Jumping for joy @ Tinamen Square, Forbidden City in the Background
Hairstyle: Single Braids
Have you been assigned to oversee a company project in a foreign country? Or been admitted to a graduate program in your dream country? Or maybe you’re more like me and simply seeking a new adventure in another part of the world. Whatever your reason for packing up and going to live in another country, let me first congratulate you for being bold enough to leave your friends and family behind for the an unknown and foreign land.
With last minute language classes, shopping, research and farewell parties, preparing for the expat life can be quite daunting. The good news is that most people who have experienced the expat life (including myself) will tell you that it is very exciting! So keep calm and read the following tips on how to prepare for your new chapter in life, while making sure that you and your hair have the best time of your life.
The Great Wall
Hairstyle: Single Braids
Before You Go
1. Research the black community
Particularly the natural hair community (NHC) in your host country. We all know that the NHC isn’t always welcomed by other blacks in the diaspora, so researching international hair blogs in your host country will provide you with some general views on the perception of Afro hair in that country. Reading such blogs will also provide you with information on the types of hair products available in the country, how accessible they are and how to access them.
2. Research the climate and the environmental condition in your host country.
Find out if the country has all 4 seasons or only 2 extreme seasons. What is the air quality like? Is it windy, dusty, dry or humid? The research gathered will help you to determine the essential tools and products you need. For example, if you’ll be traveling to a cold country you’ll know to pack your satin lined winter hats, satin/silk scarves, thicker conditioners, hair butters and other winter friendly hair items.
3. Find out if your favourite hair care line ships to your host country
And how much they charge for shipping. If the shipping fee is affordable to you, you can choose to pack your must have products and forego the “nice to have” ones.
4. The specific products and tools to pack will vary based on your destination country
If you’ll be going to a part of the world such as Asia where Black people are in the minority, it’s best to pack EVERYTHING! However, if you’ll be moving to Africa, the Caribbean or western Europe where Black hair products are readily available due to population, you can bring only those products that are expensive or especially hard to find, and forgo packing up the basics. But don’t be naïve, just because there are a lot of Black people in your destination country, it doesn’t mean there will be a lot of natural hair products easily available. As a natural living in Toronto, I can tell you that the majority of the American natural hair care lines are not available in Canada and the few that are available are pricey. So do your research.
5. If you’re into essential oils, carrier oils, clays and other fancy hair products, please bring them with you
These products might not be easily accessible in your host country.
6. Remember to bring your satin bonnet, wide tooth comb, bobby pins, rollers, hair accessories
Although you can probably find these items in your host country, the quality might not be as high as the ones you’re used to.
7. Practice basic hairstyling skills
Cornrows, flat twists, single strand twists and other natural hairstyles that you enjoy wearing. If you’re into extensions, you should try and get enough practice with single braids, Marley twists, crotchet braids and even fixing a weave. Perfecting these basic skills will help to make sure that you don’t get stuck with that poor hairstylist just because you don’t know how to do your hair yourself and you don’t know anyone else who could handle your natural hair.
The Gobi Desert — Inner Mongolia
8. Make friends with other expats
Particularly those who go back home often. Some of them might even give you their hair products when they return home or relocate to another country. Expats with natural hair can refer you to their favorite hair braider, should you need a break from doing your hair.
While in your new country;
Chinese Military Guards
Hairstyle: Twistout in a Frohawk
Are you an expat living abroad? What other tips would you add?