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24. Moving!

24.1 European Resources

European Resources is a collection of pointers by David Johnson that cover a variety of issues when moving to or visiting the European continent. Among others, there are: relocation kits, eurailpasses, international travel news, intercultural press, foreign newspapers and magazines, international employment gazette, the european (newspaper). 1996-06

24.2 Taking a Computer along to Germany?

Will it work in Germany - different voltage, outlets? Is there a way to use an adapter? I know that works for hairdryers, but computers seem a bit more sensitive.


24.3 Taking Foreign Electronic Equipment to Germany?

If you wish to use domestic American electronics in Germany you will encounter difficulties such as:


Walk About Travel Gear do a thorough job of explaining which appliances need converters, which need adapters, and of course, they have some available to sell.

24.4 Shipping Your Household US<->Europe/Germany

Summary of a thread from Winter 1995.

General Remarks on Shipping your Household

There are different shipping methods (besides airmail):

Regular Shipping

The regular shipping companies charge about 80c per pound for shipping from NY to Frankfurt. The more you have to send, the cheaper the rate gets. For shipment of less than 500 lbs, they usually use flat rates. For example, International Sea & Air shipping Co. (+1-212-766-1616) charges

1-100 lbs 101-200 lbs 201-300 lbs 401-500 lbs US$247 273 352 445 501-1000 lbs 1001-2000 lbs 2001 lbs & over 89c/lb 77c/lb 73c/lb
If you live far from NY, you have to pay more. If I ship my stuff from North Carolina, the rate is much higher than the above rates. For example, DeHavens (+1-919-220-5441) in NC charges US$1.48/lb for 500-700 lbs, and US$1.35/lb for 701-1000 lbs. Several other local places have the same or higher rates. The good thing about these places is that their rates include door-to-door service.
Discount Shipping

There are some outrageously cheap shipping options for those who live in NY or other big cities. (See below.)

US Post Office

The regular shipping service by the US-post is much more expensive Than the above mentioned shipping service, but their book shipping option, known as M-Bag, is the cheapest way (under any ordinary circumstances) to ship books from anywhere in the US to anywhere overseas. They charge only 72c per pound. Each bag has the minimum weight of 15lbs and the maximum weight of 66lbs. You can put books and periodicals in these bags. The regular printed matter is excluded from this service, although its rate is still lower than those for other materials. Time to Germany varies from 2-6 weeks, so plan ahead. But for the price, you can't beat it. It is especially good for shipments of books and notes. Supposedly the bags get emptied in Bremen and the little boxes are sent individually; but soc.culture.german readers also have received the whole bag instead...Reportedly these bags take quite a beating, so tape the little boxes well! 1995-4

Other experiences:

several quotes from readers of s.c.g

I had about 800lbs of stuff to ship. I called several hauling companies and they would charge me between US$1000-1500. Almost as expensive as by mail. A friend gave me a number to call, where they charge only about US$250 per cubic meter (it's in a container on a ship). I called them and they confirmed the price. I think you should get something similar from the east coast.

Don't know about NC, but if you can get your stuff to NYC, there is a guy called K.D. Marreck who does shipments to Germany for an outrageously cheap price (I shipped my 5 large boxes with books, printer, PC etc for US$100). He cooperates with the German mover's company Kühne&Nagel; I think what he does is he includes your handful of boxes in large containers paid for by companies doing large int'l shipments. First I was sort of suspicious since the warehouse, to which I had to take my boxes, was in one of the worst neighborhoods in NYC and looked rather run-down. But everything arrived complete and intact. Besides, I had gotten the address from the German consulate in NYC, so I guess this guy is not known as a crook. The address: KD Marreck Intl and Domestic Moving Services, PO Box 43, Manhasset NY 11030, tel +1(516)627-0845, fax 627-6143

I am an air freight forwarder and I am most familiar with what you are saying. It is true that the warehouses (including mine) of freight forwarders are in the worst areas of town (for me Buffalo, NY). It is good advice to check with various shipping agents. If you are not in a hurry, tell the forwarder you wish to "consolidate" your freight with other oceanbound freight going to Germany. This means your freight leaves with other large shipments at a rate much less than usually charged. You can negotiate with forwarders.1996-01

Contact Panalpina in Washington DC. But make a conscientious decision what you want to send. Basically the bulkier an item, the more expensive it is per pound.

My advice is to send as much stuff as you can through the mail, with the US postal service your local branch about book rates, and rates for sending things through surface mail. It may take a little longer to get your stuff once you are in Germany, but the savings are worth it.


Be aware of possible difficulties with finding parts or even just service stations for rare cars; rare being defined by the German market. Of all US car manufacturers, only Ford is presently in the German market to a sizable share. To get parts for a Chevy or Pontiac could prove very expensive. Japanese and Korean cars should meet fewer problems in Germany. Of course, practically all European car manufacturers also sell to the German market.

Whichever way you get your car to Germany, you will very likely have to make changes to comply with German safety standards. The checking is done by, among others, the TÜV. Their experts on car importing issues seem to be Herr Gayk, phone number +49 89 5190 3109, or Herr Schmidt, phone number +49 89 32950 931. Make sure that you can make your car the inspection before you ship it !

The following are quotes from readers of soc.culture.german.

To ship your car over, in very broad terms, there are two ways of going: I chose the latter because it is much less expensive. When they ship your car with your furniture, you need a big container and in my case that would have meant wasting a lot of space.

Another thing I did to save money is to drop off my car at the port and pick it up at the port in Germany. Finally, I learned there are potentially two middle men on the sending side - the moving company and the freight forwarder. I decided to eliminate the moving company and go directly to the freight forwarder.

