How we shipped our things across the ocean | Expat life

Since our decision to leave Canada and come to Germany, one of the first questions was how to ship our things across the ocean! Today I tell you here a little bit of our process of shipping a full 20-foot container with our whole lives in to a new life in Germany.

I like the concept of comfortable minimalism. I didn’t think I had so much “stuff” until I had to find a way to pack everything inside a container.
But when we are moving, even inside the same city, it’s when you really see how much excess you have.

Even more with children, several things can be saved to pass along among the kids. The numerous school work, books, notebooks and blocks, toys, mini-collections, colored pencils and crayons.

How we got through everything preceding the move

I was really shocked when I started deciding what would stay (in Canada) and what would go inside our boxes.

You see, I don’t consider myself too attached to material things, like household stuff, and if $$ wasn’t a question, I’d leave 95% of my stuff behind.

The “detachment” phase consisted of deciding what would be donated, what could be sold and what would come with us. A huge amount of stuff was donated to friends, neighbors and some institutions.

But, folks, selling or donating 95% of a family of 7 is not a piece of cake and worse, buying everything from almost zero again and and in Euros, on top of that, it was not feasible.

I sold mostly some big pieces of furniture, small appliances, fixtures and electronics, since the voltage in Germany is different from Canada.

In the process of putting numbers together, we decided to keep some big items ans ship them. Along with a whole lot of other things, obviously.

We searched and reviewed 3 or 4 relocation companies. The quotes and everything we learned in the process, helped us choose the one we chose.

Yard sale

The chosen company does national and international shipping by sea (and other options too) and a container was the best option for us.

Day of change, all packed

The amount of things seemed frightening to me, especially of small ones. Many which are not used regularly, but still used and therefore would have to be bought again.

2 months to go

In the last month before moving, I was closing 1 to 3 boxes daily, but it did not seem to end. 2 days before our departure, the moving company team (2 men) came and boxed all the fragile items and a multitude of miscellaneous that we never thought we had left to pack.

1 week to go

A week before departure, a final inspection was made and the bomb was dropped: the belongings will not fit in the container, we will have to reduce it (because we ended up relaxing and thinking we had plenty of room). Result: we had to sell and/or donate some more things than anticipated.

We and our contâiner
The container is sealed – in 4 to 5 weeks we will see you again…

1 day before departure

The day before our departure, everything was packed in bubble cardboard. They started filling the container. Even things that weren’t to come came. They did it so fast and didn’t check all the items (e.g. some leftover bricks on our garage). The house was getting empty, but still messed up at the same time.

Two of the most stressful days of our lives, that’s for sure.

The next day was not only our official departure date, with plane tickets in hand, but also the day of closing the house. We would have to leave the house empty and handle over the keys to the next owners.

Day of change
Packaging the whole house

Departure day

When the day of departure arrived, we were left to close the luggage that would go with us on the plane (2 large, 2 medium and 4 carry-ons), dispatch our dogs to the company that would make their trip (read the post here) and clean the house as best as possible (which basically was to gather all the garbage and remove all leftovers from packing).

We left completely exhausted that we had no energy to say that special goodbye to the house. It made a very special home these past six years.
But what is following us are the memories we have made there and that’s what matters, doesn’t it?!

Change of country

Choosing the company

The company that made the procedures of our container is Canadian, but subcontracts a German company to make the transfer of the container when it arrives in German territory.

They dealt with the whole bureaucratic issues of import and export. Everything was exempt from tariffs as it was all personal items already used.

All was tied to Diego’s work visa, of course. Some companies that bring employees from other countries deal with this issue transfer of belongings. They cover the cost up to a certain amount. Diego’s company only provided a monetary quota and we had to deal with all of ourselves with all the rest.

And if you got curious of how much this whole adventure ranges, it does not come cheap! Something in the range of 5 to 10,000 Canadian dollars, for that size of container (20 feet).

Our belongings arrived in just over 3 weeks at our new home in Germany. Almost everything came in one piece, except for a few things that got smashed or broke (nothing important).

Container loading
Container unloading in Germany

It was a relief to see all our stuff again and we were sure that despite the big expenses and the whole stress that brought. It was worth bringing much of our belongings, for financial reasons. Certainly buying everything that came in the container again, would be much more expensive and sentimental (especially for the kids).

Hope you had fun learning about our move! We sure have fun reading it now, afterwards!