Tag Archive for: relocation

As expats we intermittently spend a large chunk of money, shipping stuff around the world. The dilemma of what we should leave behind and what should form part of our precious shipping volume, is fraught with complications.

As someone who has been on the Expat train for 19 years now and just experienced the arrival of our fourth shipping load a few days ago, I thought I’d share my thoughts on moving and the trials and tribulations of life before and after your shipping arrives. Are you actually happier with less, before it arrives, or after?

What goes

Our first move was back in 2003 from the UK to Kenya with our two young children aged 5 and 7. We imagined we would go for the duration of the two-year contract to enjoy more sunshine and a few safaris. We ended up staying there nine years. When we asked our new boss-to-be how we should decide what we should or should not bring, he had a fabulous answer.

The people who come to Kenya and stay, are those that bring enough stuff to make a home. Those who don’t make a home, leave. Easy then.

We brought as many of our belongings as we could to make all four of us feel at home when we got there, and anything we wouldn’t need in Kenya or couldn’t bring we sold or stuffed in the attic, to sort out later. Easier said than done. It was not a sellers’ market at the time and it was very difficult to sell anything and get vaguely close to what it was worth.

My wife had recently inherited, from her brother, a ginormous TV (not a flat screen, but the old-style big screen and body). Imagine a TV the size of a Smart car, but which weighs twice as much. Despite several conversations, which I came at from many different angles, I could not change my wife’s mind. That TV was ours, it was worth a lot of money, and was coming with us.

I have plenty of my own quirks. I refuse to be separated from my unicycle despite riding it maybe twice in the last 18 years! Saudi Arabia was too concrete for unicycling (I’m not very good). Hanoi in Vietnam was also too built up. Maybe there will be more grass and opportunity to get back into the saddle in Budapest and my circus skills can get back on track…

What stays?

Old stuff. Broken stuff. Anything you haven’t used or worn in the last two years (easier said than done). Anything you can pass on or sell and buy new again where you are going. Anything you won’t need in your next destination.

I handed on to a friend an amazing, but heavy, one-man tent come camp bed which had been brilliant when sleeping under the stars in the cold Arabian desert, and when I had a car to transport it, but would have been useless in Vietnam where our mode of transport became a moped. Leaving can be a great opportunity to give to people around you, who materialistically have less, and shed things which are no longer of use to you.

In Kenya, where people make a living out of caddying for golfers, it is almost unheard of for an expat to leave without donating his or her golf shoes, gear or clubs. These people become part of your life. The school security guard we gave our TV to, could not thank us enough, nor the teaching assistants loaded up with children’s clothes and toys. Moving countries is a fabulous opportunity to clear out and scale down.

A chance to halve your wardrobe. For me and this latest move it was a chance to get rid of those armpit-stained t-shirts, those boxer shorts where the elastic waist has long gone and those socks which are more hole than sock. We also managed to shed half of our books.

We haven’t bought in to the digital book arena yet. We love our books. My Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride collections, the wildlife books, the favourites. When we eventually retire somewhere, we picture these books sitting on a shelf somewhere in a reading room, looking ordered, inviting and comforting.

Life before the shipping arrives

There’s something to be said about the simple non-materialistic life you lead before your shipping arrives. When you land in your new country with just the 23 kg in your suitcase, you have very simple wardrobe decisions to make each day. There’s a lot of washing up to do to make sure those two IKEA cups, plates and glasses are available again for their next use.

We arrived in Budapest at the beginning of August into a heatwave, so I had one warm top. A hoody. As September ended and temperatures started to drop, that hoody got a lot of use. If I was cold, I put the hoody on. No big decisions about which hoody, or whether to choose a jumper (and which jumper?) or a long sleeve t-shirt or a jacket of some sort… just find THE hoody and put it on. Simple. Luckily, I love that hoody.

Similarly simple in the kitchen. What can I cook in the two pots I have, while I wait for the casserole dishes, frying pans, wok and baking trays to arrive with our shipment? It turns out you can do everything. And after living with two mugs, two bowls, two plates, and two glasses for eight weeks, I ask myself if I really need all those mugs, wine glasses, cutlery and dishes I am unpacking.

