expats

The ultimate packing list if you are going to study abroad this year

For many of us, the new school year/semester is coming very fast and very soon. For some of us, a new education year is nothing special - you just have to set the alarm clock back into ‘I have got to get up early’ mode and go to school, college, university or however you want to call it.

However, for some of us starting a new year means more. It is related to moving out of home sometimes into a new city or even into a new country. This is related to getting familiar in a new surrounding and starting a new life where you don’t know where to find the best coffee in town, how to ride the bus or how to speak the language (cheers to all langblrs out there ;) ).

For all of you who belong to the second type of people, I dedicate today’s post. Organizing all the things that are related to such a move and saying goodbye to all your loved ones needs enough energy. You should not spend your time thinking about all the items that you need to pack for the big journey. And for this reason, I provide you with the ultimate packing list if you are going to study abroad this year. If you’re missing something that you would never leave at home reblog this post and add your most important travel gadget/item!

With that being said, travel safely and pack wisely ;)

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Bathroom

  • Bath towels
  • Brush
  • Face wash
  • First-aid kit
  • Flip-flops (in case you have to share your bathroom)
  • Floss
  • Hair straightener (no hairdryer, buy it at your destination)
  • Hand towels
  • Makeup (eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush etc.)
  • Makeup remover
  • Nail products (nail polish, clippers, file)
  • Patches
  • Pain medication
  • Razor
  • Thermometer
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Travel-sized shampoo, lotion, deodorant)

Bedroom

  • Alarm clock
  • Blanket
  • Decoration (e.g. pictures of your friends and family)
  • Earplugs
  • Favorite pillow
  • Mattress pad
  • Pillowcases
  • Sleeping mask

Electronics

  • All of your chargers
  • Batteries
  • Calculator
  • Extension leads
  • Headphones
  • Laptop
  • Smartphone
  • USB stick

Kitchen (buy this stuff at your destination)

  • Favorite candy from home
  • Kitchen scale

Misc

  • Bujo or a traveller’s journal
  • Driver’s licence
  • Extra bags
  • Financial aid information
  • Important addresses
  • Luggage tags with your contact details
  • Medical insurance card
  • Passport
  • Passport photos
  • Travel details & confirmation
  • Travel tickets
  • Visa
  • Water bottle
  • Wallet (Cash, coins and credit card)

Outdoor

  • Coat
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun protection
  • Umbrella
  • Water-resistant boots
  • Water-resistant jacket

Wardrobe

  • Accessories (few, please!)
  • Bottoms
  • Blazer
  • Dress
  • Hoodie
  • Jeans
  • Pajamas
  • Shoes
  • Skirt
  • Socks
  • Sportswear and athletic shoes
  • Sweaters
  • Sweat pants
  • Tops
  • Undergarments

Extra tips

  • Before you overload all of your bags contact your university and try to find out which of the items they will provide. Perhaps there is something like a starter kit they offer so you do not have to carry bulky bed or kitchen items with you.
  • Take only your favorite clothes with you. But there is this fancy dress that you own that one day could look so cool? Leave it at home. You won’t wear it. Period.
  • Don’t take things with you that can be easily bought after your arrival. This includes hair dryers, kettles, flat irons, big bags, stationery, kitchen items etc.
  • In case you want to travel with additional luggage ask your airline before your departure date regarding their conditions. There are airlines that offer an online check-in for your additional luggage or a pre registration. If you take advantage of such offers you can save a few coins.
  • Don’t forget to make a (digital) copy of your most important documents and cards!

My Travel Photo

The Expat Life

Where to go in the Caribbean? Dominica

What a wonderful little island full of friendly people and amazing hikes throughout the tropical rain forests. I can honestly say that out of all the islands I have been to in the Caribbean, the people here are the nicest. 

A MUST SEE!

Check out our fun instagram:

https://instagram.com/sidandiggytravel/

Iggy x

11 strange things about living in Germany.
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Moving to another country is exciting, but challenging. Cultural differences become more visible and you have to adapt to a different way of life. 

Here are the top things I found strange about life in Germany. 

