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Moving House as an Expat
03 October, 2012 12:58
As an international expat, you're often starting a whole new life. At the very least, you're immersing yourself in another culture for an extended period of time. Besides saying goodbye to your friends and family, at least temporarily, it also means giving up many of your personal possessions, while figuring out how to take certain items with you. Don't leave this essential task to the last minute!
Deciding What to Take - and What to Leave Behind
If you're relocating abroad, one of the major questions you must answer is what to take with you, and what should be left behind? Practicalities and cost play a major factor. You may not want to part with an heirloom that has been in the family for generations, but does it make sense to pay to bring ordinary furnishings with you, unless you are traveling to an especially remote region? Even then, the logistics of hiring an international moving company to transport your furnishings to a new location may prove difficult, never mind the expense.
As a rule of thumb, if you intend to return to your home country within a year, or even two, it's wise to leave the bulk of your possessions behind. Take advantage of the opportunity to sell or give away items that are just cluttering up your home. Place the rest in long-term storage, either in a commercially rented space or with a family member or trusted friend.
If you are emigrating for good, pare down your belongings to those you absolutely cannot bear to part with. Consider how you will need to transport those items to your new location. If the costs are in line with your budget, then that part of your task is done. Your efforts then turn to disposing of your remaining possessions. Scope out charities or responsible recycling facilities for items that you cannot sell or give away to family and friends.
Packing medications, especially prescriptions, makes sense, but bringing a year's supply of shampoo is usually not necessary. Research beforehand what items are and are not available in your new location. If you are moving within the developed world, you will find that many of your favorite brands have made it to international store shelves. The Internet often proves to be a solution to finding those items that you simply must have but cannot find in your new location. Sure, you will want to have some toiletries available for the first few weeks, just to give yourself a chance to settle in, but otherwise your money is better spent in transporting your child's favorite toy or your family pet.
Customs and import regulations for your new location also figure into what you ultimately bring with you. Many countries place restrictions on vehicle imports or subject cars brought into the country to high tariffs. Plants, animals and food products may also be subject to strict regulations or restrictions. If you want to bring Fido or Fluffy with you, you'll need to take care of the details, including obtaining a medical examination, license and registration, well in advance (for complete details, consult the article on Expat Pets). You may not be allowed to bring more exotic pets with you at all. Check with the consulate or embassy of your new country well in advance to avoid a last-minute scramble.
It goes without saying that your passport and visa should be in order before you leave, along with a police certificate if your destination requires one.
You should also have:
- birth certificates
- baptismal records (if applicable)
- medical records
- transcripts and school records (for yourself and your children, if you are traveling with your family)
- driver's licenses
- insurance records
- banking records
- tax records available in hard copy and in electronic form
You should also maintain a running itinerary of items within your moving truck or shipping container. Pack these documents separately from the boxes to be loaded into your moving truck or shipping container.
Other essential items to pack separately include valuable jewelry, personal electronics such as computers or cameras, and sufficient clothing and personal effects to use until your moving truck or shipping container arrives. Don't forget to pack adapter plugs and transformers so that you can use your appliances and electronics overseas.
Hiring an International Relocation Company
If your relocation involves crossing an ocean, your belongings will almost certainly be transported by shipping container. Your relocation company may provide either door to door, door to port or port to port service.
Door to door service means that the relocation company picks up your possessions at your location, packs them into the shipping container, transports them to your new destination and delivers them to your new home.
Door to port service means that you are responsible for transporting your goods from the destination to your home.
Port to port service means that you are responsible for getting your possessions to the loading dock as well as picking them up at your destination. If you are moving over land, your moving company will probably ship your goods by truck.
Let your relocation company take care of packing anything that will be placed in a shipping container or moving truck. If you do your own packing, many relocation companies will limit their available insurance coverage. Anti-terrorism regulations may also require all containers and commercial vehicles entering the country to have been packed and loaded by the moving company.
However you ship your goods, begin obtaining estimates several months in advance. When you obtain estimates, ask whether packing materials, labor and insurance are included in the costs. Ask also whether the relocation company intends to subcontract any part of your job to a third party. When considering costs, remember that you get what you pay for. While it may be cheaper up front to use a cut-rate company that is not licensed for international shipping, you run the risk of having your possessions damaged, or worse, having part or all of your shipment confiscated by customs.
Researched by Audrey Henderson
-- freelance writer based in Chicago
My tip? Bring your sense of humour first and formost, as well as your sense of adventure. Don't expect everything to be as it is back 'home' - and embrace local cultures and people.
Learn a smattering of the local language before you go and pretty soon, people will be welcoming you into their homes and hearts.