What were the things I was really happy to see?

The three wooden giraffes from Kenya. They each have a story and remind us of the amazing adventures we had in our nine years in Africa. The two battered stone dogs from Hanoi. Stone dogs can be seen outside many houses in Hanoi where they are placed to scare away evil spirits. My Leeds United mug. Tea always tastes better in my Mr. Leeds United number one fan mug. My cruiser skateboard.

I can’t wait for a dry day to try it out along the banks of the Danube. My guitar. Did I need any of the other piles of stuff I’d just had shipped 8,063 km from Hanoi to Budapest? An extra hoody to replace the one I’d been wearing every cold day thus far. But the rest?

For my wife it was her father’s ashes in the pot her mum had made. And the giraffes and the stone dogs. The wooden table her best friend had given us as a wedding present. And the Maasai men candle sticks.

Life after the shipping arrived

Was my life really richer now that I had all my belongings? It was certainly more cluttered. More clothes, more shoes, more books, more DVDs, more knick-knacks from around the globe, more of our children’s artwork…but did this make my life richer and more fulfilling to have more of my stuff surrounding me? My initial reaction as more and more boxes appeared into the apartment was a foreboding sense of dread of having to pack it all up and move it all, again, someday, somewhere, further down the line.

But, in other ways, my life does feel richer. It makes the house more familiar, more like a home. It helps me appreciate the life we lead, the places we have been, and reiterates the point, that the most important items in our shipment are personal and sentimental.

When we were leaving Vietnam, and sorting out the shipping, the moving company guy kept mentioning insurance so if anything happened to our belongings, we could replace them for like for like. But we can’t. It’s not possible to replace a wooden giraffe you remember being the first, haggling for it on the beach in Mombasa on your first holiday out of Nairobi. Nor the vase your best man gave you on your wedding day, made in a famous pottery in St. Ives.

Much of the things we cart around the world have a personal, sentimental connection, are irreplaceable and make our new place in our new destination, a home. Wherever we move to in the world, to live and work, that is our home. We don’t have another in the UK left empty until the holidays. Where we live is home.

So, the things which are important to each of us, come with us. Each move brings a new opportunity to reassess what those important things are and to shed items on the periphery. I think we’re getting better at it, but I’ll let you know for sure the next time we move. And you can be assured that the unicycle will still make the cut.

By Byron Wood

“Could you help me move my furniture back to England?” I receive a request like this once every two to three weeks.
That’s great you might be thinking, you run a relocation company and you get regular enquiries. It would be great if I owned that kind of relocation company, what I actually own is known in the industry as a Destination Services Provider (DSP for short).

That’s great if you work in the field of global mobility but for the everyday person, perhaps relocating for the first time, a DSP is probably not a business type you have come across.

What is a DSP and how can it support relocating employees?

Let me clarify what my company, Inter Relocation, does: we provide independent home search services for expatriates, as well as helping them to find a school for their children, orientation support for new arrivals and additional support with anything relating to establishing a life in a new country.

In addition, we also provide in-house visa and immigration support, which is quite typical, at least within the Central and Eastern Europe region. That makes my company an ISP (Immigration Service Provider) as well as a DSP.

A short history lesson

When I started out in the industry things were a little simpler. Companies like mine were commonly referred to as relocation companies, with our cousins in the removals business calling themselves household goods movers, removals firms, or van lines. Then slowly but surely the removals companies started to call themselves relocation companies, just like we destination services providers had done so, so that things would be clear for the lay person.

The late, great Paul Evans once explained it to me in terms of his goal of ultimately selling his business for a higher price. The basic gist was that household goods moving is a blue-collar logistics business, whereas relocation (encompassing the work of a DSP, ISP, tax and legal and other support services such as language and cross-cultural training) was considered a white collar consulting business. The multiplier of historical or projected profit that you can charge when selling your business is significantly higher if you are selling a consulting business, and that is what he was building.

