Yoo-Hoo, Expats? I Need Your Advice.

Unknown-1If you’ve even started to read this post, I’ll assume       you’re willing to maybe give me a little advice.  As the title suggests, it’s mostly for people who have had the experience of moving abroad.  However, I would sure like to know how you all feel about this.

Last summer (when we THOUGHT we were moving to France, but it didn’t work out:   Putting France on Hold…. Hanging in there in St. Louis), we reserved a 20-foot container:  What we’re going to put in our 20-foot container .  We put down a deposit, and it will be applied toward our balance even a year later (it doesn’t expire).  The problem is that it is still going to be very, very expensive.

Now we are just wondering if we really need a 20 foot private container.  Would a shared container be enough?  It sure would be a lot cheaper.  If we shared one instead, we would have to be very selective with what we bring, and we hadn’t planned on that.

UnknownHere’s the big question:  

Should we bring less (and pay less), ultimately having to purchase a lot of what we will need once in France?

Should we pay more and have pretty much everything we will need to set up house?

Please tell me what you think.  It’s a hard decision to make on our own, so I’m depending on you 🙂

Here’s a short list of what we were planning to bring: What we’re going to put in our 20-foot container .


14 thoughts on “Yoo-Hoo, Expats? I Need Your Advice.”

  1. We moved with only 15-20 boxes (clothes, books, family heirlooms) and purchased what we needed regards to furniture, dishes, etc. here in France. Furniture and all that is expensive here, but we decided it was less expensive to buy in France than to pay to move it. Hope that helps! Good luck with your move!

    1. I really admire you for being able to do that. I guess when you’re buying replacement items you can do a good bit of it little by little. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    2. Thanks again for the retweet, I got some helpful advice! Now about these boxes. How did you ship them? And also, I’m curious to know if you were moving with children (more clothes, and toys!). Did you just sell everything before moving, and if so, was it emotionally difficult for you?

  2. Chere Jennifer, I can only comment based on my own experience. The electrical system is different here so despite having adapters, I would inquire what damage the 220 system might possibly do to your 110 electronics. I was advised against it and most of those appliances were part of the negotiations on the sale of my house. As for bringing things, I wish I had brought much less. No doubt your experience with the movers will go much better than mine. Despite paying for a container, my goods did not arrive in one only about half my things showed up here in France. Their last port was Felixstowe in the UK. It was a nightmare and they demanded more money about a month before the arrival of my goods.
    Decide how attached you are to what you might bring with you. It will be different to what you would likely have here. I love my little wicker chest I bought at a vide grenier for five euros and the antique bed that was left in the house when I bought it… Shopping in the brocantes and vide greniers is all part of being here. Bon courage et bonne chance!

    1. Hi Lea,
      Who would have known last year when we “met” in blogland that my move to France would really be happening and that you’d be giving me advice on shipping! I do appreciate your taking the time to help me out. About the appliances…The only think we were thinking of bringing that is electronic is a TV, with the right kind kind of adapter, of course. I know that sounds stupid, especially for us because we don’t watch any television at our house, I mean none at all. It’s because we have a PlayStation 3 that you can watch American Blu-Ray DVDs with (as well as the games) and we have a Wii that the kids love. Those two gaming systems are pretty expensive, and they have standard American wiring, which means they’ll plug nicely into the American TV. So it’s not a problem at all if we can’t watch French TV with our television b/c that’s not the point anyway.

      About other things, I’m hearing from many people the same thing you just told me, and that is to bring less. Your container story is going to give me nightmares. Already it’s going to be much more expensive than what we planned on, and if it turns out to be more then I don’t know what we’re going to do.

      I’m kind of emotionally attached to a lot of things, but mostly without reason. I guess I just have had the idea that I will want to “set up house” the way we have it now for the emotional comfort of the kids (ages 6 and 9). Maybe that’s just an excuse. I sure would have a good time shopping in the brocantes.

