Hi everyone! The past 7 months have been really tough for our family as we moved last April 2021 from Manila to Geneva, Switzerland. Writing & content creation have taken a back seat as we adjust to a new life, new country, new language & new home! Most days I’m just proud that I’ve kept myself, DiploBaby & DiploDog alive!
But I’ve made a promise to myself to get back to my passion for writing on the blog, sharing my expat/diplolife experiences and also decluttering. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to share information on something as traumatic as moving, but I find that writing it down & sharing what I’ve learned along the way therapeutic. So here is my first post on the move!
I want to share our moving process last April 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, because it is a unique time in history. We all know that moving is one of the most stressful things in life, but it’s 20x more difficult with the pandemic! There are so many things about moving that I really only learned through our experiences – and mistakes! – moving 4x within a span of a dozen years. So I am sharing it here with you because I know I wish I would have been giving these information & advice when I was new to it!
Filipino Diplomats usually have 30-60 days max to depart for their new assignment once we get our AO (Assignment Order) from the Department of Foreign Affairs. So it was really quite crazy the moment TD (The Diplomat) received his AO.
For diplomats from other countries, they have different timelines. Some know 6 months before. It really just depends on what the system is for moves in each foreign service/country.
SCHEDULE AN ASSESSMENT TO GET AN ACCURATE QUOTE
When it comes to our stuff, we’ve tried doing it DIY but the best really is to hire a professional mover who will handle it all for you, so you can focus on decluttering the things that you cannot bring with you. Whether you are moving across town or across continents, I’ve learned the hard way that hiring professionals is best for my physical, mental & relationship health!
We asked everyone we knew for the movers they used and TD got in touch with all of them to schedule an assessment and get a cost quotation- from the ones who are well known (Crown Relocations, Asian Tigers, etc.) to ones that we have never heard of before.
The first moving company to come over to so a survey, asses and give an quotation was CROWN RELOCATIONS. The MOVE MANAGER was quick and super responsive. We were amazed by how professional & thorough they were. This was already a nice green flag.
The surprising thing was that most of the movers TD got in touch with did not even come over for an assessment. The unknown moving companies just sent quotations that were even more expensive than the industry leaders. We were shocked.
WHY ARE THE RATES 2-4X THE NORMAL COST?
The reason why the quotes were so high is because of PANDEMIC PORT CONGESTION. With port staff getting sick & sometimes operations taking a pause when staff get COVID & it spreads, only half the shipping containers are leaving the port.
So with only half the opportunity to get a shipping container out, the cost has double to quadrupled… especially for smaller companies that just don’t have the volume or the clout.
EXPECT DELAYS DURING THE PANDEMIC
With only half of the container vessels leaving the port, there are huge delays. So say if the normal ETA from Manila to Europe or Africa is 2 months, expect your stuff to arrive in 3 months instead. In the beginning of the pandemic, I had a move coaching client whose container arrived after 4 months instead of the usual 2 month ETA!
However I also had a friend who chose a lesser know shippers and even if we had our pack up on the same month, our shipping container arrived already and hers had not yet left the port in Manila. This is why it’s so much more important during the pandemic to choose a mover that has the reputation & the volume.
TIPS ON CHOOSING A MOVER DURING A PANDEMIC
Get an industry leader that has the volume and connection to get your shipping container going, the moment you have an address to ship to. This is super important during the pandemic or it will take your stuff a long time to arrive.
Some embassies like the US embassy, their diplomats already know where their housing is going to be so it’s easy to ship immediately.
For multi-nationals, there is usually a go-see where they visit the new posting to view homes & schools (CROWN can help with this too!) and they get to choose their new home before they leave for good.
In these 2 instances, the shipping container can leave when they fly to their new posting..
However there are a lot of ministries, wherein there is no assigned housing. The Diplomat themselves have to go house hunting when they arrive in the new posting. Some embassies put up their DiploFamilies in hotels while they look, or for a certain period like 2 months. For Philippine Diplomats, we have a 2 week hotel allowance. After that we use our rent money to stay in serviced apartments because it’s unlikely that we find a place to rent within the 2 week hotel allowance.
This means that there is no address to send the shipping container to yet. We usually ask the shipper not to send our shipping container until we have an address, because if the shipping container arrives and we have no address we might be asked to pay demurrage. This is super expensive, so avoid at all costs. So remember that it’s important to find a mover that:
- Is responsive & immediately visits you for an accurate assessment of your belongings. They will tell you how many cubic meters you will need & how much it will cost. An experienced professional will even let you know what items you have to let go of to be able to keep within your budget & give you other advice to make your move easier.