1. Bureaucracy 

I thought Mexico was very bureaucratic, until I lived in Germany. Do you need to open a bank account in Germany? Are you a foreigner? you’ll need two weeks. First you need to ask for an appointment, then submit all the paperwork and wait until every single document, number and statement comes through the mail. Registering yourself at the local office? three days minimum. Germans know this and always complain about it. On the upside: Germans are very efficient and most things will be done right the first time.

2. Nothing is open on Sundays 

In Germany most restaurants, supermarkets and stores are closed on Sundays as most people use this day to relax or be with their family. Most Cafés are open though and there are lots of parks where you can take a walk.

3. Cash only 

The first two weeks I was in Germany I had lots of problems with my bank: I could pay with my card but I couldn’t withdraw cash from the ATM’s. This wouldn’t be a problem in most countries but German businesses rarely accept cards and when they do it is usually an EC Card issued by a German bank. Credit cards are not a big thing in Germany and most stores, bars and restaurants are “cash only”. 

4. People will tell you what to do 

Germans are very forward when giving advice and they will try to make you understand that the best way to do things is "the German way". When Germans are sick they drink ginger tea, so you must also drink ginger tea. Got a zit? rub some German ointment on it. For Germans their cars, beer, technology and everything Deutsch-made is the best (and it kind of is). I got told to “cover up” twice while walking from the gym to my house wearing shorts in the Winter so be ready to get free advice when in Germany. 


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5. Don’t jaywalk 

Germans are very anal about this. Most people will wait until it is their turn to cross the street. If you cross before the Ampelmann turns green, there is a possibility you will be yelled at. It is vital for Germans to set a good example for children so people disregarding order deserves a good dose of public scolding. Just be civil and wait until it is your turn. 

6. Internet censorship 

In 2011 several foreign exchange students received fines for watching porn online ignoring Germany’s strict copyright laws. Streaming video is not always illegal, but still many youtube videos and websites are blocked and downloading illegally can get you fined with a couple hundred euros. 

7. Remembrance

German cities and towns are full of beautiful buildings and monuments honouring historic moments, great people and also victims of Nazi persecution. Signs with the names of the most famous concentration camps with a big “Remember” on top can also be found outside several train stations. Other common sights are the Stopelsteine which are small golden squares found on sidewalks with information of people killed or sent to concentration camps during WWII. 

8. Planning ahead

Germans love to plan ahead. You should have seen the face of my friend’s mom when I told her I had come from Mexico and had not yet found an apartment to live in Berlin. I ended up finding a place a week later but Germans tend to plan everything with lots of anticipation. Germans are not big on being spontaneous and feel more confortable when everything is carefully planned.

9. Beer is everywhere (and is everything) 

Germans love beer. Legal age for drinking is 16 and people can drink just about anywhere: the subway, streets and university cafeterias. It is common to see people sipping beer at 11 a.m. and on the train heading back from work. Broken bottles are a common sight on weekends and passed out people laying in their vomit inside the train becomes part of the occasional scenery after a couple of months (in Berlin). 


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10. Disinfecting food

My friend Valeria who is also Mexican and has lived in Germany for over two years now told me how she looked everywhere for fruit and vegetable disinfectant when she first arrived, but couldn’t find it. Germans don’t use it. Need to wash vegetables? fill the sink with water, throw the vegetables in and stir a little. In Mexico people usually take fruits and vegetables, place them in water and then add some drops of chlorine, iodine or other chemical to disinfect, so that was a strange thing I had to adapt to. 

11. Germans are the nicest people you’ll ever meet

I needed to end the list by saying that Germans are some of the nicest people I have met. The occasional douchebag is present, but Germans will go out of their way to explain things, show you their culture and cook for you. Germans will stuff you with their food, speak English to you when you have trouble getting your point across and buy you a beer when you need someone to talk to. Something I noticed as well is people buying extra loafs of bread for the homeless and young children helping the elderly cross streets, and most of all… Germans are fun! 

Language Nuances You Don’t Learn in a Classroom

Conjugation, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses…is there anything more clinical than learning a language at school? While these are all necessary elements of language learning, real fluency is born from listening to native speakers in their natural element.  

I’m talking about the type of mannerisms and peculiarities even native speakers don’t know about themselves! Sure you can write a 10-page essay in impeccable french, but can you gab with the girls at the hair salon? Here are the five language nuances your teacher won’t teach you. 

