Joburg Expat: What's in YOUR (Expat) Suitcase?

August 1, 2016

What's in YOUR (Expat) Suitcase?

Remember those credit card ads that ask: "what's in YOUR wallet?"

I was recently reminded of that line when I saw this picture:

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

It made me want to ask,

What's in YOUR suitcase?


Even though most Brits (and also Australians) I know are VERY loyal to their Marmite, apparently it can become too much of a good thing when well-meaning visitors arrive with armfuls of the stuff for their expat host's pantry. 

Of course not all expats are cut from the same cloth. Even a single ONE of those jars would be one too many in our household. But it's hard to imagine that our family would ever complain about having too many of these:



6.6 lbs of pure joy. Bring it on, people who are visiting us!

It occurred to me that whatever you pack in your suitcase is a dead giveaway of your nationality, more so than anything else. You might adapt to your host country in many ways that allow you to blend in, adopting customs and lifestyles, perhaps becoming fluent in their language. You might be able to pass for a local if you truly love a place, but if forced to open your suitcase after a trip abroad, your true identity would be revealed by its contents.

So, what's in YOUR (expat) suitcase?

Is it five packs of tampons to last you the next two years, because you are extremely loyal to the brand you've used ever since you can remember (only to discover, when those five packs do run out eventually, that the local brand you've been avoiding for years is actually far superior)?

If you're a South African living abroad, I would bet my right arm that I'd find a bottle of Mrs. Balls Chutney nestled between your socks. That and some clandestine biltong - if you can get past what I've heard are biltong-sniffing dogs at certain American airports. As much as I love biltong, my choice of South African import is Woolworth's luxury muesli. If I could, I'd import a year's supply of Cape gooseberries to go with it for my daily breakfast:



Asian expats seem to be particularly partial to their spices. Which is totally understandable because you can't produce such heavenly flavors with just salt and pepper. Just be sure when smuggling your herbs they don't look like a sh*tload of weed.

Personally, what I always put on special order from my Singaporean friend is Chinese sausage or Lap Cheong. No fried rice recipe is truly complete without this delicacy if you've ever had it.



If ginormous jars of artery-clogging Nutella weren't enough, German expats also like to import their oversized Milka and Ritter Sport chocolate bars. If you've ever had it, you'll know why.

I can't remember the purpose of the cucumber. To somehow negate the calories?

How about you? What do you nestle between YOUR shoes and toiletry kit, wrapped in some dirty underwear to serve the dual purpose of extra padding as well as warding off prying customs officials? 

Or perhaps you don't do any of these things. That's the good thing about globalization, Donald Trump's shouting notwithstanding: In this day and age, you can pretty much get anything anywhere in the world without paying a huge premium.

But in a way that's also a sad development, as it makes the world less interesting. Part of the fun of living abroad is discovering new delicacies and merchandise, and then scheming the rest of your days how to get your hands on it when you're no longer there.

Something gets lost when there is no more scheming. I wonder if people from communist countries ever reminisce about the old days when they had to stand in line days on end whenever rumors flew that a rare batch of hand soap had arrived?

So, even if nowadays you can find it on any shelf in the far corners of the Earth, I will never stop packing jars of Nutella in my suitcase.


A beautiful sight in the Godforsaken town of Helmeringhausen in Namibia, just
South of the Tropic of Capricorn. Although an even more beautiful sight that day
was the lone garage. Find out why in Travel in Namibia.

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