Author Topic: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences  (Read 2858 times)

ZiziPB

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I am interested in hearing from any Mustachians who moved overseas.  Not interested in how you select the country where you're going to live or visa/residence issues, but strictly in actual physical moving of your stuff and pets.

What have you decided to take with you?  What have you decided to get rid of and buy in your new location?  How did you handle the logistics of your packing and moving?  If you had pets, how did you arrange for their transport?  Did you regret any of your decisions?  What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again.


KCM5

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2016, 08:27:30 AM »
So, my spouse moved here from overseas. He literally brought a suitcase. Left everything behind (mostly gave away to a charity shop or friends). He did have some records at his parents house (in a third country) that he brought home in a suitcase the next time we visited.

There are some benefits to this: no shipping charges, obviously. And also, its freeing to get rid of all of your stuff - depending on your personality, of course. He did have a winter coat hoarding issue for a couple of years afterwards, but I blame that on our cold weather!

We're planning on moving back to said country, so this hasn't happened yet, but we also plan on simply bringing what will fit into a suitcase. I've also considered boxing up a box of my absolute favorite kitchen implements, but that's the extent of it. The cat will have to fly over with us, if the cat is still alive. Regular vet check ups and rabies vaccinations are required for a couple of years beforehand in order to avoid quarantine.

I'm interested in everyone's responses!

JG in Hangzhou

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2016, 09:06:18 AM »
We left almost everything in the basement of our house, and rented it.
A few things we did bring:  (note, we moved to China, so thought about what we couldn't get there)
  Good cooking pans and kitchen utensils.
  Only the clothes I know I would wear in the next year, for sure. 
  Tax and Medical records.
  Computer
  IPOD
  Toolbox
  Leatherman
  1 year personal medicine. (migraine for me, thyroid for my wife)
  Cookbooks and Reading books (hard to find good English reading in China, very expensive through Amazon, etc.) though now I mostly read pdfs on e-reader.)

We originally planned on being here one year so left almost everything home.  Eight years later, I went and looked through our stuff we left and didn't really want anything except my old bike.   I gave it to my Dad and bought a new one, the week after I got back to China. 
I recommend you shed as much stuff as you can.  You won't miss it in the end. 

lhamo

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2016, 09:30:52 AM »
Strongly agree with JGIH -- I have been muling stuff back from China for the last year and a half, and really probably 2/3s of it I could have lived without.  Things that are worth hanging onto, in my opinion, include:

A fairly minimalist wardrobe of good quality lothing that you wear regularly and love.  I brought back more clothing that I needed, but that is partly because I used it as packing materials/to reduce weight.

Cooking stuff that is not easy to find or very expensive locally.  I bought lots of cookware and kitchen utensils from Ikea when we moved to Beijing.  That stuff is all readily available here, so except for a few small/more expensive items, I left most of the rest in China.

A few sentimental items/family heirlooms that you will actually use regularly/display.  I have a strange attachment to a couple of aluminum mixing bowls that were my grandmothers, for example.  I don't know why, but somehow I felt bad when they were still in China.  I brought them back in my last load.  I use them all the time. 

DONT BRING BOOKS!!!!!  And try not to buy them.  I ended up with way more books in Beijing than I should have.  The kids books I was able to sell for reasonable prices.  The adult ones, not so much.  I can replace the ones I really love with used copies here for more than the cost of the shipping.  But basically, if you are going to be living internationally learn not to be a bibliophile.  Switch to an ereader.  My kindle changed my life.  But I still have an itch for hard copy books.  Try to  keep it in check by getting things from the library, and only buying the few books I do acquire used.

If you don't have access to them at a public library a scanner and shredder can be very useful investments both before you leave (scan/shred all docments that don't require an original copy) and after you get there.  I hauled WAAAAY too much hard copy documentation back and forth across the Pacific, due to lack of time.  One of my projects for this year is to get everything scanned/shredded so that I don't ever have to move it again. 

Stuff for organizing/housekeeping maintenance.  I ended up being able to get  much of what I needed used, but in hindsight it would have been better for me to throw lightweight things like drawer organizers, shelf racks, etc. into the first batch of suitcases so that I could use them on this end rather than buying another set.  If you have sheets/towels/pillows that you love and that still have years of useful life in them, those are worth keeping and using for packing materials -- I threw a couple of pillows in as filler in some of our large duffel bags to help keep the weight down, and that was a good use of space.

In Europe this probably isn't a problem but if you have even slightly large feet and are moving to Asia BRING SHOES!!!!  I wear a 8.5-9 and often had trouble finding shoes that large in China.  Very limited selection when I did find that size. 

I personally did not find it worthwhile to ship furniture.  I have a couple of family pieces that I left at my sister's house. 

I'll probably think of other things with time, but that is a pretty good list for now.   