- Can store your stuff at the point of origin, while you are looking for a home in your new posting without charging you extra
- Is an industry leader that can get a spot in the shipping containers that are leaving the port This is so important because I have a friend who packed up on the same month that we did from Manila and when our shipping was delivered to our flat in Geneva, their shipping container had not even left Manila yet. This is the disadvantage of using a smaller mover during this time.
- An established company that takes care of & trains their employees. This will also make you feel safer knowing that they invest in their staff because you know they will be coming to your home & will be in close contact with you while they pack/unpack.
- Can give you some leeway if your shipping container arrives in the new country and for some reason you cannot receive the shipment yet.
- Can handle your air shipping of you have an UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage) allowance. It makes it so much easier to deal with just one company.
- For us it was also very important to get a shipper that also has their own office in the destination country. For us this is the most important because after using very reputable shippers when we were moving from Jakarta to Berlin, then Berlin to Manila… we noticed that the service in the orgin was great, but not necessarily to the same standards in the destination because they only had a local partner instead of their own office. Sometimes there are things in the fine print that will be suddenly different because it’s a different company already in the destination country.
- Gives you a door to door quotation, meaning there will be no extra charges that were not included in the original quote. Confirm this in writing so that there are no surprise charges when you arrive.
- Will deliver for free to at least one floor on top of the ground floor. In the Philippines we call this the 2nd floor. Here in Europe, it’s called the 1st floor. Again get this in writing. This is important because if you choose a 2 or 3 floors above the ground floor and the place doesn’t have an elevator big enough for your furniture, the extra charges will be very expensive. You do not want to be stuck looking only for an apartment on the ground floor because you wont be able to safely keep windows open at night & you may be liable for the maintaining any green spaces, shoveling the snow in winter, & any accidents that happens to people outside your door if you don’t.
- The shipper will dismantle (if needed), pack & box your belongings. Then during delivery they will unbox, unpack, assemble & position the items where you want them. I never experienced this as thoroughly & well done as we did with CROWN RELOCATION. I don’t think I can go back to how it was with other shippers.
- Will take tender loving care of your belongings, pack & unpack them carefully. I remember when the local partner in Berlin delivered, they were very rough handling our belongings. They even took out a chunk of one of the century old doorway. Insurance covered it but it was still stressful. You wont know this until you’ve already chosen, but I can say without bias that I’ve never encountered packers handle our things so carefully & thoughtfully as crown – both their staff in Manila & here in Geneva were super nice & mindful during the whole process, from pack out to delivery.
- Then they will also take away all the packaging materials & boxes after everything is delivered & unpacked. Again super important especially in places where you will have to pay for disposal of big boxes or bring it yourself to a garbage dump, because the likelihood is that you wont have a car yet or wont be able to drive yet.
- If you have pets, you may want to check if they have pet relocation services so they can also help you with the complicated requirements.
Number 7 & 8 is important because those extra fees can be very expensive, especially if you have to personally cover it because it was not part of the original quote that was given.
Recently my friend Bernadette, who also availed of my move coaching “Ask Me Anything” consultation told me that though they booked door to door going to Australia, the local partner’s contract did not include taking the items up one flight of stairs. Thankfully their mover was nice because he was the one who handled the move out of the same apartment, so they took the items up even if technically they should have charged extra. So we always make sure to clarify these details.
In the end only 2 industry leaders were super responsive & actually came to make an assessment, give an exact quote and discussed with us their companies’ process for moving. But in the end we decided on CROWN RELOCATION because they ticked all the boxes above.
And we could not be happier! We didn’t know that this level of service existed, so now we now why some people choose CROWN every time they move! If you have any questions above choosing a mover and other moving related questions, feel free to comment or send me a DM in IG!
I did a shorter version of this post during our move when I had no time to write a blog post about it yet. You can see it here:
I’ll be doing more posts on the below! Watch out for them!
Pre-move Customer Support
Packing Up Our Home During a Pandemic
What is Unaccompanied Air Baggage or AUB
Delivery of Our Shipment & Unpacking Our Lives
The Importance of Getting Transit Insurance #CrownCare
What is a Mobility Advisor
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I hope you find this post helpful for your future moves! Please feel free to share it on Social Media & with friends who might need to read this too!