Monday, January 20, 2014

...And Finally, the Big Move Abroad

article from December 8, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

When the decision has been made that you will be transferring to that tropical paradise, which you have done all your research on and, with any kind of luck or foresight, you have visited before the Big Move, there are, as in all things in life, several scenarios:

The Corporate Move

The first is the simplest. Your transnational corporate subsidiary tells you to report for work at their national headquarters in Parador by January 15. You probably knew this was coming, so with the help of the human resources department, housing, schools and transportation will all have been arranged, and all that is left to you is to get what you really can’t live without into a few suitcases and wait for the movers to come and pack everything up nicely, protecting your valuables by wrapping them in several layers and putting them in oversized boxes (They get paid by cubic foot, or cubic meter, so the more the merrier).

As simple as that all sounds, and it is, in your soon-to-be vacated part of the world, be prepared for a different story at your destination. For some reason, things never work out as you imagine they will. To start things out, that lovely moving van that came to your house only went as far as the warehouse, where all your goods are put into a “van pack” (their fancy name for a big wooden box), or, if you are lucky and you or your company sprung for the extra few grand, you will have a sealed, locked, bonded container all to yourself.

Now, after a suitable interval of time has elapsed and your container has sat at the port of departure out under the sun and the elements for months, they finally find the cheapest intermodal freight company to deliver your goods to Parador, where you have been living with your family for these same months, being promised that your shipment will arrive “any day now.” No big deal, as your transnational corporation is used to that and, in all likelihood, will have put you and your family up in a hotel or apartment.

The Self-Made Move

If you are making the Big Move on your own, the beginning scenario is very similar, except that you will probably have gotten rid of many things that you won’t necessarily need at the other end (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), because: a.) You are the one paying for it, and b.) they have everything you will need in your future home country. There may be a smaller selection, and the couches will not be so overstuffed. If you are smart, you will leave the family heirlooms with the family – you know, in corner hutch, all the original glass that your great-great-great-great-grandmother brought with her to the New World in the 17th century.

You, too, will wait and wait, until that steamer finally comes up the river to the banana plantation dock in Parador, where they promptly drop it from 5 feet above the bed of the truck, and then, with the load unsecured, race to customs, where they unload it then take great delight in playing with your daughter’s Barbie collection and your son’s radio remote dune buggies.

When they finally tire of that, or a load with more interesting stuff comes in, they call you in, give you the bill, which you have to pay on the spot, and the shipment is released right when one of those torrential tropical rainstorms has moved in. It is dropped onto another flatbed truck and dumped at your doorstep (that is, again, if you are lucky).

In either case, avoid shipping electronics and things that rust easily. Electronics, TVs, nice stereos, etc. are generally subject to very high import duties, and then there is the problem of the broadcast standards. Will your new home have NTSC or Pal? They are highly incompatible. You’d do best to sell your stuff at home and get new or used equipment where you end up. It may cost a little more but will save you problems in the end.

Now, despite the descriptions above, there are actually moves that do go by the book. If you are a diplomat, for example, or it’s just your lucky day, by golly, three weeks to the day, all your treasures are delivered to your door, intact and with courtesy, by good people who will help you carry that heavy piece of furniture up that spiral staircase to your study. This is something to celebrate!

In the end, after you are all settled in, meet your new neighbors, make new friends, and your kids are learning this new language at an amazing pace and you realize that you can’t go shopping without them, I can sort of assure you (if your are at all poly-culturally inclined), that it will all have been worth it.

Oh yes – and then there is the third scenario: The Nomad! That was our move. But you will have to wait until the next installment for the true adventure of our dramatic escape.

Until then,
Jamie Douglas

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.