Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear Frau: What should I pack?

Welcome to the fourth edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe your little Frage will be in next week's Dear Frau column.

Dear Frau:

I’m moving from the USA to Switzerland soon. Are there things I should definitely pick up here before moving?


Soon in Lausanne

Dear Soon in Lausanne,

Is Obama the U.S. President? Is Switzerland full of chocolate? Is this blog worth reading? The answer is yes.

Yes, you should definitely pick up things before moving to Switzerland especially if (1) you have a paid move and (2) want to save money.

It’s not that Switzerland doesn’t have stuff, it’s just that the stuff they sell is overpriced compared to its U.S. equivalent. And if you plan to go car-less like me and many expats living here, it makes living great, but buying things a hassle. (This comes from someone who knows hassle—she brings her six-foot Christmas tree home on a Swiss bus every year).

If there are certain non-perishable foods (and let’s be honest, in U.S. grocery stores that’s pretty much all there is) that you crave, make sure to stock up on those.

If you are moving American beds, it might be smart to buy an extra set of sheets because European bed sizes are different and if you soil your sheets, well, you don’t want to end up having to buy an entire new bed because of it.

If you’re a book-a-holic like the Frau, stock up on English books you want to read because they go about $30 a paperback in Switzerland. Planning on traveling around Europe? Buy a few guidebooks in advance. What about a French-English dictionary, n’est pas?

Shoes are another consideration to bring, especially athletic shoes, which in Switzerland can run $150-200 for a basic pair of running shoes. The Frau does not pretend to understand Swiss prices; she just tries to avoid paying them. (She recently discovered that Intersport sells sweatsuits for the reasonable equivalent of $150. Wow. No wonder Swiss people don't wear these things).

Cold/Flu medicine, aspirin, these would all be smart to bring since Swiss colds are nasty and the amount of foreign languages thrown around this little country can often cause headaches.

If you’re not being moved, that sucks but you’ll survive. And paying for a few extra suitcases on the plane may be worth it. Your best bet for affordable furniture in Switzerland is either IKEA or Interio.

Oh, and if you have room in your luggage after all of this, the Frau wouldn’t mind some Reese’s Pieces. The ones her sister brought her last week are almost gone already.

Now the Frau is tired, craving peanut butter (put that on the packing list!), and has run out of ideas. Anyone else have packing suggestions for our soon to be expat? What did you not bring and wish you had?


JuanitaTortilla said...

Peanut butter?!? I found some in Migros! Have you found your peanut butter yet? :D

Chantal said...

Yes. But it's not the same. I like sugar.

Jobove - Reus said...

explendit blog, congratulations
regard from Reus Catalonia
thank you

mrsmac said...

coop had peanut butter, we like it.

cindy's diner or movenpick stores on the highways usually have reeses pieces and cups.

and definitely bring meds but be prepared for them to be searched during transport. so put them where they will be easily accessible to TSA.

Anonymous said...

Yes to the cold/flu medicine! Plus, if you want to bake American desserts, like chocolate chip cookies, bring: as much baking soda and powder as you think you will use before it expires; chocolate chips; brown sugar; and vanilla. You can find all these ingredients here, but they're way more expensive.

Kathy said...

If you take prescription meds in the US, get 3-6 months worth filled to bring with you. A US pharmacy can do this even when the insurance company normally only allows a one-month refill as long as it is for a "vacation." This way you'll buy yourself time to find a doctor here, which is a challenge unless you are fluent in the local language.

You might also want to confirm whether or not your medicine is sold here and check with your doctor in the US on the alternatives.

ExpatAdventures said...

I took the opposite approach: purposefully sold almost everything I owned when I moved here in 2005. It was the best thing I've ever done. Selecting the things that were truly precious to ship over and then only putting into our home things I absolutely adored and needed has been an unexpected bonus out of the adventure.

And I personally think COOP's peanut butter is far better than Migros. ;-)

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

While I do agree about the price of athletic shoes being exorbitant compared to the US, I'd like to stress the fact that there are NO.decent.shoe.stores. in Zurich, so bring all the cute, trendy, fabulous shoes you can get your grabby little paws on, because it may be a while before you see a pair in a shopping window here.

And if you are plus-sized, or above a size 10, stock up on clothes too.

Jul said...

Reeces Pieces have become my favorite treat from the US, too. Strangely I never ate them when I lived there.

Kristi said...

I second the "Coop has good, sugar filled peanut butter". It has a big ole "Product of the USA" stamp on it if we didn't know that already ;)

I second what Kathy said, bring at least 6 months worth of prescription meds.

If you have pets, bring over 6 months worth of flea and heartworm meds, way cheaper than here.

We were like ExpatAdventures, we sold it all and it really prepared us mentally for our new life. I am not saying that preparation didn't include mental anguish, but it really cut the chord so to speak. We now live in an IKEA showroom and it forced us to upgrade from hand me down tube tv's we had in the States, to a brand new flat screen. Life is good :)

Finally, you can get pretty much everything you need here except for junk food. So bring a suitcase of Doritos, Fritos and anything else that ends "tos" if that is your thang.

Chantal said...

Thanks for all the great tips, everyone! The Frau is learning from her own column and hopes others are too!

mrschlosser said...

Not to repeat what everyone else has said, I also stacked up on craft supplies, greeting cards/thank you cards, and Diaper Genie cartridge refills.

Certain spices (chili powder, cream of tartar), powdered beverage mixes, instant oatmeal, food coloring, paper muffin tin liners also made my list.

Many movers don't allow food items in ship containers, so either pre-pack somewhere where they won't see but will still pack or put in your suitcase.

Chantal said...

Greeting cards is a good point. I just stocked up on a bunch in England. Of course they have them here, but they are very expensive ($5-9 a card) and if they're not blank, they're auf Deutsch.

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