Packing to move abroad and the surprises you find on the other side

When Chris and I moved to Cambridge, England in 2005, we showed up to the airport with 4 heavy suitcases and 4 carry-on bags. The woman checking us in said sarcastically, “What? Are you moving to England or something?” With extremely serious tones, in unison, we said, “Yes.” “Oh,” she said, embarrassed.

Park bench made into a “couch”

We mostly brought clothes and sheets to our “furnished” studio flat. Furnished is in quotes, because it ended up being poorly furnished. There was a bed, a kitchen table and chairs, and some sort of bench that was supposed to be a couch. They probably got it from the outdoors and put some upholstery on it.

Moving to Germany in 2011 required a lot more organization and planning. Since Chris had a moving stipend, we were able to bring a lot more than just 4 suitcases. In fact, we brought a whole apartment worth of things, including our furniture. The danger was that we didn’t know what kind of apartment we would find. The organization was overwhelming at times, but somehow we made it here. It was months of deciding, do we store this in MI, take it to Germany, or get rid of it? We were extremely lucky finding a permanent place to live within a month of arrival. Our belongings took about 6 weeks to arrive after we moved out, and it was good to see them.

Then, it was funny to see what had been packed by the hired packers in the U.S. Some things, like my salad spinner, were packed because I didn’t know how small my refrigerator would be. Other things (e.g. old VHS tapes, a curling iron) were packed in error and shouldn’t have taken up room in our moving container. Our U.S. tape measure was packed, but it isn’t very useful for exact measuring and we had to replace it with a metric tape measure. But, this is just part of the experience of going through a complicated, international move.

The perfect soup container for your freezer.

One of the funniest boxes I unpacked contained 24 quart yogurt containers I had acquired over 5 years to freeze sauces and soups in. (I make a lot of soups.) I had eaten so much yogurt to get them, and now I had to throw them in the recycling bin, since I couldn’t even fit one in my German freezer.

In Cambridge, our “surprises” were what the College provided for us (e.g. dull knives, no couch), and in Germany, the “surprises” were our own comical errors in shipping.

Living abroad this time, I’m so thankful to have my comfortable green couch to lie on instead of a repurposed park bench. Experience helped with this move, and it feels good to be “home.”

This feels like home.


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