Lake161

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2016, 10:37:08 AM »
We moved (to Panama) with just suitcases. Mostly clothes, plus a few things we knew were hard to get in Panama. How did we know about these things? We haunted expat websites for Panama, and noted what people were complaining about.

We took our cat with us. Based on advice from other expats, we hired a local expert ("fixer") to help us with the paperwork and meet us on arrival. Apparently what rules are followed depends on who is on duty that day at the airport, so best to have someone who knows how to deal with that. This would vary by country.

There were a few things we found we didn't need, and a few things we wished we'd brought, so when we had a trip back to the US to see family, we'd pack some things back and bring in others.

Also, it was easy to order stuff from Amazon and have it shipped into Panama for about $2.50 a pound. You order and ship to a company in Miami, and they get it into Panama. Of course many countries can do Amazon direct, but this works for those that don't have Amazon.
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Most people we talked to who shipped a whole container of stuff regretted doing so. Unless you are moving permanently and have family heirloom furniture, it's not worth it. The only thing people said they were happy about shipping by container was large appliances. The quality of what you get in Panama is poor. Most appliances only last a few years. If you are renting, this is not a problem.

EDIT: I almost forgot one last tip. Often you can buy stuff from other expats who are leaving and don't want to ship it home. Watch the expat sites for moving sales

« Last Edit: October 13, 2016, 10:39:19 AM by Lake161 »

redbird

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2016, 10:43:34 AM »
I've had some overseas moves, but they were all paid by the government (who I worked for at the time). The government pays one of the professional moving companies to come pack up your stuff and load it into shipping crates. It's then put on a container ship and takes ~6 weeks to get to you. It's not a Mustachian way of moving at all though. The government paid ~$15,000 to the moving companies each time. This was without vehicles. The upside of this is that the company deals with customs, the paperwork, and everything else. The downside is the moving companies treat your stuff like they are gorillas, so you might want to pre-wrap/pack any fragile stuff.

I didn't take a pet. My in-laws babysat our cockatiel for the years while we were overseas. It wasn't the hassle as much as we didn't think the bird would survive the stress of flying in a plane plus all of the mandatory quarantine periods.

If I had to pay for moving myself, I probably would've just brought some things in a suitcase and then possibly mail other things that were important that I couldn't bring along myself. But overall I think I would've just brought as little as possible.

AMandM

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2016, 12:38:46 PM »
I've done three moves from the US to Germany, each time for a year.  We brought only what would fit in our suitcases because we had to pay for everything ourselves. We brought clothes, a few books and toys for the kids, and blankets (because those are expensive for their weight). 

We rented furnished flats and bought cheap, mostly used kitchenware.  We used the public library.  Bought a secondhand pram and a shopping trolley.

Before coming home we gave away outgrown clothes and the pram, but kept the trolley and some souvenirs.

I wish I had done more purging before we left, especially of clothes.  For years afterwards I had multiple boxes of every size & season of kids' clothes!

lthenderson

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2016, 01:14:45 PM »
My wife moved here from overseas. She packed several suitcases and gave the rest away. The only problem she had were a few bottles of wine she had packed in two of the suitcases that she mailed ahead of her flight. They made it here to the States before they got stopped by customs in Tennessee. The said I could either pick up the two suitcases in person after I disposed of the wine or they had to send them back. They wouldn't just remove the offending bottles of wine and ship the two suitcases on. Being many many hours drive from Tennessee, I told them to ship them back overseas to my wife so she could dispose of the wine herself. They called me an hour later and made an exception and removed the wine themselves. I'm sure they had a good afternoon.

Having traveled a lot overseas, I can't think of a lot of things I would want to transport from one household to another across an ocean. Besides numerous culture styles, that render many clothing and furniture obsolete before you even get them unboxed, many times you can buy them again new where ever you are going cheaper than shipping. I would put anything personal that I can live without in storage or stored with a trusted relative and go to my new country completely free and unfettered by the trappings of my former country.

NewbieFrugalUK

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2016, 08:55:52 AM »
I've made 4 major overseas moves. Here's the thing. If you ship stuff, it usually arrives about a month after you do. So... either, by the time stuff arrives, you needed it a month ago and you bought another locally (kitchen stuff, bedding etc) and so you then have twice what you need. The other option is it arrives, you lived without it for a month or so, Nd turns out, you didn't actually need it!

So now we just think carefully about what we actually need, and pay for one extra suitcase one the plane. And make sure you rent fully furnished if you are planning to stay 2 years or less.

My advice with books is a) don't ship them and b) definitely don't ship them to a tropical climate. All my books (in boxes in a loft in the UK) now smell of Singaporean mouldiness. Sigh.

Enjoy the adventure!

