Two Early Relocation Issues Faced by Inexperienced Expats

RELOCATION: Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear, this post is not going to be all ‘light and joy’ or filled with that positive optimism you probably love in other people’s blogs. I apologize for that right up-front. Honestly, this is more like a recap of some mini disasters you want to avoid to make relocation easier. I don’t want to put people off moving to New Jersey because we have had a few relocation issues along the way. Not everyone goes through these experiences. Even if they do, they may react completely differently to us. Maybe in our shoes, more experienced expats wouldn’t have even batted an eyelid. Maybe…

It’s all after the fact now but we didn’t cope well. Put it down to naivety, inexperience or just stupid optimism, we were both surprised and unprepared mentally for the ’bad’ things that happened in the relocation process. And as a result, these events (plus others you will read about in future posts) put a sour note on our relocation that hung around through our entire first year in the USA. At the same time, I have wished many times to have had enough experience beforehand to know, how I could have avoided some of our mistakes.

More importantly, if you are a newbie to moving overseas, perhaps you will take away some ideas on how to avoid the same relocation issues yourself. So let’s start with the first two problems we dealt with…

1.The worst Removal Company/Movers I’ve ever dealt with (in Australia)

We had moved homes a few times in Australia, so we had an idea of what to expect in packing to go overseas. However, it ended up being a lot different from that. By sheer luck, we got the Australian removalist company from hell. Despite being a big name removal company, the all-male packing team were, to put it impolitely, a bunch of tossers – chauvinistic, lazy, care level: Zero!

The real trouble was that when the moving company arrived, we were still doing our own packing for the plane and so preoccupied, we were oblivious to the shortcuts, sloppy techniques, and mistakes they were making. They ended up doing quite a bit of damage which we didn’t see until the other end when our NJ moving team (an absolutely fantastic group of guys) unpacked our stuff into our first rented house. Extraordinarily, at the end of packing, the Australian team leader approached my husband K, to recommend their work online. What a cheek…. We did give them an online review-just not the sort they were expecting!

2. Our Relocation ‘Experts’ can’t find us any U.S accommodation

K is an excellent project manager. Unlike me, he virtually never leaves anything to the last minute. So naturally, he queried our relocation company about our initial temporary accommodation in New Jersey, 4-5 months before our departure. “Don’t worry!”, they said. As relocation experts, their usual practice was to start looking for new temporary accommodation just one month before the arrival due date.

So just one month before moving, we were astounded to find out they had arranged temporary accommodation for a 3-month period in a completely different town and county, than requested. This is despite having our destination town confirmed in writing, and verbally several times prior. The reason: they couldn’t find anything in the town we requested in such a short time period! You’ve gotta love this company, and their so-called experts.

For some reason, they didn’t think it would be any problem to send our kids to school in one area for a few months and then drag them across to new schools in a completely different location, when our temporary accommodation was finished. Go figure…..This readjustment to place us in the town we wanted, then delayed getting our temporary accommodation.

The roll-on effect to this was getting onto the plane to leave Australia, with kids and loads of baggage, with no final address for where we were going to stay on arrival. Yes, we boarded the plane not knowing where we would be staying in NJ!

This caused poor K untold amounts of anxiety. I’m sure he went a different shade of grey just on the plane trip. When we got there, they had managed to find us a place to stay about 15 minutes away from Montclair. It was our first home for two weeks till we moved into Montclair.

Our first temporary accommodation after relocating to NJ

Our first temporary accommodation after relocating to NJ

What can you take away from these experiences?

Lesson 1:

No amount of experience can totally make up for sloppy service and bad organization from your relocation company. So if you have the choice to pick your own, research well before choosing. Check their level of ‘experience’ in all the different phases of relocation. This can include packing to move, moving your goods overseas, temporary accommodation bookings in your new country, helping you find a permanent place, as well as helping you settle in. Our company was supposed to coordinate everything. You may find it easier to find specific service suppliers for different stages. Make sure they have a proven record of customer responsiveness. Talk to past customers before signing up with any company.

Lesson 2:

If you can’t choose your own supplier, as in a corporate relocation, then this is my suggestion for handling the one(s) you are provided with. Map out your own process and timeline for each phase of relocation. Use your own judgment to question what you are told.  Don’t just accept anything on face value. We should have in hindsight questioned getting a residence booked only one month out from leaving. That was an overly optimistic plan based on their very superficial knowledge of temporary accommodation options. It should have been obvious this would be problematic.

Lesson 3:

Have your own packing done before the movers arrive. That way you will have the time to supervise and guide them, and to make sure packing accidents don’t occur. It is sometimes better to pack small valuable items yourself. Things such as kids trinkets, souvenirs, or anything you are concerned about, prior to the removalists arriving. You can have empty cartons pre-delivered in most cases to allow you to get this done in plenty of time.

Hopefully your relocation will go smoother than ours!

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One thought on “Two Early Relocation Issues Faced by Inexperienced Expats

  1. […] in our first year, as well as the mini disasters written about in my earlier post (Three Relocation Lessons Learnt Early On), these two hiccups were the relocation prize-winners for […]

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