1. Inflections 

Languages don’t sound the same. That’s an obvious statement. But even the inflections and vocal tones don’t necessarily translate. For example, in english, depending on the context, we don’t necessarily need to go up at the end of a question. But in french, its essential. I’ve even been told before that even though my american accent is often undetectable, I speak in an american rhythm. I’m not sure what that means but it just emphasizes how these subtle idiosyncracies can make the difference. 

2. Interjections

I always thought interjections were intuitive. Actually, I never thought about them much at all until I moved to France. But I quickly realized that interjections are a learned part of language. If you stub your toe, you’re not going to say “ouch”. You should say “Ouïe”. If you eat something gross, you’ll get quite a few looks if you say “yuck” instead of “Beurk”. Even animals aren’t safe. Ducks don’t quack and pigs don’t oink. One of my classes (embarrassingly) had me imitate the entire animal kingdom because they found the differences so peculiar. At any rate, it’s definitely worth looking these interjections up because they’re a huge part of language. 

3. Facial Expressions

The french are quite facially expressive people. It’s quite entertaining as an outsider and all expats notice this right away. My favorite expression is the dumbfounded look my students give me when they have no idea what I’ve said. They widen their eyes and puff their cheeks like a blowfish…it’s hilarious. You can see that look HERE at 0:49. But what struck me most is how uniform that look is, which indicates that is cultural more than it is individual. 

4. Hand gestures

The french start counting with their thumb instead of their index finger, the “Ok” sign actually means “zero”,  and rubbing your nose means you’re drunk. Hand gestures are definitely cultural. It’s recommended before going to any country to look these up because you may think you’re giving the thumbs up but instead you’ve just started a fight in public. Typically, you won’t find these cultural differences in a textbook. 

5. Idioms 

One day I asked a friend what she thought of this guy she was seeing. 

Her response: “Il est sympa, mais il se regarde le nombril (He’s nice but he looks at his bellybutton). 

My first thought: “….That’s weird” 

What I didn’t know (and didn’t find out until a week later) was that se regarder le nombril is an idiomatic expression that describes someone as egotistical or narcissistic. 

Idioms are a little harder to prepare yourself for because the possibilities are endless and often the expression holds very little indication of what it actually means. However, whenever you hear one try hard to remember it and challenge yourself to use it in another situation. 

101 weird things about living in Germany

To commemorate my 2-year anniversary here, I’ve listed 101 things weird about living in Germany (from a Canadian’s perspective). They are in no special order, only as I came across them in my day-to-day life…

