Every spring I like to make a list of stuff that I need to bring overseas with me for the new school year. This is especially important in Venezuela where there are so many shortages. Also, one needs to keep in mind the fact that unless you are extremely lucky or you are flying in from outside of the US, you will most assuredly only have two checked pieces of luggage to work with (and they won’t let you pay for extra weight either).
Part of me wants to mail some things here once I’m home so they will have arrived by the time I get there in August. That is even trickier because you have to think carefully about what might make it through greedy customs people. Some people have been able to receive packages from iherb.com (mine didn’t ever arrive) and I’ve had luck mailing stuff with Garkan, but it is not cheap, nor is it guaranteed that things will arrive in a timely manner (if at all).
On to the list!
School attire is pretty business casual here: khakis, long skirts, capris, round neck t-shirts, polos, short sleeve button ups are always popular for guys (no tie necessary for day-to-day). Maybe a cardigan and long sleeve shirts if you have a good AC in your classroom (unlike mine). We learned this year that v-neck t-shirts are frowned upon, but round neck t-shirts are fine.
Casual clothes: jeans are really popular, skirts, dresses, adults don’t wear shorts that often here, bathing suits (the beach is only half an hour away), tank tops, workout clothes (the gym is basically across the street for most of us). Maybe a cardigan or light jacket for a restaurant that has good AC.
Dress up clothes: we are basically required to dress up for Halloween so bring a costume (students love seeing us in costumes). A couple of events require nicer clothes (parent teacher social, graduation and first communion parties).
Shoes: women here love high heels (not at school, though)- you can find plenty (cheap versions) of those if you are a size 8 or smaller. If you want anything of quality you should bring it. Just make sure you have sandals that have an ankle strap for work and you should be fine.
Unless the teacher before you was excessively lazy, you should have one of the most well-stocked classrooms you have ever seen- especially if you are coming from the US where teachers have to pay for many supplies out of pocket. Only bring stuff for your classroom that you really can’t live without. My classroom has a bazillion posters and borders and a wall full of picture books. I like to bring fancy pencils & erasers for presents/prizes.
Kitchen: The school generally gives you one small pot and pan, dishes, and silverware. I highly suggest that you bring at least one good knife or a set of knives (these are the ones I have and love!). Whatever I’ve bought here has been more expensive and of a lower quality than I would find back home. Other good miscellaneous items to remember are a can opener, wine opener, and specialty baking stuff if you like to bake.
Coffee Maker/French Press: I love my French Press! I still have not seen a coffee maker for sale in a store during the past four years that I’ve been here.
Shampoo /Conditioner (there is a dollar off coupon for both!): I have not seen any shampoo or conditioner (of any kind) sold in any stores this school year. The ones I’ve been buying from the street market have been watered down and leave my hair feeling greasy (but perhaps part of the problem is due to the gross water that I don’t have a filter for). I would bring at least three bottles of each (or at least one big bottle of each).
Soap/Bath Gel: I’ve not seen this available in stores either. You can find bars of soap in the street markets but I would bring at least one or two bars just in case. If you like bath gel then you better bring that because I haven’t seen it at all this year.
Razors: bring enough for half a year. Occasionally I see them in the street market.
Deodorant: sometimes you can find roll-on Venezuelan deodorant in the street markets. Bring a couple just in case… it is hot and I don’t want to smell you.
Shower filter: because the water these days is pretty brown and is leaving my eyes red after showering. Any extra filtration would help.
Dry shampoo: for those days that the water isn’t working in the shower. Sadly, this is a fairly common thing this year. I really like this one.
Hair spray: if you like gel you can find that, but I never see hairspray (but I can’t say that I’ve really searched for it either).
Makeup: If you like wearing makeup you need to bring it with you because the shelves are basically bare in that department. Remember to bring your mascara, powder, BB Cream (addicted to this stuff and have NEVER seen ANY BB creams here), eye shadow, blush, everything. They do have some cheap nail polish here, though. Women here like to dress up. I feel like I need to wear makeup even to go to the street market at 7AM on a Saturday so I don’t get stared down.
Perfume: you give lots of hugs and kisses here; you should smell nice while you do it. You can find perfume places here, though- you will just pay more because it is imported. My current fave is La Vie Est Belle by Lancome.
Queen size sheets: the school provides some scratchy poorly fitting sheets. I like to have at least two sets so that one can hang dry (most apartments don’t have dryers unless you buy it from the previous owner).
Blanket/Comforter: I suppose it is hot enough that you don’t really need them, but a bed just seems weird to me without one.
Over the door hooks: I love using these to provide extra storage space for purses, belts, and other stuff I can hang up.
