Expat: What do you buy when you go home?

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As soon as we decided to make a trip back home, the list started. Not the packing list, the shopping list… The list of favourite things that I can’t get in the US, that I just have to buy when I’m home!

When we moved, I stocked up on things I thought I would struggle to replace. I have sensitive skin and I worried about the change in environment, water, cleaning products etc. and didn’t want to add face creams and make up on to that list. I didn’t know what products I’d be able to buy in the US, or if the formulations would be the same.

The first time we went home, this time last year, my list was pretty long! I was just starting to run out of my stocks of my favourite products :) And, there were several things that I had discovered you just couldn’t buy, like minty toothpaste for under eights. I don’t know about you, but I can’t quite bring myself to give my children toothpaste that tastes of sweets…

Although, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the Olay products that I use, along with Boots No.7 (yes, really!) for sale in Target, there are a couple of specific things I can’t get.

So, my list looked like this:

No.7 Lift and Luminate Foundation; Olay Regenerist flawless skin cream (SPF 30); Olay Total Effects day cream, with a touch of foundation; Charles Worthington leave in conditioner; Sainsbury’s decaf tea bags; Sainsbury’s veggie Omega 3; Bepanthen; Nappy sacks; kids minty toothpaste; Calpol sachets; Bisto gravy (it’s veggie!); Nivea Essential Care lipsalve; Garnier roll-on concealer (extra fair); M&S underwear…

A slightly random selection, but there you go :) I’m a creature of habit!

This year… Well, to be honest, the list looked much the same (minus the Olay tinted moisturiser, as I have found similar Olay product; and the CW leave in conditioner, as I still have loads left!). A friend in the US did add Blu Tack to it, apparently the US formula just isn’t as good, so I brought a few packs of that back too!

I am now home, with most of the above :) I added a box of oatcakes to the pile and I’m gutted that I forgot to buy my Bisto…

On top of my ‘essentials’ list I do of course buy clothes! I have found it difficult to find trousers that fit me the US, so a couple of pairs found their way into my bag. I also like to buy clothes for the kids, particularly the wee girl, as it’s nice for them all to have some tops that aren’t being worn by every second child :) Trips to Boots, Marks & Spencer and Next are a must.

I did one huge shopping trip on our last day in Dublin, and the results looked like this:
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Although, one of those bags does have some bits and pieces that my mum bought for the kids too… Because that makes it look so much less excessive!

For me, part of feeling at home is having familiar things around me, and that extends to cosmetics. It’s hard enough when everything around you is new, without adding the stress of finding a new favourite foundation…that doesn’t bring you out in blotches! It took me years to find products that I liked and wasn’t allergic to; so I will remain a creature of habit and go on a major shopping spree whenever I am home.

And, it’s difficult to beat M&S underwear :)

What do you buy when you go home (or take with you on holiday)? What are the products that you just can’t live without?!

[Update 13 November 2014: Having just returned from a quick trip home for my grandmother’s 100th Birthday Party I thought this was an appropriate post to link up with the lovely Chantelle from Seychelles Mama, for her Expat Family linky. I got back late last night, with a suitcase full of many of the above items…]

Seychelles Mama
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38 thoughts on “Expat: What do you buy when you go home?”

  1. Tea bags and ketchup. Condiments of all sorts, really! We spend a lot of time in Italy, and it’s also hard to find (afford!) aptamil over there so when the boy was younger we’d take it from the UK. Also baby food in Italy is REALLY weird – minced horse anyone? :)

    1. Ewww! No thanks :) It’s funny the things that you find you can’t get, or really miss! When the kids were smaller, formula was on my list too!

  2. I always give a list to my husband when he goes to London on business! Sadly one of the things I include is sweets as it’s almost impossible to get any in US with natural colours and flavourings. #pocolo

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. I’m based in Aberdeenshire so I’ve a few friends who are in a similar situation to you – and I know how excited they get about coming home (for the shopping and more!). Hope you didn’t get charged for excess baggage on the return trip ;-) #PoCoLo

  4. I buy clothes when I visit family back home. Aside from being cheap, I like to support local brands and like you mentioned, it’s nice to be surrounded with familiar stuff :) #PoCoLo.

    1. That’s a good point, although I don’t imagine M&S need my support! But, I do like to have some familiar things, make it all a bit easier x

  5. When I first worked in France I used to get my parents to bring over white sliced bread and salt & vinegar chipsticks! I actually found though that the longer I was away the less I missed stuff.

    1. I actually miss a lot less than I thought I would but there are a few things that, when I get the opportunity, I make a beeline for :)

  6. Im also a creature of Habit.. I like my things!… My friend moved to Germany as her husband was in the army, and when there popped back home there would often buy the stuff there couldn’t get over there :D #PoCoLo

    1. It’s funny how attached to certain things you are, although I suspect with me it is as much about a feeling of familiarity and comfort than the actual products xx

  7. I can completely relate to this because we do an annual trip to India, and with a toddler, our baggage is always overflowing!

