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Natural Hair Tips for Expats Living Abroad

Chinese Military Guards
Hairstyle: Twistout in a Frohawk

So you’ve just found out that you’ve been assigned to oversee a company project in a foreign country. Perhaps you’ve been admitted to a graduate program in your dream country or may be like myself, you’re simply seeking for a new adventure in another part of the world which is different from your own.  Whatever your reason may be for packing up to go live in another country, let me first congratulate you for being so bold to leave your friends and family behind for the unknown and foreign world.

Moving and travelling can be stressful enough, not to talk of moving to a new country. With the last minute language classes, shopping, research and farewell parties to attend, we can all agree that 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. Aside from the general research you would carry out on the country, you should also 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 view on the perception of Afro hair in that country. Reading such blogs will also provide you with information on the types of hair products which are available in the country, how easily accessible they are and how to access 

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. How 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 to bring with you. For example, you know you’ll need to pack your satin lined winter hats, satin/silk scarves, thicker conditioners, hair butters and other winter friendly hair items if you’ll be travelling to a cold country. 

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.

@ a Chinese Wedding
Hairstyle: Twists
4.  The specific products and tools to pack will vary based on your destination country and the results gathered in your research. However, 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! But if you’ll be moving to western Europe, Africa or Caribbean where Black hair products are readily available due to population, you can choose to bring natural hair products which are hard to find or expensive in your host country. Don’t be naïve, just because there are a lot of Black people in your destination country doesn’t mean there will be a lot of natural hair products and they’ll be easily available to you. 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 which 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 as 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 and other hair tools with you as these items are very light weight. 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 such as cornrow, flat twists, single strand twists and other natural hairstyles which 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 would handle your natural hair.

The Gobi Desert – Inner Mongolia
Hairstyle: Cornrows
While There

1.       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. These expats with natural hair can even refer you to their favorite hair braider, should you need a break from doing your hair. 
2.       Attend meetups and other hair events if it’s available in your area 
3.      Be tolerant of the locals in the country asking strange questions about your hair, wanting to touch it or touching it without your permission 
4.       Also be prepared to answer questions by other Blacks who might not be familiar with natural hair and be prepared to handle criticism. 
5.      Have fun with your hair and take lots of pictures with your afro, especially when you go visit major tourist attractions. You might even find that you and your kinky hair is the major tourist attraction! 
6.       Enjoy all the compliments and extra attention you might receive

Are you an expat living abroad? What other tips would you add to this post?