So, you’ve been offered a job overseas. The contract is signed and you’re ready to go. The excitement of what awaits quickly gets overtaken by stress and panic as you look around at your belongings and contemplate what lies ahead: “How on earth will I get all of this over there?” And a seemingly endless stream of things to do fills your head.
If you’re going through similar emotions right now, fear not. Many an expatriate has faced the task of relocating all their belongings before you and, believe it or not, the majority of them have survived the process with their sanity still in tact. To give you a little help, here’s our five-step guide to getting your stuff abroad… in one piece.
Step One: Research what you will need and decide what you will take
Yes, it’s true, lists like this all do tend to start with the word ‘research’ but you simply can’t escape the need for thorough preparation.
The first thing you need to do is find out as much information as you can about your host country. Fully research the weather and climate, the living conditions, the amount of space you can expect to have available to you, any laws regarding what you can, and cannot bring into the country, the type of furniture and everyday items you will need… you get the picture. Everything that you currently own may not be of use in your new host country and you therefore need to have a broad plan of what items you will take with you and what items you will leave behind.
For example, if you currently live in a large semi-detached house in America, there’s a high chance that you will own some pretty big pieces of furniture. Will these fit in an 1000 square foot apartment in Hong Kong? Likewise, you may currently live in a temperate country like England. If you are moving to somewhere tropical like Singapore, there’s a high chance that the majority of your wardrobe (including shoes) will no longer be of any use to you.
You need to do this first so that you have a good idea of the amount of things you will be taking with you before you contact a shipping agent…
Step Two: Get quotes and choose your movers
Once you have a high-level idea of what you will be taking with you, you find a mover who you can trust to move your belongings on your behalf (if your employer hasn’t already done this for you). The objective here is to find someone reliable who can move your property at a price that suits your budget.
Start by asking other people you know who have relocated who they used and what their experiences with that company were. If you do not know anyone, try getting onto the expat forums in your host country and asking people who have recently relocated to that area for information and tips.
Always choose a mover who has a strong track record and who has experience of shipping furniture overseas. Try and find one that has a good reputation in both your home country and your host country because the need to find a good company to unpack your belongings is just as important as finding one to pack them.
Get quotes from a few different companies before you choose your provider. Take into consideration their insurance costs and any special packaging fees that they will charge.
Step Three: Plan the move and sort through your belongings
Once you have a good idea of what you will be taking with you and who will be shipping it on your behalf, you need to start actually sorting out the minor details.
Start by going through all your belongings and sorting them into piles according to what will be happening to them. E.g. charity, giving away, storage, shipping, carrying by hand.
Bear in mind that, depending upon where you are relocating to, shipping can take several weeks so anything that you may need in the near future should be taken with you in your suitcase or hand luggage. Items that you may need to set aside and ensure are not packed by the removal company include:
Any official visa documentation
Credits cards and banking information
Medical and vaccination records
Any certificates and official documentation related to any pets you will be taking
Medical insurance information
Any medication that is needed by yourself or family members traveling with you
Step four: Moving day
On moving day itself, ensure that you can be present for most of the day. Although some moving companies may tell you that your presence isn’t needed, you do need to remember that the people packing your belongings don’t care about them in the same way that you do and it is therefore often useful to be around to warn them to be careful every now and again.
Once the boxes have been packed, take a good look around your home and make sure that absolutely everything you want to be shipped has been packed. Don’t forget things like rugs, lampshades and garden items.
Step five: Unpack and enjoy
The day your belongings arrive in your host country can be very exciting and you will finally start to feel that you can settle into your new home. Your moving company should do the unpacking for you as well, so all you really have to do is to be present when the stuff arrives and tell them where you want everything to go. Make sure you check that everything is in order and if anything is broken, take photographs and report it to the removal company immediately.
Getting reacquainted with your things is a great feeling but undoubtedly you will discover that you actually packed a load of stuff that you can’t use in your host country… put it down to experience!
For further information about packing for a move abroad and a comprehensive moving checklist template, see our free guide to packing for a move abroad.