April 24, 2014

U Is for Underwear

One of the problems with changing countries is the unavailability of things you consider to be line items in your budget “back home,” wherever that was.

Specific food items figure largely on this list. Ask any Brit in the US about Cadbury chocolate. They will go far afield to search for the actual imported Cadbury bars and Creme Eggs instead of the ones produced Stateside. Why? Because they actually do taste different. 

Argentinians miss their mom’s chimichurri, Peruvians go on about the wonderful peppers they use in their various sauces, Spaniards reminisce about jamón, and the French miss their wonderful cheeses. And so on. While we all manage with local products, we search out and save the stuff we miss for special treats and on holidays. 

But it isn’t just food products. Aluminum foil is different, so are the Zip-lock type bags. Vegetable peelers, can openers, all the little stuff. And if you thought Tupperware was expensive in the States, try buying it abroad. Ouch! 

In South America the expats “mule” in the food stuff, plus their favorite brands of towels (although we can find good ones here) and, especially, bed linen. 

I have a question: If most of the bed linen for the international market is made in India, WHY are the sheets in other countries so scratchy? They cost the same as the Target house brand, they are made in the same country, but they are so harsh and nasty. Anyone who comes to visit seriously has to make room for a set for their friends.

Additionally, if you are tall, broad, or in any way larger than the local population, buying shoes and clothing in Asia or Latin America can be a challenge, to say the least. While you can find tailors to duplicate your outerwear (they just use your worn-out wardrobe as patterns), underwear is a completely different story.

Photo by Dimitris Petridis
So strategies are put in place. If you have a friend going back to the US or one coming down for a visit, they become your mule (conversely, you eventually will be theirs). I have bought bras, underpants for me and my husband, socks, men’s shirts, and shoes and had them shipped to a US address convenient for the mule. I have brought in condiments and Marks & Spencer bras and men’s underwear for a Brit couple, good tea for another friend, instant pudding mixes for an Ecuadorian who used to live in the US, and Target sheets and Body Shop lotion for someone else. 

The rule seems to be: If you are going abroad, you allot ten percent of your luggage for muling; then check your circle of friends and help them out. 

Because we all know that uncomfortable underwear, makes for a REALLY BAD DAY!

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  1. So very, very true!! I have already shipped a couple hundred dollars worth of "stuff, including clothes" to hubby's oldest daughter's house. He'll be muling it back to us in June.

  2. Ten percent of my luggage ... :) Okay, maybe for very good friends.
    Kidding, I've done it many a times, usually for relatives, some good friends, too. Muling away.
    Silvia @