      1. You know what is important to you and your family so you will make the right choices for you.
        My house is over 350 years old and what I had in the states would not fit in.
        There was an extensive collection of foreign films that I parted with. I didn’t think I could use them here but ended up buying a universal DVD player. While you can’t buy them here, one was found online from Sweden.
        Perhaps I am not the one for advice. I am on my own and believe in traveling through life without a lot to weigh me down. Now, to be honest, it comes with the caveat that books and art supplies do not count as “stuff”. 🙂
        Do all you can to check out your movers and you will be fine.

  3. I shipped most of the contents of a 1 bedroom apartment over to Paris when I moved and I don’t regret the expense. (I did have some assistance as part of a corporate move, but I did have to pay for a portion myself that was outside the allotted budget.) Being so far from away from friends/family, I wanted to create a home I really loved for myself. Plus, I had spent years collecting nice furniture and really didn’t want to sell it and have to settle for Ikea on this side of the ocean because it was all I could afford. It’s very hard to find any mid-range furniture stores here (like Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn). You have Ikea or you have very expensive antiques, but very little in between.

    I agree with the person who says that the electrical system is much different here. You really do run the risk of ruining your appliances. The only one I brought over was my Kitchen Aid mixer, which I attempted to use once with a similar converter. It did not work at all and I nearly burned out the motor. I would definitely recommend you get any items you need here, with the exception of computers, cell phones, etc, whose adapters specifically are created for dual voltage.

    I had an excellent (but quite expensive) moving company who took care of everything for me from door to door. Every single item arrived unscratched. I cannot praise them enough. I’m happy to provide you the details separately if you’re interested. Good luck with you move! It’s really an exciting life experience!

    1. I think I would love to have all of our things with us, just for our new place to feel more familiar and like home for the kids (oh ok, and for me too!). However, as you said, it’s going to be very expensive. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. It’s giving me a lot to consider 🙂

  4. Hi Jennifer,
    As I mentioned on Twitter, my wife and I are just now getting close to ‘complete unpack’ after months of having sent everything on its way from New York. After having thoroughly researched everything and seen the other side of the move I now know what things I’m glad I looked into and what things I wish I had looked into further. In our case, our research indicated that we were going to be able to bring everything (mostly) and therefore we paid for international shippers to move our things from point A to the eventual point B. In case you think we were operating with some kind of super-rich budget, no we couldn’t really afford it. But it was the only way to move the way we wanted to so we made sacrifices to make this happen. We are presently thrilled and can breathe easier knowing that we did. That peace of mind to us, in the end, was worth it.
    I’ll keep this as short as I can…
    RESEARCH – Do absolutely as much as you can. Even if you think it’s becoming obsessive compulsive. Especially when people tell you not to worry about it so much. It’s your stuff you’re talking about. I found that some people are more than happy to tell you what to do with your things when it’s not their move. Read, ask questions, call stores, research stores in France, go on Amazon France, etc
    TECH – If you and your husband are the kind of people who just want to know what the most affordable item is at a Best Buy and are willing to buy the best seller that’s on sale at the moment, you are unlikely to have the patience or the interest in trying to make your devices work in Europe. But, you seem to have identical tech use to me and my wife; some gaming, lots of DVD, music on disc media and acquired by various download services and hardly any TV. If either you or your husband are good with tech and electronics basics (watts, volts, amps, types of cables, connections, etc) then you should know that it is absolutely possible to bring all your devices with you and I would strongly recommend that you do. You will literally save hundreds if not thousands of dollars/euros. Your TV will only be a display for the devices you already own, that’s why it’s region coding doesn’t matter. Your French cable box can be connected to your computer monitor by the way for viewing (digital video connections aren’t region specific). Admittedly, being an independent filmmaker means I own and have to know about tech and devices and their region coding and solutions for this but these things aren’t difficult to get your head around if you have the interest and a little bit of ability. It is an absolute fallacy that US devices can’t be made to work in Europe and that they shouldn’t. You just need to buy pro-quality (and affordable) transformers from good online shops which I can link you to and not just Darty or FNAC. The people who have electrical problems and destroyed devices are using small consumer-grade transformers made for international travellers that want something they can throw in their suitcases. They’re running a 250W device on a low quality 250W transformer and wondering why their blender melted. I have no problem answering questions or helping you guys out with this because I think it’s a shame that people lose perfectly good tech devices because it’s just accepted that you don’t do it.
    ONE NOTE: transplanting your current tech set up to Europe means you won’t be able to buy some PS3 games, any Wii games, or DVDs unless you get yourself a local DVD player, many of which are multi-region in Europe and pretty cheap now.
    CONTAINER – We had a 20 foot because it suited our things best. 20 was too much but simple wooden crates were too small. I had reservations about sharing one with someone else because, well, people in the end are unloading these things and people make mistakes. I have, to this point in my life, not yet found any correlation between the cost of a service and the ability of humans to perform without failure on some level. Get your own if you can. Consider talking to a company that can do the whole move. It is more expensive but they worry about everything along the way. EVERYthing. And having a company moving you can mean the difference between 12 hours at customs like us and 2 weeks and charges at customs like other people who have gone it on their own and forgotten one piece of paper in their manifest.
    My apologies for the length of this reply. I would have emailed had I found one on your blog. Perhaps someone else will find something valuable (or ridiculous) in what I’ve written. Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions, concerns. Have a pleasant move, it can be one if you keep a level head. Reminding yourself that you’re moving to France has an extraordinarily sobering way of allowing you to examine stressful situations with poise and ease, and you may even find it putting a smile on your face. Best to you both.