1. Paying for mayo and/or ketchup with your meal
2. Paying for a disposable fork with your meal
3. Sleeping with separate blankets in a double bed
4. Mattress split into two (someone always ends up in the hole)
5. Your pillow is a 80 x 80 cm giant square and you only get one
6. Dogs are allowed in restaurants and stores
7. Dogs are allowed off leash in public areas
8. In the afternoon you see Grannies eating giant bowls of ice cream alone
9. Cake and coffee is an acceptable lunch replacement
10. People love ice cream cones in all weather conditions
11. Opening windows on a hot bus/train or any public place could lead to rude stares or comments
12. Because Fresh air is lethal and can give you bad neck pains
13. Na ? Is a common greeting and you must reply back with Na ? in the tone of how you feel.
14. You do not ask people how they are or they will tell you the truth.
15. You must introduce yourself and shake hands with everyone at a party/get-together. Not doing this will result in awkwardness.
16. Currywurst is a very popular dish with wieners mixed with ketchup and curry.
17. It is common to eat a dinner-sized meal for lunch and only a sandwich for dinner.
18. Walking around with a coffee from Starbucks isn’t cool
19. Grocery clerks sit and don’t bag your groceries
20. You have absolutely no time to bag your groceries and pay, until the next person’s groceries are on top of yours.  
21. Men are more publicly affectionate
22. You have to be able to take criticism and not be offended
23. Rules are rules – their way or the highway.
24. Germans usually keep their social life away from their work life
25. You don’t need a helmet to ride a bike (don’t worry Mom I still wear one)
26. You have to watch out that you don’t get hit by a bike when walking on the side walk
27. You have to pay for a public toilet (but they’re super clear)
28. You may have to pay for a toilet in a bar (don’t worry you can buy an all night toilet pass)
29. You probably won’t have a closet in your bedroom, or much storage at all.
30. Beer is the same price as water at a restaurant
31. You will get rude looks if you ask for tap water
32. And they will probably bring you mineral water anyways and charge you for it !
33. You have to pay the rental agent commission when you find your apartment yourself
34. Germans are always prepared for the weather
35. It’s not acceptable to wear leggings as pants unless doing sports (unless your 15)
36. There will always be someone better dressed than you
37. Most lunch food comes in to-go “noodle box” boxes.
38. Doner is acceptable to eat at all times
39. French fries are called pommes
40. You can’t take a sip of your beverage until everyone has his or hers and you say ‚Prost!’
41. Don’t even think about taking a bite of your food until everyone has theirs
42. A Christmas market is an appropriate place to get drunk with friends
43. Going out in the weekend probably means you won’t be home until 5am-1pm
44. Capirinha is a very popular cocktail
45. Men aren’t afraid to get cocktails together
46. Men have more than one pair of shoes
47. Men probably dress better than you
48. The door key turns the other way to open than in Canada
49. They eat pizza and burgers with a knife and fork
50. They always use a knife and fork when eating (fork in left hand)
51. You’ll have to pay for your food at a restaurant even if it was gross and you didn’t eat it
52. The German language is fun to learn and doesn’t sound angry !
53. Your flat will most likely not have an elevator
54. White Converse are cool always
55. They open presents for Christmas on the 24th evening
56. If you have a statutory holiday on a weekend, too bad - you don’t get an extra holiday in the week
57. Don’t think about crossing the street at a red light
58. How dare you If there is children around
59. You can do a masters for free as an international (many are in English)
60. Potatoes are not a breakfast food
61. Breakfast consists of an boiled egg, fresh buns, meat, cheese and Nutella
62. There are 9 grocery stores within a 1km radius from our place
63. There are over 6 bakeries in a 1km radius
64. There is a towel warmer in your bathroom (awesome in the winter)
65. There is always a soccer game to watch
66. At the hockey games a litre of beer is 6 euro (8 cad)
67. Kale is not a cool trendy food, it’s only cooked with fat and wurst during the Christmas season
68. German TV can be very cheesy, but they love their game shows
69. Windows open from the top and not from the side
70. There is 6 versions of The (Der,die,das,den,dem,des)
71. I think even some Germans don’t get them right
72. The trains aren’t actually always on time
73. Healthcare is not actually free and is very expensive (from a Canadian view)
74. Mixed gender sauna and steam rooms.
75. Being naked just isn’t a big deal
76. You have to Stare at each other in the eye while saying ‘cheers’ (Prost auf Deutsch), or it’s bad luck
77. Fleishsalat – sliced ham with mayo & pickles, common breakfast spread. More delicious than it sounds.
78. It is also popular to eat raw ground beef on bread in the morning (mettwurst)

79. They’re really good at recycling – bottles can be returned at all grocery stores for an easy cash refund
80. You’re not allowed to put your feet on other seats in front of you
81. On your birthday you have to bake your own cake
82. On your birthday you are expected to pay for the drinks
83. Woman’s cake baking skills are on par
84. They’re ridiculously on time, you better be ready.
85. Movies are all dubbed in German, yes James Bond does not have an English accent in Germany.
86. Popcorn is sweet at the movies theatres, butter popcorn does not exist
87. Water is always drunk with bubbles (at first you hate it and then you love it)
88. Men shave their armpits
89. Craft beer is just starting to become cool
90. Everything is closed on a Sunday
91. Sundays are dedicated for long walks and eating in restaurants/cafe’s
92. If you’re a man, single and turn 30 you must find a virgin to kiss, and you have to clean up a mess in front of city hall
93. If you’re a woman, single and turn 25 you receive old boxes (Because you’re an old box ;) )
94. You have to pay extra to have your hair blow dried at the salon
95. Mail comes on a Saturday
96. Credit card Is widely NOT accepted
97. If you don’t have cash you might as well starve
98. When you call a customer service line you have to pay per minute to get help
100. You can take cocktails to go, right from the bar
101. No matter how weird I think things are, they still accept my weirdness and me !

Inspired by Scott Walters post about the UK