They say moving house is in the top 5 most stressful things you can do in life. I believe for an expat, it is even more stressful than just moving to a new suburb. Not only are you packing up your entire life into cardboard boxes but you’re embarking on a journey to a new country or city, most likely a new culture, where you may not know a single soul.



The stress and anxiety of moving

I’d have to say out of all my expat friends, I’m putting myself at the top of the list as the worse mover in our circle. I get so stressed and anxious and with that comes really immature tantrums and perhaps once, ok maybe two or three times, I’ve threatened my husband with divorce, yep I’m that kind of woman!

Having moved countries three times and with a few internal moves thrown in for good measure I feel I’m now in a position to impart my words of wisdom.

Firstly do not bother throwing tantrums, they solve nothing and actually just make the whole ordeal a lot worse. Perhaps, this little tidbit is just for me because and all you other expats out there know how to act accordingly.

Pay packers to do the grunt work

My second piece of advice is if you can afford it get the moving company to pack and unpack for you, I find this alleviates a lot of the stress and weeks of preparation before the big moving day.

Moving budget

When it comes to finding the right mover, a few things come into play. Are you paying for the move, or is the company? If the company is paying, do you get a say in which company is hired or are you stuck with whoever the HR department chooses? Do you have a budget to work with or is it a free for all?

Our last move the company paid for our household goods to be shipped however, we had to bare the cost of moving our two dogs and two cats and also our beloved housekeeper. As far as movers, we were able to choose who we wanted to hire and had to provide three quotations to the HR department as proof of due diligence.

When it comes to choosing the right mover, the first port of call may be to check local Facebook groups and ask others who they would recommend or not recommend. If the same company is consistent with having a good reputation then getting a quote from them would be your next step.

I think one of the most important factors is finding out if the moving company in your current destination who is packing up for you will be the same company used in your new destination to unpack for you. This is incredibly important as you may have a great experience in your current home and find once you get to the other end you find the subcontractors are hopeless. I have heard of this scenario more times than not!

Here are my top tips on making sure you hire the best moving company for you:


The right moving company will ensure they take an inventory of all your belongings so that they can provide you with the right estimate. Make sure that they look in all your cupboards and drawers so they can see what you want to take. You should also make sure that you know what you’re keeping, selling and donating before they arrive to assess your goods. A mover’s price is based on the volume weight of your belongings and the space it will take up in the shipping container. Ensure that you understand the estimate and that is as accurate as it can possibly be. You don’t want any nasty surprises when moving day arrives.

Beware of extra fees

Are you moving from a single story home to a two-story home? Are you moving to an apartment building and your new abode is on the 22nd floor? Is the street you’re moving to on a narrow road and the shipping container won’t fit and therefore extra trucks of a smaller size will need to be acquired. All of these factors can cost you extra, so you and the moving company need to have this sorted before you settle on the contract.

The contract

Never under any circumstances sign a blank contract. You must ensure that absolutely everything is in writing. All costs should be itemised, including any extra fees. The dates should also be finalised (although clearing customs in certain countries may be out of you and the moving companies control). If for example your family computer is not listed on the inventory, then don’t expect that it will automatically turn up at your new destination. If an item isn’t listed on the inventory, but you know it was packed, you don’t have any evidence to back up an insurance claim. It is time consuming, but listing every item you pack is imperative, as you may need it for insurance.

The sentimental stuff

If your TV gets damaged or your fridge won’t turn on in the new house, it’s a pain, but they are items that are easily replaced. Your great grandmother’s wedding ring is something that can’t be! Anything that is really sentimental, priceless and can’t be replaced should be carried with you and not put in a shipping container.

At the end of the day, I believe it is best to go with a globally recognised moving company. Yes, you may pay a little extra for the name, but it sure beats opening up boxes with damaged goods, or months of trying to sort out insurance claims.

No matter which way you look at it, moving sucks. Does anyone really enjoy the process? Probably not. Go with a moving company who will reduce your stress as much as possible and try and look forward to your exciting new journey and most of all good luck!

Sarah Derrig is a seasoned expat from Australia who has spent the last 11 years living in the UAE, Qatar and back to the UAE