Monday, January 13, 2014

5 Things You Absolutely Must Take to India with You When You Move

I've written a few posts about moving to India, things you can find there, things I missed while I was there and much more. Today I want to summarize 5 things I think are truly important for you to take with you when moving to India (or even staying for an extended visit).

In addition to checking to find out if your favorite brands are available in the Indian city you're moving to, these items are critical to pack. 

  1. Your favorite comfort item. I can't  stress this enough. You will have days where you absolutely cannot stand anything about India. You won't have a reason for feeling this way. You just will. It's critical that during those times you have something to remind you of home. Maybe it's your favorite blanket. perhaps a favorite movie that always makes you cry (because crying is healthy sometimes), or perhaps you want to take a photo of special loved one. If you're not that sentimental, consider taking something that will make you laugh every time you see it, like that stupid goofy tourist statue your grandmother had on her shelf while you were growing up. Mine had one from a popular poem in 1941. It read "Ma loved Pa, Pa loved women. Ma caught Pa with 2 in swimming. Here lies Pa." I still laugh about that statue.
  2. Orthotic flip flops. Yes, you can find 'thongs' all over the place in India, even better brands like Reebok or Nike. However, consider this will be the most worn pair of footwear that you own once you get there. You won't find the brands that are made to last and seriously protect you. You'll be spending most of your time walking on concrete and your body has to absorb all of that shock without them. You can pick up all the colored pairs and fancy flip flops you want after you get to India for going out and looking nice but you want that one really good pair f or running around the house, doing errands and general daily use to save your legs and hips from taking all the abuse they will suffer. It's possible you can find orthotic flip flops in larger cities but the cost will be scary, especially to those of us who are use to $60 vs 3000 Rs. Just the size of the number is hard to stomach.
  3. Taboo and obscure medical and hygiene items. Hygiene in India is different. There will be things you need to learn and no matter how weird, ridiculous, or odd they may sound, many things are worth following. That being said, women should know that certain female sanitary (*cough* tampons *cough*) needs are not yet mainstream in some areas of India. In most areas you can find one type that's not a favorite among most US residents. So if you have a favorite brand and don't want to run into any problems when you can't find a suitable alternative, pack a healthy supply (6 months or more) to take with you.
  4. Copies of every important document you need for travel. Put one copy in each package/suitcase you pack. Take the originals with you in your carry on. This includes your passport and visa pages. This is critical in case anything happens on the trip. You will need the  copies for easier replacement of the items. God willing, it is rare that you will need these but it's imperative you don't leave any chance that you will wind up stranded somewhere. Once you're safely in India, store the copies somewhere safe. A lot of places take copies instead of the real thing and they won't go to waste. You can even carry the copies while leaving your real documents in a secure location. If you think you may need to have any documents certified or registered, do this before you leave for India. It's costly to have the embassy certify documents for you (at last check it was $50 per document and takes quite some time to complete). So make sure you have a certified copy of any marriage licenses, divorce  decrees, custody documents, property ownership, legal papers and anything else that could be important later. Don't trust that you'll get these in the mail quickly or easily later on if you have a relative send them. Take a copy with you!
  5. An open mind and a strong will. Not everything you need is material. No matter what you think India is like, no matter how India was last time you visited, living there is going to be different. Daily life is not what you've read, heard or seen on the internet. It's important to have as few expectations about normal daily routines as possible and to ready for everything to be different than you want it to be. That will make it much easier to see the positive things, learn new things and manage the negative moments. You also need a determination not to let your mind wander around and daydream about how life was in your home country all the time. It will happen, you need to know how to snap yourself out of it or have these daydreams appropriately and then be ready to face the rest of your day without them.

For more reading on your move including what you need to take and what you should be prepared for after getting there, check out some of my previous blog posts:

Pro/Con List
Advice for Pardesi's Moving to India
What's Available in India?
Successful Culture Crossing, For Those Who Want to Blend In
Top 10 Guilty Pleasures that Aren't Destroyed by Cultural Boundaries
Expat Alert! Unexpected Changes when Moving to Another Country


  1. I would like to add towels...
    the ones you buy here are awful!!! I didn't want to waste space in my suitcase with them so bought them here... I have lived to regret it haha! x

  2. That's a good one! I did manage to find a beach-type towel in Amritsar that I thought was okay. However, if you like fluffy thick towels, you definitely want to bring your own. Also, if you like softer varieties or any type of non-generic towel, definitely pack one or two!

  3. Every 2 years I make a trek back to the US to buy-
    underpants (no good undies in India despite Jockey being Indian owned?)
    sweaters (for the brief but chilly winters)
    bed linens (I would like a top sheet, a fitted bottom sheet & a mattress pad thank you!)

  4. I recall your problems with concrete floors. At that time, I found it amusing but then I realized that for a person who is used to carpeted floors, this must be a problem. The same goes for non centrally heated rooms, wet bathrooms and whole lot of other things. These things are insignificant for us because we are used to all these things.

    I gather that you lived in a crowdy neighborhood in Amritsar with all its noise, water and electricity problem. This must be quiet an experience for you. It also remember you talking about a condition called "Cold Feet", where your feet become numb when left uncovered in winters. Could not quiet get it.

  5. Cold feet are literally cold feet. With my thyroid disorder, my body does not stay warm like it is supposed to and my feet get cold really fast and then won't get warm again, even with socks or putting them in front of the heater. It comes from inside of my body. So I have to be careful not to let them get cold to begin with as it could make me get a lot sicker and makes life quite difficult.

    Yes, I did live in the old part of the city and it was semi-crowded. I traveled in much more crowded areas around the city and saw some homes I wasn't sure how people lived in! If they opened their front door, they could touch the house across the road. Talk about crowded! I can't imagine having to pass someone while walking there. :)

  6. I think your medical problems made it more difficult for you while you stayed in India. It does not help when you are sick and it an alien country. Must have been "baptism by fire" for you. I am sure, your husband would have been going through the same experience now that he has left his own country.

  7. Thankfully he's had very little sickness and most of that was self-induced.