Woohoo, you’re moving to France! Now it’s time to pack and your head is spinning… so much to bring… suitcases seem so small. Ahhh, I feel you. That was me back in the day. It’s easy to find packing lists online all about what to pack when moving to France, but what about all the things you do NOT need to pack? That list is harder to come by, so let me whip one up for you. To maximize the space in your luggage, let’s get into my list of what NOT to pack when moving to France.
What NOT to pack when moving to France
If you’re like me and moving to France on your own with just a couple of suitcases and that’s it, space is at a premium and this list of what not to pack is for you. Leave everything I’m talking about here at home and travel light because you either won’t need the things I mention or you can get them easily in France after you arrive. Several of them apply to visiting France as well for a short vacation even if you aren’t planning on moving.
When and if you leave France, the resale market is always hot and it’s easy to buy and sell stuff on Le Bon Coin or FB Marketplace.
If you really need to move with a ton of things or have to send more clothing items later as the seasons change, I highly recommend the luggage shipping service SendMyBag, which I reviewed here. While you can’t send food, personal items like clothes and shoes are fair game and you can ship an entire suitcase affordably (no customs fees), not to mention quickly since luggage is shipped via DHL. This is a great option to save money on baggage fees and save yourself from lugging a ton of luggage onto a train or bus.
Small appliances like hair dryers and straighteners. I learned this one the hard way when my $200 American hair straightener caught on fire. Yes, I’m serious. Thankfully, I was sitting right next to it when it started shooting out flames but what shocked me was that it wasn’t even powered on yet, just plugged in. YIKES!
Even with a converter and adapter, certain appliances just can’t function on European power due to the difference in hertz. Only use electronics like computers that have built in converters and don’t require an external one to be on the safe side. It’s not worth the risk!
English language books. Aside from what you’re taking to read on the plane, there’s no need to pack a bunch of English language books. You’ll be able to find them on Amazon France or have them shipped for a reasonable price from the Amazon UK site. Save that suitcase space for something else! A Kindle is your friend here. 😉
Perfume. Perfume is big business in France and you can pop into Sephora after you arrive to pick up your favorite scent. Heavy perfume bottles are best left home. Maybe you’ll discover a new go-to when out shopping the popular French brands. I love the Givenchy Ange ou Demon Le Secret and currently wear a fragrance from Goutal that I didn’t even know about when I lived in the USA.
American food. OK, maybe you’ll squeeze one or two of your favorite things into your suitcase for a taste of home, but my advice is to leave all of your favorite American food products behind. In the time I’ve lived in France, more and more things have become available here including items like peanut butter and even Reese’s peanut butter cups from time to time.
What can’t I get? Regular Cheerios (not honey flavored or other sugary varieties), Crystal Light, and Kodiak Cakes pancake mix.
Clothes you rarely wear. I know you love that pink sequin top for New Year’s and those high-heeled boots that are hard to walk in look fab with a skirt, but honestly leave all your barely worn special occasion clothes at home. If you rarely wear the piece at home and can’t remember the last time you put something on, leave it behind because you’ll wear it even less often here.
Instead, focus on versatile pieces (this is one of my favorites) you can mix and match. If you’ll have a need for formalwear, bring something classic you can wear at a variety of events.
Toiletries. Not only do they add weight to an already busting-at-the-seams suitcase, but toiletries like shampoo and lotion are prone to leakage from the air pressure when flying. The minute you open them once you’re on the ground, you’ll discover half the bottle is all over the inside of your toiletry bag (or will shoot out when you open it).
You can get mainstream personal care products here and the only item that falls into the exception category is Secret deodorant. The French ones just don’t seem to cut it. French toiletry brands are great overall, though. Hit up the pharmacy when you get here! (and check out my behind-the-scenes video at a French pharmacy here)
American sheet sets. While it’s tempting to bring American bedding which is much more affordable and comes conveniently packaged with a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillowcases, French beds have different dimensions so your sheets won’t fit properly.
American queen-size mattresses measure 60 X 80 inches and a French queen-size mattress is 63 X 78.7 inches (160 X 200 cm). It’s close and you can make it work, but obviously French sheets in the right size fit better.
I have a couple of sets of American sheets here for our queen-sized bed but the fit is off and the sheets thin in the corners due to being stretched, so learn from me and leave ’em behind!
Expensive jewelry. Beyond your wedding ring and maybe a few favorite pieces, leave your expensive jewelry home in a safe deposit box — that goes double if it’s particularly flashy and/or you’ll only be in France for a year or two. You don’t want to risk losing it as you travel all around France and Europe and definitely don’t want to be a target for a thief. Keep in mind some US-based jewelry insurance policies won’t cover stolen, damaged, or lost pieces when you’re abroad. Still want to accessorize? Costume jewelry is your friend.
Furniture. OK, furniture can’t fit in a suitcase so if you’re packing light this won’t apply, but even if you’re sending your things via cargo, think twice before shipping furniture. You can get what you need here. Unless you’re moving to France permanently and have a good reason for shipping large pieces of furniture (like an employer is paying for it both ways), leave it home in storage. One, it can arrived damaged (so get insurance), incur huge customs fees upon entry, and things like bed frames won’t be the right size for French mattresses. Family heirlooms are best left behind. It’s a headache you’ll want to avoid and save for things like the French bureaucracy and the language barrier. 😉
When you moved to France, what do you regret packing? Talk to me!
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