Last update on March 14, 2019

When physically moving home, you can opt to take all your furniture and belongings. Here’s some advice on how to handle the tricky process of overseas shipping.

When physically moving abroad, there are three options for moving home: leave with nothing, leave with something, or relocate all your furniture and belongings. Overseas shipping can be tricky and time-consuming, but here’s some advice on how to handle it.

Getting ready to return home

Expatica’s repatriation month touches on the unfortunate and unexpected feeling of reverse culture shock when families return home. Favourite shops are no longer around, friends have integrated into unfamiliar crowds — coming home bubbles up some overwhelming emotions.

Expatica advises those planning to repatriate to plan a few trips back home before the big move; it helps absorb the reverse culture shock many repatriates experience.

Re-familiarising yourself with ‘home’ is an essential part of reintegration and will help with the post-assignment blues. One of the toughest hurdles to leap over is realising life back home will probably not be like it was before.

The world has not stopped while you have been away, and it has not been waiting for your return. This is something returning expats have difficulty adjusting to.

Sell it or ‘sea’ it

An overseas move will always be expensive. And the only way to shave down cost is to eliminate all of that ‘stuff’. Kathleen Peddicord, author and overseas expert, writes in her article ’17 things I wish someone had told me before moving day’:

“You are probably best off not relocating your household goods and furniture with you. I’d recommend you sell everything or give it all away before the move. I couldn’t bring myself to do this, and now I regret all the hassle and expense related to moving a large house full of furniture from one continent to another.”

Expatica says relocation companies, …are certainly seeing an increase in shorter-term assignments over longer term. All the more reason to pack light.

However, repatriating has a tendency to carry more exotic ‘baggage’ that’s accumulated during a stay overseas, and ordinary items now hold sentimental value for the average repat. When push comes to shove, these one-of-a-kind furnishings are more difficult to let go.

If this is the case, shipping overseas is the usual choice, and contacting a relocation company is a must. Repatriates will not experience much of a difference with relocation companies than when they expatriated, except for employees saying, “Welcome back.”

Luckily for expats going through the same process as before, organising a moving procedure should be more familiar.

Expatica’s top five tips

Regardless of experience, moving overseas is a big, daunting procedure. Overconfidence is as dangerous as inexperience. In fact, expats coming home are often faced with more bureaucratic work that originally expected. Do you know the laws your home country has for moving goods back in?

We hear of many French clients being surprised by the level of ‘red tape’ that even they are faced with when they come home

To help trigger a plan for your move home, here are Expatica’s five most important things to remember:

1. Hire a relocation company, or prepare for a full-time job.

“If you want to do this on your own, get ready to spend several weeks calling companies for quotes and filling out paperwork for customs, port documents, insurance and more,” says one Expatica editor who moved her household belongings overseas via sea container.

“You don’t realise how many pieces of paper you generate; you generate an entire stack of paper to do this. But if you have a relocation company, they do all of that for you.”

2. You definitely need insurance

On the rare event that a storm hits the cargo carrier and your container falls into the ocean, “They [the cargo ship crew] have to shoot holes in it so the container sinks to the bottom,” says the Expatica editor.

Again, this is highly unlikely, but it has happened before. Insurance usually covers the entire loss of a container as part of the arrangement.

3. Keep your cargo separate

“Confusion is not the biggest issue, it’s confiscation. If the police find something illegal they will take everything in the container, so all of your special antiques and everything are gone,” says the Expatica editor.

It’s strongly encouraged to try and fill or rent an entire container when repatriating back home.

4. Remember the middleman

Be certain that furnishings like exotic lamps, hi-tech electronics and one-of-a-kind furniture have the necessary connections to operate outside the country where purchased. From plug adaptors to specific bed linens, make sure your ideal setup can be achieved just like it was in your host country.

5. Don’t forget to lock up (and unlock)

Our best advice for anyone moving overseas with shipments en route is simple – don’t pack your house keys in the sea shipment!