7 Practical Things To Pack When Moving To Asia

When we moved to China 7 years ago, I didn’t really search for any specific advice for what practical items to bring. I focused on packing what we already had and thought the rest would figure itself out once there. After all, most of what we buy in Europe is made in China.

And although that did kind of work, I wish I had taken these practical items below along.

By the way, obviously I know Asia is a big place and it makes a huge difference whether you move to Singapore, Bangladesh, Brunei or China. And in a big country like China or India, your exact location will make a difference. It even makes a difference if you’re an expat on an expat package or an expat student or self employed. Because things expats like can be insanely expensive overseas (as they are usually imported).  That being said, you can never go wrong with these 7 (plus 1) items, at least until you’ve figured out where to source them in your new location.

7 Practical Things to Pack when Moving to Asia

1. Over the counter medication

Never underestimate the importance of bringing over the counter medication like paracetamol, iodine, plasters and pills for upset tummies. When you wake up with a splitting headache after a fun night with newfound friends, you do not want figure out where to get paracetamol, let alone its translation into a foreign language.

By the way, if you are dependent on prescription medication, inquire in advance whether it is available in your new location and covered by your international insurance.

2. National Dress

Whether it is because your national traditions take on a new meaning when you live abroad or whether expats love dress up parties, fact is that you will likely have to wear “national clothing” at some point. And so will your kids at International Day at school. So bring along clothes and accessories for these occasions.

3. Spices

The spice trade was one of the first connections between Asia and Europe. However, you may want to bring a pot of your favorite spices in your suitcase. Especially spice mixes or the spices you use to recreate foods from home may be either unavailable or tasting different overseas. And do you know the name translation in the local language?

4. Clothing especially bras

Given that most of the world’s clothing is made in Asia nowadays, you wouldn’t expect that finding clothing that fits would be a problem. However, if you are built bigger than the average Asian or colors like peachy pink or light blue do not suit you, finding nice clothes might be harder than you think.

Even international chains like H&M seem to have different collections in this part of the world. Make sure to bring enough clothes and bras to tide you over until you have a good insight in the local or online clothing situation in your new location (or the address of a great tailor)

5. Non-whitening moisturizer

Many of the facial creams that you buy in Asia (yes, even Nivea) have so called whitening properties. And that’s not the same as a sun protection factor. If you do not want a whiter face, bring your own moisturizing day and night creams.  

6. Comfort foods

A few packs of your favorite candy, mints, or tea can light up a day when nothing goes according to plan. Or plan ahead and take some Easter eggs or Christmas chocolates- whatever is your nearest national holiday. Put some in your suitcase for difficult moments or that special holiday.

7. Air Purifier

I hope you will not need this, but many if not all large cities in Asia struggle with pollution. Sometimes it is seasonal, sometimes it is a daily reality. Even normally blue skied Brunei recently experienced severe haze from fires in the Borneo jungle, as did Singapore, Malaysia and parts of Indonesia. Consider bringing an air purifying machine as local availability may be limited (and bring a spare filter for it too).

And one more practical item: a VPN

If you move to an Asian country where the internet is controlled by the State you may want to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your computer (and phone) before moving. This enables you to bypass blocks on e.g. social media and other websites.


Did I forget anything? What do you wish you had brought when moving to Asia? Put it in the comments.

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