The first time I was moving to Spain as a language assistant, my mom oversaw most of my packing. The second and third time are none of your business. JKJK, obvi she was there to put her two cents in as well, mostly to ask if I had enough of all the things I didn’t know I needed the first time I left, or maybe to look for my passport. That’s a story for another day.
In any case, although I really thought I was packing pretty much my entire life up with me when I left, there were quite a few things I could have really used more, or any of, when I went abroad.
Note: this post includes affiliate links, but if you use them, you’ll be a happy camper in Spain or wherever else abroad, and I’ll make like 3 cents off your purchase. Win-win.
I spent all my years as an auxiliar in Andalucía, otherwise known as Spain’s personal oven. I was going to be spending my first year in the city in Europe that gets the most days of sunshine in a calendar year. I come from Wisconsin where a normal winter average is consistently below zero. Why on EARTH would I bring warm clothes and pajamas? I wouldn’t. And I didn’t. I spent all winter until Christmas, (when I could finally bring back some layers from home), filling big plastic water bottles with boiling water just to be able to fall asleep. Homes in the south and on the coasts, (think Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Murcia..) are ready for the heat. They are perfectly uninsulated and stay really cool. All. year. round. Added bonus–if you’re living on the coast like I was every year since I’ve been here, the cold is a humid cold, which means it might not be very cold temperatures, but it chills you to the bone. Take my advice, bring at least one pair of cozy pjs.
Who doesn’t love a good lil mixture of who-knows-what to knock you out dead at night when you have a terrible cold, and keep you going during the day when you’re oozing goo from all orifices? Spaniards, that’s who. Awesome for them because they don’t self medicate like we do, but I’m sorry, I love me some Dayquil and Nyquil. This goes for any over the counter medicine as well. In Spain you will have to go to a pharmacy and speak to someone, possibly even get a prescription from a doctor before they give something to you.
These babies are so, so, so worth it. You can use it at home in the States, or just add a plug adapter (NOT power converter), all you have to do is flip a switch on the appliance, and you’re good to go. I’ve had these since Christmas of my first year, in 2010, and I’m still getting compliments on my homemade hair.
These are my three babies that go on every trip with me:
Homemade wedding hair exhibit A:
True story: at some point in my relationship with any Spanish person I meet I get the question, “En serio, cómo es que tienes los dientes tan blancos?” (Seriously, how do you have such white teeth?) It is one of the American stereotypes I am willing to deal with–our teeth are usually pretty great. I have plenty of insecurities but I’ll be honest, I love my teeth. My answer to this question, though, is simply that I have used the same toothpaste for years, and the OCCASIONAL white strip. By occasional I mean one like every 3 months, (except for prom season in 2006, obviously). So when I’m home I usually have a huge order of both of these things to bring back, as whitening sessions in Spain cost upwards of 300 euros in the dentist’s office and don’t bring amazing results. In fact, I was there just last week and the hygienist insisted on showing me that my teeth were even whiter than the whitest version they had as a sample in the office. Once again I pimped out Crest’s name and told her I’d bring her some back this Christmas. So, if Crest is something you use, get it before you go. And if Crest isn’t necessarily your thing, check out some research from the professionals about which strips work best!
Get some, get soooooome. By seasoning I mean mostly ranch. If you are a ranch person, stock the F up because there is nothing that compares here. In addition to that I would add any spicy sauces or seasonings that you love from home. Spaniards are not one for spice, so you best bring it along. Sidenote–these ranch packets are perfect because they are dry seasoning you can later make into dressing.
Okay, mom, here is your major shout out. When I left for Spain the first time my mom was CONVINCED I needed to bring half of her Pampered Chef kitchen supplies with me. Of course I thought I knew better, and when I arrived, I knew Mom Logic had won once again. Over the years I’ve slowly brought more and more kitchen things over, mostly because my mom gives me super-insider Pampered Chef discounts, but also because their products are the BEST, and the paring knife is tiny and has saved me so many times in the shitty apartments I’ve been in. I highly suggest brining one along or investing in one when you get here. I also have about ten spices from PC that I’m in love with too.
Standard Spanish pillows are the worst. If you are particular or have neck problems, take your pillow with you.
In seven years I have gone through A LOT of suitcases, so I can say now that I should have gone for the best from the beginning. My two favorites out of all of them are Jeep and Samsonite. Sleek, super light, and incredibly easy to move around.
Yes, the rumors are true. Peanut butter exists in Spain. BUT, it is expensive to boot and the varieties are extremely slim-pickins. If you love a good natural, sugar free, crunchy peanut butter like me, grab a jar or two before you go.
Yessireee, you read that correct. “Feminine products” as my mother calls them, are extremely overpriced in Spain and the selection is very slim. If you have something you like at home, I suggest you stock up.
You’ll be happy you did.
In case you don’t know this yet, bathrooms in Spain are usually pretty dismal. My family and friends have a 5 star scale: 1. Toilet seat 2. Lock on door 3. Soap 4. Toilet paper 5. Paper towel/hand drier. Most bathrooms rarely reach a 3, especially when it comes to hand soap. I have a mini hand sanitizer in all of my purses and backpacks, and my friends love me for it. Here you can get 10 for 20 bucks. What’s not to lose? Germs. Lose germs.
Last one and its another superficial one, but something I would have liked to know before going over. There are plenty of Sephoras all over Spain, but they don’t carry all the same products as the States. Namely, two brands I really like, Laura Mercier , (highlighter hiiiiiiii), and Dr. Jart (Sun and Pollution fluid whoooot). Check the Sephora in Spain website to see if they have your favorite brands before you head out.
I don’t know if it is an English-speaking culture thing or something I was brought up with, but I love sending cards. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduation days, sadly, you’re gonna miss a lot of these while you’re away, but everyone likes a card. Unfortunately, cards in Spain are blllllllleeeeeeakkkkkk. Especially if you want something in English. But if you don’t feel like bringing stationary, though, have a look at my FAVORITE card website ever. It lets you pick out a card, write a message, and send it for the price of the postage. Your total will never be more than 3-5 bucks, and these cards are gorgeous and hilarious.
BONUS: use my code THEMILK15 for 15% off your first order!
Well guys, that’s it! As you can see, most of this stuff is pretty minimal, and can be replaced or taken care of without too much fuss, but I’m a complainer with a blog, so, there you have it. But, if you’re like me and want to be as prepared as possible before you go, I hope this list was helpful!
When you are moving to a new country–one you may or may not speak the language of–you need to get a lot of things under control, and fast. Apartment, bank account, transportation to work, (maybe even a job), your foreign identity card…and somehow try to make friends so you aren’t getting tapas solo. Let me tell you that all of this is a whole lot easier with an internet connection straight from the get-go. Don’t worry about changing your phone to a Spanish number right away, signing up for a phone contract without checking out all your options first, or trying to navigate the struggle that is contracting internet without an NIE. Imagine internet from your first day, without commitments or contracts and being able to get that perfect apartment as soon as you spot it. The great people at WifiAway have you covered. They’ll send you your high speed portable wifi device and when you’re finished you just pop it in the prepaid envelope that comes with it and drop it in the mail. No hassle, no hidden fees, just fast wifi when you need it.
My only question is, WHERE was this when I was running between telephone polls taking numbers for available apartments?