    1. Absolutely, you really can’t beat M&S – I’m quite relieved to discover that they now ship overseas, but it’s not quite the same as having a good old wander :)

  8. It’s so funny the things you take for granted and, when you move away, you can’t get them. My ex’s brother married an American and whenever we went over we had a huge list of things to bring! You are right about M&S!! thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  9. I read that post with a big smile on my face! :) I do the opposite of you…but I’ll give you the M&S,my mum used to make sure she got a stopover at Gatwick or Heathrow just because she could buy M&S lingerie…and that’s back in the ’80’s! :) There are a few things you always crave from back home, even if there’s a very viable option wherever you are. If I leave the UK, I’ll be making sure that Soreen Malt Loaves make up 20% of my baggage allowance! :P xx

    1. Thank you :) Oh, Soreen Malt Loaves, I’d forgotten about them :) It is funny the things that you miss, and even when you can get a very good alternative it’s just not quite the same!

  10. Michelle Reeves (bodfortea)

    When we lived in China I always stocked up massively when we came home for the holidays. Marmite and M&S were MUST HAVES! (I wrote a little guest post for Circus Mums about what I missed recently…http://circusmums.com/2014/09/bod-for-tea-expat-china/). Over time though my list got shorter and by year 4 I was really only getting cosmetics because it was such a pain packing everything to come home again!

  11. This is such a great expat post. Despite having barely lived in UK like for ever, I still require marmite! If I go over by car I also stock up on plenty of things like Original Source shower gel and Vanish stain remover as products like that are waaaay cheaper in UK than France. But probably my main thing is bras…I’m just too big for French bras so a trip to Bravissimo is always a pleasure whenever I’m in England! (Oh and FatFace, The White Stuff, TK Max and Primark!!!…which I’ve heard may be coming to Nice!!)

    1. Ah yes, bras – I’m the same, have completely failed to find any here in the US, always on my list for the UK :)

  12. Good list Sara!!! Cosmetic things were definitely high on my priority list too!!! It’s amazing how savvy you become at packing as an expat isn’t it :)
    The blue tac thing is totally true, I remember my mum always saying that when we lived there!
    A dirty indulgence for me was a pot noodle (although I didn’t bring any back here with me haha!)
    Hope you’ve had a wonderful trip back in the UK! Bet it’s lovely to be back in the us with your family now though :) Thank you for linking up this post for #myexpatfamily xxx

  13. Obagi face creme and I can’t believe I’m about to publicly admit this….Cheetos ;) the rest I’ve figured out! Sometimes it’s just nice to have a bit from home you know? I’m about to pack to go away for a few months and am taking a bath towel and my fav coffee mug, a little comfort from home x

  14. I have become pretty easy going – I can never get everything I want in the country I am living in so have to get used to finding a suitable replacement, make what I want from scratch or just go without. When I am back in the Netherlands I love to eat kroketts, and liquorice. In the UK I love gammon and red leicester cheese. I cannot get foundation in Sarawak as they do not stock a shade light enough so family pick the correct shade up for me in duty free. Someone will be bringing me a baby monitor as well – only very expensive ones are available here and I just want something cheap and cheerful. Clothes and stuff – I can usually find stuff for kids wherever we are – stuff for me I get mail order if there is nothing suitable where we are living and family bring them out when they come to visit. My husband we buy for in the UK – they do not stock his size routinely in Malaysian outlets.

    1. I think there are some things that you will always need to buy elsewhere, but my list is definitely getting shorter :)

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  16. An expat ALWAYS has an essential import list :-)
    In mine, Whole Earth, no added sugar Peanut Butter; yorkshire tea or Tetley; Aussie Miracle leave in conditioner :-) …Always clothes for the kids; kids activity books (4-5 times more expensive in Sweden); craft supplies… If I have any space left at all…
    Sometimes sausages & bacon!!!
    Haha.
    #MyExpatFamily

  17. We haven’t been here in Australia enough to miss things too much yet, but I know when I go home fish and chips will be on the top of my list! And probably lots of shopping in department stores like Debenhams. I’m sure there are similar stores over here but there isn’t the same sort of high st here and you have to drive to big shopping complexes so I haven’t discovered all of the stores yet. I do actually like that there are smaller, independent shops but I think it’s the big chains I’m missing most. Happy shopping!

  18. One of the thing that I have manage to love from here is the M&S undies! Amazing fit! I havent gone home for 4 years now but I get my home product fix from Asian Stores thats all over the UK. SO glad cuz I dont know what Id do without them. Saying that there are things that I need to get home too. Pyodontyl toothpaste is think and it heals gum problems like no other. Iodine feminine wash and mouthwash. Im telling you this products are the best. My toner. Formulated by my dermatologist. Sigh. I wish I can go home right now cuz they are essentials that I dont have here. #MyExpatFamily

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