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Old 04-15-2008, 07:38 AM
16 posts, read 35,370 times
Reputation: 15


Not sure if this should go in the "moving" or "world" section. Hereís the situation.

I moved to Europe 11 years ago with my company, who handled all the details. Iím now preparing to move back to US, but Iíve since left the company, so Iíve got to do it all on my own this time. Iím currently living near Lyon, France, and will be moving to Minneapolis, MN. Iíve got a relatively small amount of stuff to move, but too much to carry on a plane. I have no furniture (itís all old and was very cheap to begin with, so Iíll sell it, give it away or Ė as a last resort Ė dump it). I do have guitars, books, clothes, my own paintings, etc that I will not part with, so thereís no way I can get down to two bags and a carry-on. Iíd say that I have 10-15 sq meters worth of stuff.

So, first question:
  • Should I be looking at movers, or are there other shipping companies (like UPS) that can handle this? Seems like itís too small of a job for movers to be interested, and nothing difficult like a brass bed or piano. But too much to stick stamps on and put in the mail. Can anyone give me any guidance?
    • a) If I should use a shipping company, any recommendations?
    • b) If a mover is the right solution, anyone know a reliable on that would do France Ė Minnesota?
Second question, regarding customs:
  • I remember when I came from the US, since it was a semi-permanent move, I was able to bring over personal belongings at the time of the move without having to pay any taxes on it. I image that that same thing applies for the move back, but I think that it has to be declared somewhere. If I send my stuff back by shipper, Iím afraid that somehow Iíll get taxed. Anyone know anything here?
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Old 04-19-2008, 07:42 PM
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 15,486,525 times
Reputation: 2637
Hi. I did exactly what you're doing, from New York to Tokyo, and 11 years later from Tokyo to Seattle, both with no furniture just "personal effects".

INTERNATIONAL MOVING AND STORAGE COMPANY, definitely. UPS, FedEx, etc. charge by the foot; moving companies charge by the carton or by heavy weight. Also, moving and storage companies have a storage warehouse at the other end of the move; you can arrange with them to hold your shipment until you can pick it up -- for months, if you want to. The UPS-type operations are not set up to store, only to delivery quickly.

International moving companies often do have a minimum VOLUME, but you can negotiate, and don't ignore what might be the negotiation value of being sad, worried, poor, and other "vulnerable" emotions.

International moving companies also KNOW HOW TO GET YOUR STUFF THROUGH CUSTOMS because their reps do it every day for a living, and have all the paperwork required by U.S. Customs that you'll have to fill out and which will accompany your shipment. That's part of their job. They will give you all the advice they know to help you get everything into the U.S. without fees. Also, U.S. Customs deals with the international movers every day and Customs knows that those companies know how to comply completely with U.S. Customs regulations. That back-and-forth understanding helps your move go smoothly.

PERSONAL EFFECTS are expected by U.S. Customs and aren't often subject to duties, unless the items themselves are illegal in the U.S. or are extremely expensive. Your passport can prove that you've been living abroad for a long time; everyone living anywhere accumulates all sorts of "stuff". AS LONG AS YOUR ITEMS INDICATE USE -- not even heavy use, just use -- THEY ARE YOUR PERSONAL EFFECTS and are simply your "stuff". Well, unless they're items of diamond jewelry, of course!

I lived in Japan for 11 years, changed dishes, tablewear, glasses, guitar, books, clothes, underwear, coats, shoes, household accessories, etc, etc, etc. U.S. Customs DID require the shipper to open some of the cartons at the port of entry to the U.S. (I could see the tape was different, and the moving company rep told me that Customs had inspected 3 or 4 of the cartons.) Because everything I brought back had been used, even just slightly, and nothing was in original packaging, it was all my personal effects.

You should be aware that due to current anti-terrorism considerations, it's possible, even likely, that Customs will open every carton and look at every item, searching for illegal and dangerous items. Just so you're prepared.

I believe you do have to state an estimated "value" for each carton, not for each item. So guess just a little bit low. Your moving company can help you greatly with that estimation.

DECLARATIONS: The last time I went through U.S. Customs was about 7 months ago. The Customs form required the traveler to declare $10,000 or more in cash or cashable instruments, agricultural products, endangered animals/bird/reptiles/insects, biological samples, and similarly unlikely items, that he/she was bringing in to the U.S. I'd suggest you go to the U.S. Customs website at CBP.gov - home page and drill down to find the current specifics.

I don't know about current international moving companies. I Googled and got this: international moving companies - Google Search
This looks interesting as a start -- you can play with the "from" and "to" and start getting info: International Movers - compare-international-movers.com. International Moving Companies.

I hope this helps! Have fun planning your new life!
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Old 04-30-2008, 06:41 AM
16 posts, read 35,370 times
Reputation: 15
Hey, thanks for the great reply. I hadn't checked in a few weeks because it seemed that I wasn't going to get a reply. I'll check out those moving company links then. If anyone has any more specific recommendations for small-volume international movers for France, I'd love to hear it. Thanks again allforcats.
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:59 PM
16 posts, read 35,370 times
Reputation: 15
Just wanted to post my experiences with this, in the even that they might help someone else. I ended up using a company called UPAK, which is part of EuroUSA. Real movers didn't want to work with me because my move was too small (I had 18 medium size cartons and no furniture, although I did have one surfboard and a couple of guitars). When I could get them to give me a quote, it was very expensive (minimum of several thousand euros). So the other options where UPS and standard mail. UPS would have been less than the movers, but still very expensive. Standard mail (La Poste in France) would have come to still somewhere about 2.000 and they didn't want to handle the large items (i.e. surfboard).

Upak was about half of the post office option and they handled everything, including the surfboard (windsurfer, actually, which was probably 8 feet long). They did everything based on volume, which made it easier for me to calculate. I did all the packing, which was once again, actually more convenient for me.

End result, the shipment was slow, slow, slow, taking about 3.5 months, but everything got here with very minimal breakage (which was my fault for doing a poor packing job). They didn't do a great job of keeping me abreast of the progress, but they were very prompt to reply when I inquired myself.

I will say that I had the impression that things would be sticky if anything went wrong, because there are so many layers of sub-contractors. And I think they are able to give such a good deal because they are working with a minimal team. Don't expect a lot of hand-holding in the process. But if you ask precise questions, they were very quick to respond.

Had to pay an extra $120 or so in customs fees, but they warned me about that in advance.

So anyway, my takeaway was that Upak offers a minimalist service and don't count on seeing your stuff for several months (my stuff took 3.5, but I read a post from a guy who made a similar move where it took 5 months). But the price was unbeatable. For me, it was a great option.
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Old 06-11-2011, 10:47 AM
18 posts, read 34,119 times
Reputation: 18
Originally Posted by allforcats View Post
Hi. I did exactly what you're doing, from New York to Tokyo, and 11 years later from Tokyo to Seattle, both with no furniture just "personal effects".
My wife and I are planning to do the same at the end of next month (JPN to US, no furniture)...who did you use to move from Tokyo, and how was your experience with them?
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