Moving to France: what I brought with me #7

In my last two articles in this ‘Moving to France’ series, I talked about the process of moving and the ways in which I sorted my things using the Kon Mari and Swedish Death Cleaning methods. I explained my process of going through my 54 years of accumulated memories in the shape of objects.

To say that this was not an easy process would be an understatement, especially when continuing to work full time and complete all of the mundane but important tasks that one must do when moving countries (ordering copies of birth certificates, transcripts, medical records, etc.).

What I brought to France with me
Rue du Petit Fort, Dinan, France

In this article, I will answer a question that many soon-to-be expats have: How do I move my things overseas?

What I brought with me

Once all of my things were sorted, I looked at the piles again. I saw a treasure trove of books that have been hauled up and down stairs since I first moved out at age 18. Like many, I have a love affair with antique books. I knew that to ship them would cost a small fortune (due to their weight) and to haul them through an airport and onto a train would not be practical either. So, I said goodbye to almost all of them. They will bring someone else joy, I hope.

What I brought to France with meMoving to france
Books from Becherel

It was a hard thing to separate myself from the furniture – passed down three generations – that I had carried with me to every apartment, every house, that I have lived in my entire adult life.

But when I researched moving quotes, I learned that a container costs about 3,000 USD for the number of items I wanted to bring. For many individuals, this would not be cost-prohibitive. For me, this was a few months’ rent and therefore not an option. And so, I took photos of these treasures and bid them farewell.

It is no surprise that I love traveling and have therefore accumulated a collection of travel bags. Those were coming with me, due to their practicality. The assortment of shoes came too: for work, for hiking, for sports, events, and/or all of the above.

My wonderful collection of Halloween witches was whittled down to two. My collection of Santas and other collectibles down to two small Christmas signs given to me by my mother. The holiday ornaments I have placed on trees for decades were donated, and will now be used by someone else’s family. Even writing these words stings a little, I won’t deny it. But it is all part of it.

Starting a new chapter in life means turning the last page of the last chapter of your old one.

I first looked into shipping large boxes and researched several sites. I received quotes from a few such as Schumacher Cargo Logistics.

How much does it cost to ship 10 large boxes overseas?

The cost

From Schumacher Cargo Logistics: “Here is the quotation for your shipment to France based on the details that you kindly provided on our website $2790.00. This quotation includes all the standard fees and charges that we currently know will be required in order to ship your goods from door to door.”

As this was not feasible, I ended up doing two things: bringing two suitcases with me and shipping three suitcases, over a period of a few months, through SendMyBag. I had read reviews online and searched for moving options in Facebook groups such as Americans in France.

I found the SendMyBag website quite easy to navigate. When packing the suitcase, it is important to read very carefully the things that are and are not allowed in the case. Unfortunately, personal toiletries and breakable items are not allowed so these will need to be sorted in another manner. When placing things in the case, it is important to keep a running list of each item. This is because one needs to create an itemized list of everything placed in the case and the approximate resale value of the said item. Once the case is completely packed, one has to weigh the case and take careful measurements to include (if a soft-sided case) any extra bulging.

The paperwork and the process

Once all of the paperwork is complete, there are additional steps to follow to ensure that the proper documentation is set to enter France (or elsewhere). It is important to note that the case must have specific labels attached and these labels need to be sent to your address in advance. I requested that the case be picked up approximately a week after filling out the paperwork so that the labels would arrive on time.

Once my suitcase was picked up, I received a confirmation text and email. I received status updates regularly and each time I used the service the bag arrived a day early.

On the downside, two of three cases were damaged (a broken wheel on one, and a broken handle on the other). I had just purchased these cases so I was a bit disappointed. I then realized that it was not the case, but the contents within, that held value and since those arrived safely, all was well. While a few containers continue to rest at my parents’ houses, almost all of my physical belongings are here in France.

What do you think would be the most difficult thing for you to part with?

What are the five items that would be ‘absolutes’ for you to have with you in your new home?

Is SendMyBag reliable?

According to their website: “Send My Bag® has an excellent rate of correct delivery estimations, with more than 95% of standard deliveries and 99.5% of express deliveries of unaccompanied luggage arriving on time. However, we recommend allowing a little extra time in case of any unexpected disruptions.”

Would I recommend SendMyBag?

In the end, I would recommend this service to others considering a move. For the price of the shipment, it is much more cost-effective for heavier items such as books and clothing. I appreciated the status updates and the expedited shipping.

Where can I find additional information about SendMyBag?

How do I move large items to France?

  • Container shipping
  • Schumacher Cargo Logistics  Quote $2790.00 Per email: “This quotation includes all the standard fees and charges that we currently know will be required in order to ship your goods from door to door.”

How do I ship a car overseas?

  • FAQs from Ship Overseas
  • Quote per 
  • Shipping method: 20′ Container
  • Pickup from: Michigan, United States
  • Ship from: Newark, NJ
  • Ship to: Le Havre, France
  • 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback 5D SEL (Operable)
  • L: 171.6″ W: 71.8″ H: 57.70″
  • V: 411 cu. ft. W: 2891 lbs.

Quote Details

Ground Trucking (Open)$1,095.00
Ocean Shipping$1,550.00
AES costs$90.00

If you’ve moved to France or another country, how did you decide what to take with you? Please share your experience in the comments below

You’ll find the first five articles of Moving to France here:
1. Taking the plunge #1
2. The first-month #2
3. Buying a car #3
4. L’Assurance Maladie #4
5. How to let go #5

About the Contributor

Amy Gruber

I was first introduced to France as a child during a family trip abroad. I have since studied in Paris, traveled throughout the country, and I fell in love with France and the French.  Brittany is where I call home part of the year. Read more on my blog and Instagram @agruber17.

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