So you got a job in Thailand, you’ve booked your flights, you’ve said your goodbyes, and accommodation is ready.
You are all set. You just need to pack.
I can pack for travelling, it is easy. I know exactly where I am going and what I am likely to do there. Pack a season. Pack for sports. Pack for adventure. You basically pack essentials with a couple of luxuries (hello Nintendo DSi).
I have packed for umpteen holidays; I have packed a few times for long travel.
Twice I have packed to live. First time in 2010 for South Korea and then 2011 for Thailand. Each time I got there and thought ‘Sh*t, I should’ve brought…’
Are you moving to Thailand? Here are some quick tips to pack in that sack.
Tip 1 – Check your baggage allowance. Exceed it!
Being British I tend to get a 20kg allowance, add 10% pack 22. You’ll be fine. When I first went to Korea I foolishly only packed 13 kilos. I took my backpack thinking I would do a bit of travelling. I was wrong.
You get hand luggage allowance of 7kg. Use it. Pack 8kg.
Your laptop is separate from your hand luggage; sneak a couple of magazines in your laptop bag.
Tip 2 – Do some research on what you need to bring.
If you are teaching speak to the teachers at your school. I packed a lot of smart clothes for Korea, I assumed that being a teacher I would be expected to wear a shirt and a tie. In fact I was only expected to wear those clothes 3 or 4 times a year. As long as I didn’t wear flip flops it was fine. Even my tattoo on my leg wasn’t an issue when I wore shorts in school. Remember I only packed 13 kilos? What a waste of space.
On the flip side, in Thailand you are expected to wear a shirt and tie. Did I bring this stuff to Thailand? No, I didn’t. There are countless tailors in Bangkok who can make quality bespoke smart clothes for the price of off-the-rack back home.
Tip 3 – What is the country famous for?
There is a famous joke in Thailand that The Land of Smiles has three seasons; hot, hotter, hottest (555). The joke is not wrong. For maybe 2-3 weeks in January it is pleasant to walk outside in Bangkok, to take a stroll in Lumphini Park or haggle for stuff you don’t need at JJ market. However it doesn’t mean you can’t wear shorts. I can comfortably wear shorts all year round.
Bangkok is also famous for being cheap; you can buy anything at JJ Market cheaply. In the abundant supply of shopping malls you can buy higher quality clothes cheaply. I have been in Bangkok for 2 years now and the only original items from my maiden voyage into South East Asia all the months ago are some hiking socks, Lilo and Stitch pants (from Korea Assar!) and some hiking trousers. My Asics running shoes were recently retired after a trip to Khao Yai. Take away two things from this paragraph – 1: I don’t do much hiking and 2: Clothes wise you can get everything you need out here.
Korea is different to Thailand in that it has 4 seasons, although when you are there it won’t feel like it. Summer and Winter are the two dominant seasons, Spring and Autumn are there but they are overshadowed by their bigger meaner brothers. Think of Spring and Autumn as announcers of the imminent arrival of Summer and Winter.
In Korea you can hike, even if you don’t like hiking you should go once to see what the older generation wear when they go hiking! So unless you already have a decent pair of hiking boots you can buy a quality product there.
I want to say Koreans are stylish or fashionable, but I don’t share the adoration that the Thai youth has. When it comes to fashion Koreans are avant garde, but to me the best adjective is brave; I once went on a second date with a Korean wearing a Super Mario Bros. knitted jumper and bow tie. But then on the fashion cline I am probably more Marks & Sparks than Spencer than American Apparel.
Tip 4 – What are the essentials?
In Thailand it is shoes, in Korea it is deodorant.
The majority of Asians are likely to be shorter, leaner and thinner than you, and in my opinion prettier or more handsome too ; )
Don’t be offended when a gimgilbang (Traditional Korean sauna) attendant offers you a XXXL shirt and trousers combo to wear (wow, thinking about it after 2 years doesn’t make me cry anymore).
Koreans pride themselves on being the tallest Asians, and from my experience it is probably true. And like all nationalities they have some fatties so chances are you can find some clothing that fits. It is a developed country with a huge expat crowd so you can buy imported goods too ($20 for a lump of cheese!)
The one thing you will likely struggle with is deodorant, these guys simple do not need it. I got by, I stocked up during my visit to Thailand and I did manage to find some in the shops in Seoul.
In Thailand the biggest shopping stress I have is shoes. I will always without fail throw a tantrum while shopping for shoes. When I put on the 6th pair of beautiful _ _ _ (insert ANY shoe type here) and the sales girl starts to laugh I immediately grab my figurative rattles and Tonka trucks and take aim at OJ’s head (bless ‘im).
My feet are average length; a UK size 9 (size 10 if I am bowling with friends). But my feet are wiiiiide. A UK size oh-my-god-your-feet-are-so-wide-they-won’t-fit-in-the-machine-to-measure-the-wideness-of-your-feet.
So, on trips home to England I always stock up on shoes; smart and casual. Also 100% cotton socks as in the UK you get cotton socks with cartoon characters on. In Thailand you can get tofu coloured and shaped like a clown fish, but socks here are serious business and are either white or black or very expensive. Note – I do have my Super Mario trainer socks still from Seoul, they’ve been with me since the beginning too.
Tip 5 – What’s your MVP (most valuable possession)?
For me, it’s my Kindle. I love books. I love collecting books. Most of all I love reading books. I recently converted to a Kindle and I couldn’t find one in Bangkok over the counter. I found a website where I could collect one from someone, somewhere. I decided it would be easier and cheaper getting my parents to buy it and ship it to me.
To some up, packing for a year abroad shouldn’t be a stressful experience. With a few exceptions everything can be bought in the country you are heading to e.g. If I am willing to spend $10 for a small jar of Marmite I can Marmite.
I do wish they would make decent white chocolate here though, and why of all the countries I have been to, only the UK and Australia realize that salt and vinegar is the best of all crisp flavours?
What about you? Are you working in Thailand and thinking about other career options? When is it time to leave Thailand? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
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