Let’s look at the big relocation picture

So back to that request for my company to move someone’s furniture. I take such requests with good grace and do my best to direct the customer to a company that will indeed assist them. It reminds me that relocation encompasses so many processes, of which my company delivers only a few. At this point we must mention the global players in this industry, the Relocation Management Companies (RMCs).

Many multinational companies’ global mobility management have realised that if each of their offices operates its own global mobility policy, it results in a very disjointed experience for their international workers. A typical solution has been to take a global approach and to establish a relationship with a service provider that can support that company’s expatriate employees wherever they relocate to.

This is the role taken by the Relocation Management Companies. Companies like mine partner with RMCs and act as an on-the-ground partner. There could also be immigration, household goods moving, spousal or partner support, tax equalisation and so on, all provided by a network of partner companies around the world.

Relocation is all about people

For me the beauty of our industry is that it is all about people. I do my best to occasionally work with a relocating family, just to remind myself of why we are here. To relocate from one country to another, even as a single person, can be very stressful and to know there is someone who will hold my hand (metaphorically at least) when I arrive in the new location is very reassuring.

There are efforts within the industry to use technology to streamline and simplify the process and I am all in favour of a reduction in administration and in the number of people who contact a relocating employee. For me though there is still no substitute for having an actual relocation and/or immigration consultant to look after an expatriate and make sure they find the right home at the right price, with a lease contract that protects their rights and with the legal right to live in that home and work in the country they’ve moved to.

Empathy for the expat

I’m an expat too. I relocated to Hungary in 1995 and did so without any professional support. I proudly refer to myself as an economic migrant, because I relocated with two suitcases, a small amount of money and sought a new life, a better life, in Budapest. For me relocation was the freedom to make a choice, to be able to move to another country, without having to prove my worth in advance. I moved to a country with a fresh, entrepreneurial spirit and found myself caught up in that feeling and was running my first business by 1998.

Beer was cheap, the locals were welcoming and loved that I tried to speak their language. My decision to relocate changed my life, beyond all recognition and I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out if I’d decided not to. I don’t think about that too often though, mostly I’m focused on making sure my team has all the tools they need to relocate the next satisfied and very brave customer.

By Stuart McAlister, owner and Managing Director, Inter Relocation

Stars of Global Mobility

(Boston October, 2019) — Inter Relocation was honoured for its outstanding performance at Cartus Corporation’s 2019 Global Network Conference held October in Boston, MA.

The Global Mobility Oscars

Cartus Global Network is Cartus’ industry-leading worldwide service provider network. Each year, Cartus recognizes the companies and individuals in the Network who have provided extraordinary service to its customers and clients worldwide.

Inter Relocation was also nominated for the prestigious Cartus Masters Cup in 2016.

This year Boston was the venue of the 2019 Global Network Conference

Winner 7th year in a row

Inter Relocation was named winner of the Global Network Commitment to Excellence Gold Award, the seventh year in a row that Inter Relocation has won such an award. This award was given for its exceptional service results, and it is one of the highest level awards a supplier can achieve through service performance. In addition, this award recognizes a supplier’s measurable commitment to excellence and is presented to Global Network service providers who have distinguished themselves by achieving critical performance metrics.

Inter Relocation owner Stuart McAlister receives Cartus Gold Award

A proud global mobility company owner

Stuart McAlister, Inter Relocation’s owner and Managing Director

Stuart McAlister, Inter Relocation’s owner and Managing Director, collected the award on behalf of his entire team. We asked him how he felt about this latest success:

“I’m delighted that Inter Relocation’s destination services team has maintained a consistently high level of quality service, over a seven-year period, and all the while expanding the volume of business we manage for Cartus and also widening our geographic coverage. I’m extremely proud of every member of staff that contributed to this amazing result.”


About Inter Relocation

 Founded in March 2002 , Inter Relcoation is a provider of relocation destination services and immigration compliance in Budapest, Hungary. Established with three full-time members of staff, Inter Relocation has a current staff of 21.

In addition, in 2003 Inter Relocation founded the international side of the company. From humble beginnings with the company offering relocation services in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Inter Relocation now boasts franchise group members in 25 countries across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with the Budapest office acting as the group headquarters.