Candles: the power goes out a lot here and maybe they will provide a little romance one day? You can find basic candles here, but not the nice smelling ones that you find everywhere back home. I want this one to use while I’m working on report cards!
Misc: Bring whatever makes a place feel like it is home for you.
Pictures: I love to print pics of my family, friends, and place that I’ve traveled and hang them on my apartment walls with Blu-tack. Once I have pictures up it starts to feel like home.
Laptop: for doing schoolwork and to use for entertainment when your electricity is out. I have a MacBook Pro (that died earlier this year) and a MacBook Air, but lots of people got simple Acer type netbooks because nobody here works on Apple products.
Favorite movies: put them on an external drive or just bring your favorites, we need to create our own entertainment
External battery: again, with nearly daily blackouts it is good to have extra juice
Pocket Projector: I think all of the teacher apartments here come with a small old- school non-flatscreen tv. I tried to get rid of mine because I don’t use it and it takes up space- the owner said no. haha. I use a projector to watch movies and tv shows that I stream so that I can enjoy the show with friends. I like the small size of the pocket projectors, but some friends have some full-size projectors (they probably don’t bring 54 oz of coconut oil though)!
Travel Mug: I wake up an hour before I leave for work and yet I never finish my coffee before I leave for school. I love my Contigo West Loop!
Kindle– it is so nice to be able to travel with so many books in such a lightweight manner
Kindle Unlimited– new books in English are unheard of here. You can hit up the secondary library if you like, but if you have a Kindle why not pay $10 a month to get unlimited books?! Usually, Amazon has free 30-day trials.
Laundry detergent pods: the detergent here is fine when you can find it. I would just grab a bag of these to use in case you can’t find detergent. I have friends who bring enough for the whole year.
Tea tree oil: this stuff is good for so many things. You need an all purpose oil like this when you can find so little here in the stores. Last summer I bought some expensive Doterra oil, but I used it so much that I think I will try out this larger, much cheaper bottle.
OTC Medication: Benadryl, Excedrin, Nyquil, and Pepto and/or Tums
DivaCup: the best invention ever, especially in developing countries like Venezuela where you might only find tampons/pads once a year. One little silicone cup (for $26 that can be used for a few years) or 10 months’ worth of tampons/pads (for about $100 and would take up tons of luggage space)?
Curtains: to block out the bright Venezuelan sun after too many Cuba Libres the night before. I didn’t bring these, but I have friends who did. I just hang an extra sarong across my bedroom window; not cute, but functional.
Games: I brought Cards Against Humanity, plenty of normal cards, and Phase 10, other people bring video games. Whatever keeps you busy without using electricity is a smart buy in my mind.
If you really love it and don’t want to live without it, then you should bring it because everything is getting harder to find these days.
Peanut butter: I love this stuff and I bring back at least two large jars of the stuff from Costco every summer. One jar of peanut butter sold for $25 at a teacher auction last month. It is a hot commodity here.
Coconut oil: you can find it in pint size jars for about $8 a jar but there are no details on the jars saying if it can be used with food or should just be applied topically. I usually bring one large 54oz jar each summer.
Chocolate: you can find very waxy milk chocolate here and very occasionally a good dark chocolate. I have a friend who’s mom mails her boxes of chocolate using normal USPS mail, but they melt on the way and have been heavily picked through by the time they get to her. Pack accordingly.
Coffee: I love to bring coffee at home and mix it with the local coffee. The first two years I was here I found excellent coffee that was grown in Venezuela, now that is exported or no longer produced because the coffee here now is pretty weak. Also, if you like coffee flavoring (or flavored coffee) bring that. There is no coffee creamer either. I’m a coffee addict- don’t judge!
Milk powder: you can’t always find milk (fresh or boxed). Sometimes you can find evaporated milk that you can dilute or powdered milk, which you can mix up. Bring one container of milk powder just in case.
Green Tea: you can brew it cold here and it is delicious. I get one of these from Costco every summer to bring here.
Baking soda/baking powder: if you want to bake you need these things most of the time. Baking soda is also good for SO MANY THINGS. You can buy these things here occasionally on the street in two tablespoon packs.
Car-starting battery packs: car batteries are hard to find here and so are people with jumper cables.
Bright headlights: it seems like the majority of the streetlights here have stopped working or that they are few and far between. This combined with the giant pot-holes make headlights very important. Too bad you can’t find new headlights here!
Conclusion: I am sure I will think of more things, but these are things that I am definitely going to make sure that I put in my suitcases this summer!
Comment Below: What are the things that you bring with you on your expat adventures?
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