve a medal. But, without fail, every year when I unpack and settle into my new home, there are things I wish I had brought and things I wish I hadn’t.
Maybe one day I will become a packing expert, but until then here are the things you should and should not bring with you to Thailand.
What I wish I had brought with me…
Black and White Clothing
During my second week teaching English in Thailand, the King passed away. The King was widely respected and thought of as a father-figure to the people of Thailand. With his passing, Thailand has declared a year-long mourning period. During this mourning period, most people wear either all black or a mix of black and white.
It has come to a point where I feel awkward if I don’t wear black, white or grey. With this, my beloved colored clothing has gone untouched and shoved to the back of my closet. I realize that the King’s passing was out of my control, but count this as a heads up for those of you coming this year! Pack black, dark blue, dark green, grey and white clothing. Do not pack red. Red is seen as a very negative, offensive color. Definitely wish I knew this before coming!
I know this is not the first thing that comes to mind when moving to a country that leaves you in a constant sweat, but it is good to know. I only packed one sweater, and during my TESOL course I was freezing half of the time because the air-conditioning was on full blast. Your school (if you’re lucky) might have air-conditioning as well, so I would definitely keep this in mind.
Thailand is also very conservative (especially with the King’s passing), so many people do not wear shorts. I wish I had brought more jeans or even leggings to avoid sticking out more than my 5’7”, blonde hair, green-eyed self already does.
When I finally settled into my new apartment in Minburi, I laid in my bed and stared at my very blank walls and empty shelves. I had finally found a home, but it didn’t feel like a home. When coming to Thailand, I wish I had packed more “homey” things. Little posters, pictures of friends and family, and/or candles would have made a huge difference. Definitely think about bringing these things if you can!
A Gift for My School
Before I came here, I remember reading our Greenheart Travel checklist saying we should pack a gift for our school. Can you guess who didn’t take Greenheart Travel’s advice?
I immediately remembered this tip when it was our first day of orientation. While my friend from the UK was giving toffees to our director, I was standing there awkwardly wai-ing and empty-handed. Oops. Don’t make my mistake! First impressions are everything. Luckily I have recovered from that minor mishap.
Pictures of Family and Friends
When I teach, I find myself referring to my family and friends a lot. I wish I had visuals for my students (especially because I don’t have a projector in my classes and taking out our cell phones is a big no-no). Students are very curious about where you come from, and it would be great if I could show them pictures they could actually hold.
Pictures are also great when you are homesick. I actually had a stack of pictures I printed for my first year abroad in Spain, and I would flip through them every once in awhile when I missed people back home. I can’t believe I didn’t remember to bring them this year, because they are truly great to have.
….and What I Wish I Had Not Packed
Things to Entertain Me on the Plane
Coming to Thailand, I had 32 hours total of travel time. The last time I had traveled that long was when I took a bus from Chicago to South Padre Island (basically the border of Mexico) for Spring break. That experience was a complete horror, and once I saw that above-30-hours number again, I promised myself that my past would not repeat itself.
I came to the airport loaded with movies on my tablet, a coloring book with colored pencils, and two books. In reality, I ordered wine, took a sleeping pill, and literally slept for 14 of the 15 hours on my long-haul flight. On the other flights, there was in-flight entertainment and I was able to watch movies and play solitaire to pass the time.
Since being in Thailand, I have not opened my books once, touched my coloring book, and my tablet has been dead in my drawer since I got to my new apartment. So my advice to you, don’t worry about packing things for your long-haul flight. I would only worry about this if you have a hard time sleeping on planes. It wastes valuable space in your luggage, and the flight will go by a lot faster than you think (especially when wine is involved). ☺
A Rain Jacket
In Thailand, there are only two seasons: scorching-hot season and monsoon season. In my case, I happened to be coming during monsoon season. I thought that because I was coming during this season that a rain jacket would be a must, but my rain jacket has been collecting dust in my closet. The rain here comes and goes very quickly, so if I were you I would just pack an umbrella and definitely do not worry about investing in a rain jacket.
I have an actual drawer in my apartment dedicated to makeup duplicates. I really have no clue what I was thinking when I was packing, because I definitely went overboard. There are so many places to get makeup here that it is not necessary to pack so many duplicates of products. Unless you have a holy-grail product that you love, do not waste money and space packing duplicates.
“Reward System” Supplies
I remember reading on a few blogs before I came to Thailand that we should bring stickers, candy or some sort of reward for our students to encourage good behavior. I am here to tell you that this is absolutely not necessary. Let me especially emphasize DO NOT BRING CANDY.
In Thailand, Thai kids + sugar = bouncing-off-the-walls-chasing-kids-around-the-room energy. Trust me, they already have enough energy without the sugar.
Keep this equation in mind when packing. It is also easier to wait until you get to your school to figure out a reward system for your students, and not to worry too much before you come here. If you want to encourage a reward system, I would steer clear from candy and stick with (pun intended) stickers.
If I were you, I would wait until your placement to find out what kind of teaching clothes you will need. I ended up in a school wear I have to wear a hairnet everyday, so you never know what situation you may end up in. The only thing I would pack from home is a black skirt that covers the knees and one neutral-colored collared shirt (can be long sleeved or short). I spent way too much money on teaching clothes that I can’t wear!
Hopefully this list can relieve some of your pre moving-to-Thailand stress. Packing should be the least of your worries, and now you can focus more on embarking on what will probably be the best adventure of your life.
This post was originally written for Greenheart Travel, the company I came through to teach here in Thailand. You can find the original post and more posts about teaching in Thailand on their blog, which you can read here. 🙂
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