Sandia

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2016, 09:47:13 PM »
I've moved overseas twice - once for a year-long study abroad, and once semi-permanently. For the study abroad, I purposely chose the 'medium' sized suitcase (i.e., too big for carry-on, but not the ginormous monsters I saw most other study abroad kids lugging), which was best because I hit the weight limits anyway.

As others have said, moving just with suitcases is far, far more manageable. Try to only choose as many bags as you can handle yourself - it's safer than relying on others to help you. For me, this was: one backpack, one shoulder bag, and one suitcase (and a hand free for tickets/etc).

+1000 to scan and toss any paper stuff (I didn't - thought I needed it to get class credits - and deeply regretted it).

However, a contrary piece of advice: bring something that makes your new home feel like home.

My first place was a sad, dreary little room for a long time because I'd eschewed personal objects in favor of minimalist packing (and not buying things because I'd be leaving soon anyway), and I was a pretty sad, dreary little student during that time too. Now that I live in a house with a few thoughtful, colourful paintings (from local thrift stores) and some little statues/candles/vases/quilt runners from my home country on my 'shelf of useless things', I am generally much happier and feel much more settled.

Homey things that pack well: wooden statues (the ceramic one was a bitch to lug in my carry-on!), photos (to put into local-bought frames), mugs (nothing better than a cup of tea in the mug that advertises my home town), and blankets.

Lastly, bring a big map of your home country and buy some good maps of your new country AND city. It is so useful and comforting to tack up a big map on the wall and learn about both places as you go along.

ZiziPB

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2016, 10:40:21 AM »
Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas so far.  It's very helpful to get the feedback from people who went through the experience.

The move I will be making will be pretty much permanent.  I will be selling my townhouse here in the US and liquidating my entire household.  The things I would like to bring are mostly good quality items that I won't be able to get in my new country or will be expensive to replace (if I want the same level of quality).  I will be staying with my family for some time until I'm able to move into my own place so the potential delay in getting my possessions is not a problem.

Has anyone utilized a professional pet relocation company?  How was your experience with that?  I have a cat who is extremely uncomfortable in any kind of confinement and I'm very concerned about just putting her into a pet carrier and listening to her crying for hours on end on a transatlantic flight.

itchyfeet

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2016, 12:19:54 PM »
There is always one with a different view....

When I got an overseas assignment with my work, we had 4 weeks to sort out and move a life time of stuff. The easy option was just to ship everything.

We didn't know how many years we would be away and wanted to rent our house out totally vacant. We did get rid of lots of stuff, like old furniture and gardening equipment (as we didn't know whether we would move to a house or apartment), and we did leave the fridge, washer and dryer in our house for our tenants, but generally we just filled up a shipping container with everything we owned. We shipped bikes, canoes, outdoor furniture you name it.

We didn't want to pay for storage back home, and didn't want to have to pay to refurnish our lives overseas.  We have used most things, even random stuff like fancy dress costumes.

We only brought a suitcase each on the plane, and lived in a serviced apartment for a month whilst we hunted for a place to live and waited for our belongings to arrive.

We are happy we brought everything. We have enjoyed putting up our Christmas decorations, riding our bikes, having a fully equipped kitchen and sleeping in our own bed. We would make the same decision again. 

We live in the Middle East, so don't need our winter clothes at all, but it was great to have them on hand when we decided to go skiing this year, and they will get use again as we are spending a week in Europe this coming winter.

The downside of bringing so much with us was that it really governed where we could live, and we ended up spending a lot more on rent than if we had not brought everything with us. The contra to this is that we have not had to buy any household goods here. My employer paid for the shipping costs, so there was no difference to us in actually bringing everything with us. We did so in the knowledge that for a lot of our furniture it will be a one way trip.

We wanted to bring our dog, and We spent quite a bit getting papers and a crate etc, but when we got here, we found it was so hot and that we were home so rarely compared to our lives back home, that we decided not to fly him over. We miss him greatly, but he is far happier with my parents than he would be here.

So my tips.... make sure your new place feels like home as everything else will feel alien. You will really enjoy coming home to a place every night that feels familiar. If you don't bring your furniture, you will spend a packet at IKEA like every other expat!

lhamo

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2016, 12:46:19 PM »
Sorry, Itchyfeet, but a fully funded move is a whole different animal than self-funding.  If you had been confronted with the cost of moving everything yourself I doubt you would have made the same choices.  And you are probably paying more in terms of rent for the larger place to make up for what you would have spent on buying the necessities at Ikea.

itchyfeet

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2016, 12:23:51 PM »
I am not so sure we would have made a different decision even if we were paying.

We had no where to store our stuff for free, and didn't want to dispose of furniture and belongings that had cost us a lot to buy, and a life time to accumulate. My wife is a keen cook and enjoys entertaining, so our kitchen stuff alone is valuable to us. Our canoes were worth about $5,000, and we like using them.