    1. Phil,

      First of all, thanks for taking the time to write all of this. It’s very helpful to me, and I know it will be to others as well. You’ve really just gone through the same experience that we are about to live. Originally, we were planning to move to France last summer, but our house didn’t sell as quickly as we thought it would, so we had to put off our plans for a year.

      This time last year I was researching everything from moving companies to what kinds of appliances we could hope to be able to use in France. I never really found an answer to the electronics question, so that information in particular is very useful. It’s rare to come across another couple with the same kind of “tech use” as us. It seems like we have exactly the same idea about how we will want to use our American TV, etc. in France. I’m absolutely useless when it comes to electronics, even the basics, but my husband is pretty good at it. It is assuring to know that our idea of using the TV only for our American-bought devices is not completely unheard of. I would love it if you could share with me what kind of transformers you purchased (and where), and thank you for offering to help.

      About the container, at this point we have reserved a 20 foot. We plan to pack up everything on our own, and have the movers load the container. When it arrives in France, they’ll deliver it to us and we will then unload it ourselves (with local help, of course). Obviously, we would love to have them pack and unpack for us, but we will save literally thousands of dollars by doing it ourselves. They’re supposed to take care of everything at customs, so I hope that works out. I wouldn’t even know where to begin doing it on our own.

      We will try very hard not to get too stressed and to keep things in perspective. It should be possible to enjoy the ride without getting too out of sorts. Again, I appreciate this most helpful information ☺

  5. For our experience (sans kiddos), we packed about 1/3 of our clothes, our luxury American-sized bed (all of our European friends are amazed by this queen size!), and kitchen supplies. We had zero idea of what we’d be moving into, so wanted to be as light as possible, but it turned out we got a nice (relative, right?) 700 sq. meter place. Besides the space issue, our budget was small, so it made packing light a necessity. Then we purchased a dining table, sofa and entertainment system at Ikea when we got here. I think we were so incredibly excited about our new adventure and fully living the European lifestyle that it made simple. We stored our big items in a storage unit, since we had just gotten married, we had china and things that we couldn’t let go of, and then threw out/donated sooo much stuff. We’ve learned to live with so little and it feels wonderful….it makes us laugh to think that we have more STUFF somewhere that we don’t really need. Anyway, I was trying to find the literature that we used during our move on the electrical items. This guide was pretty helpful: http://www.azriona.net/overseas/electronics.htm I know you said you’re not bringing a lot, but maybe for hair dryers and phone chargers and such. And then, with the tvs, Europe uses PAL and SECAM signals, whereas the US uses NTSC, so it’s not just the voltage part. Not sure if you need any kind of special adapter for your games (this part may be overkill, I’m still confused by it – Justin is reciting it to me right now haha. There’s just SO much to learn!). Okay – phew! Let me know if you have any specific questions about stuff we had to deal with! And good luck…the adventure is almost here!!

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