The shipping was about $8,000, including the packing and unpacking. As I said we did not bring any white goods, amd disposed of furniture, rugs, tools, clothes etc which we no longer liked.

Once we were booking the container there was no difference whether it was partly full or full. We filled the container - a 20'foot one. We saved money by not having any air freight. We had planned to use this allowance to relocate our dog, but in the end he didn't come. I would,also flag that there is a big price step up had we needed to go from a 20' container to a 40' container.

Storage back home would have cost us at least $2,000 a year, and ultimately we have enjoyed having all of our stuff with us.

If we were moving for only one year, I would not have brought everything with us, but we have moved indefinitely.

 If I was at the beginning of my careeer I would not have bought much with me as I would not have owned much. If I palanned on being a nomad I would have disposed of most things before leaving.

As to the size of our place, I do agree that we would have rented something smaller if we had no furniture, and might have saved rent money. However, renting a larger place was more to do with what we were used to back home than anything else. We are renting a place that's similar in size to what we lived in pre-move. We were content with the size of our home before and we are content now. Our furniture fits the space perfectly.... and with everything else that we had to organise when we first arrived, it was a blessing that we didn't have to go to a single furniture store or appliance store.

lhamo

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2016, 01:00:54 PM »
Gotcha.  For us, moving everything to China would have been extremely cost ineffective.  Rental properties in China typically come furnished, so set-up costs are greatly reduced.  And when we eventually bought a place, that came mostly furnished as well -- we even got to keep nice stuff like their fancy Dualit toaster (will miss that thing....).  We're trying to sell off what we can separately, but will leave what we don't sell or donate for our buyers as well. 

I'm still waiting for DH to decide what he wants to send back.  It won't be a full or even a half container.  Most likely we'll just go ahead and pay excess baggage charges as shipping individual boxes is only a little bit cheaper and has more risk of loss/damage.  We've muled 20+ bags back already in the trips we have made since June 2015.  I am pretty good at this point of judging when a bag is approaching 50lbs, and at distributing stuff to balance bulk/weight to keep under that level.   

MMMaybe

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2016, 01:37:02 PM »
I have done a lot of moves, with a cat in tow.

In addition to the other suggestions, I would recommend that you take a look at the "typical" housing where you are going. In many places, the apartments etc are just smaller and American sized furniture just won't fit. In addition, take a look at the voltage on your appliances vs that of the country where you are going. If they aren't compatible, sell them. Transformers are a hassle but I can live with using adapter plugs.

We like to take our personal stuff, the things, which make a place home. But we pick and choose what is essential to us because we often end up buying stuff in the new place anyway.

If you are going to Asia or a developing country and are bigger than the local people, then go shopping before you leave. If you are a lady and are C plus in the bra dept or maybe bigger than a US size ten, shopping can be problematic in some parts of the world. Big shoes or clothes for taller or plus sized people...yikes. I'm not saying, it can't be done but it can take some work to find.

With regards to the cat, I do all the moves myself as it is far far cheaper. Depending on where you are going or the length of the flight, you can decide between booking the cat as excess baggage/cargo or taking him on board. I personally would not take my cat on board with me for flights that are longer than 4 or so hours as he gets a bit agitated. I would put him in the hold and that way, he has a bigger cage and can move around. Get him used to the travel cage ahead of time and add a comfort item such as a blanket that smells of home/you.

The paperwork isn't too complicated but I would recommend looking up the requirements for your destination country and making sure you get the various steps taken care of. As a precaution, take note of the steps required to repatriate as we know a lot of people who got caught out by needing to leave for home unexpectedly and their animals then were not prepped for travel. In some cases (usually from developing countries), it can take 6 months to get them ready to go home.




itchyfeet

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Re: Overseas move logistics - please share your tips and experiences
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2016, 09:56:15 PM »
Lhamo, yes like China there are loads of furnished rentals here in the Middle East. And I have to admit that when we first arrived it really made us wonder whether we did the right thing bringing our own furniture, particuarly as furnished rentals are not that much more expensive than unfurnished rentals. But onc we found a place we liked, and once all of our gear was unpacked we were happy with our decision. The real test will be the return trip, whenever that might be as we will be paying everything ourselves. We will definitely make sure we still fit into a 20' container.

One other tip I would give after our move is if at all possible get a residency visa beforehand re you move. We didn't due to time contstraints and could not of en a bank account, get a drivers licence, rent a house, etc for a month whilst we waited for our visa to be approved. I managed to get my visa within 30 days, but as my wife was added to my visa and that took a couple of extra weeks she was forced to do one border run. I have seen others wait up to 3 months for a residency visa and are stuck living in a hotel room doing visa runs every month, which with children is a bit of a nightmare.