The freight forwarder does things like store your car until the next shipment and fill out paper work. The one I used is called Sea Bridge in Baltimore.

No matter which way you go you'll need three copies of your title notarized front and back. Note that some readers report they didn't need this. In my case, the freight forwarder is going to make those notarized copies for me.

In my case the charge for sending my 1992 VW Jetta GL from Baltimore to Bremerhafen is US$744 plus the insurance. The insurance costs 1.5 % the estimated value of your car. If I'd gone through the moving company, the insurance would have been 2.5% the value.

I understand that when I go to pick up my car in Germany I'll need to pay some German port taxes. The agent at Sea Bridge advised me not to get an agent on the German side. He says that I could do the paper work myself in about 2 hours.

I shipped a car to Paris. There are three ways to do it. First, you can have the car sent on a car-carrier. This is the most expensive way. Would have cost me about US$2000 to have the car delivered to Le Havre, France.

Second choice, have the car shipped as if it were household goods - ie, in a 40 foot container. This way they deliver it to your city, and maybe even to your home. Cost runs about US$1000.

Final way, and the way I did it - I had the car shipped in the 40 foot container WITH my household goods. Ran me an extra US$600 and I simply picked the car up at the shipper's warehouse in Paris.

Call any major moving company for details. In Washington, try Security Storage, Victory Van, or Colonial Storage.

For shipping cars US -> Europe you can try Sunship International Harry Zaki (?) 1-800-344-9428 Aug '92: US$900

in 1992 I selected pick-up at home (in the US) and delivery to the harbor in Antwerp; it did cost around US$ 1000. I had it organized by Rainier Movers(?) (somewhere in Washington state); can recommend them.

Last year I shipped my Mazda from Portland, Oregon to Bremen, with the following costs: Transport: Bossi & CO. Inc., 80 Park Avenue, P.O. Box 69, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, tel +1(201)659-4471, fax 659-4325. Customs: Since I had owned the car for more than 6 months, and my residence was in the US, I was exempted. Otherwise it would have been 15% tax, 10% customs (22% for pickups) based on the value of the car.

Insurance: my German insurance insured the car temporarily for remodeling.

Remodeling: the car is a Mazda Miata, 1990. It's sold just the same in Germany. I had to change: bright lights to H4, turn signals separate from parking lights, brake lights need individual fuses. 1995-3

British vehicles need to change headlights ... and still have the steering wheel on the other side. But can't do the TÜV without having the headlights converted to continental type. Before also strict emissions testing ...1996-1

Specific Shipping Companies

Abaco International Shippers in Chicago, Il offer special shipping rates to students moving over seas. Can also be contacted by email or tel +1(800)621-4504

A www site that might be able to help with most moving questions is www.vanpac.com. Their site has lot's of resources on the subject. 1997-01

24.5 Things to take to Germany?

Some Presents might be Lucrative Paraphernalia ;-)

Little Things Easily Forgotten

If you need a Foreign-German dictionary, bring one. You can find German-Foreign dictionaries, but they are not as good since they are oriented more towards people who know German. The difference is subtle, the ones from your original country would probably be a lot more useful.

Remember that the stores in Germany may only open their doors between 7 AM and 8 PM on regular workdays -- and not all of them do. They have to close around 4 PM on Saturdays, and all day Sundays. There are a few exceptions, esp. in the bigger cities (Kioske and they like); but those might prove hard to find if you are new in town. If you'll need something right away, remember to bring it. 1997-01

Addendum: Good places to buy something at off-hours are gas-stations. Most of them sell various groceries (not just candy-bars) and things like toothpaste or shaving cream. A lot of the newer ones even live up to a real 24h deli. In the past you could only rely on freeway gas stations to be open 24h, but these days, a lot are open 7 days 24h and only the really small ones close for more than 4-6 hours at night. 1999-01

You can purchase better Foreign-language tourist books in your home country than in German bookstores. (Maybe with the notable exception of English guides to metropolitan areas.)

You might want to consider purchasing a calling card in your home country for calling home. Chances are calls to your card are still cheaper than telekom-originated calls; <sigh>

Bring important telephone numbers, of course. You don't want to pay for overseas directory assistance.

If you want to rent an auto, do it in advance, before you arrive in Europe. It is hard to believe how expensive auto rentals are in Europe (3-4 times higher than in the US, e.g.!)

You'll have to figure out how to pay your credit card. They probably won't let you slide for 3 months.

Many ATM cards work in Germany. This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to change currency. But don't depend on it completely.

Bring some German currency. It's not always easy to change dollars, and there are often high fees. Some banks charge for travelers checks others don't. Best to be able to survive till you find one of the latter ones.

Make sure that you have a place to stay for the first few nights. During major events (industrial fair in Hannover; Octoberfest in Munich...) all the hotels fill up for miles around. 1995-10

24.6 Postdoc Experiences at a German University

All those wunderbar surprises that may or may not hit you, when you spend some time as a postdoc at a German university...


I am paying DM440 (+DM150 Nebenkosten) = DM590 for 35 m^2 in somebody's house. They have converted the top floor of their building into 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom and 1 room which serves as kitchen and sitting room. My understanding is that I am getting a reasonably good deal. I imagine that comparable space in an apartment building probably costs more. Btw, don't forget to ask about the Nebenkosten. The price quoted to me was just the DM450 and then I found out later they were going to add DM150 (supposedly to cover heating and water.) Oh, we always do this in germany, she said. I also pay electricity extra but it's not much ( DM30 per month).


There are so many deductions that change every other month that I have no idea what I'm supposed to be paying. however, everybody else seems to be having similar amounts taken out of their pay. I estimate that all deductions *INCLUDING HEALTH AND OTHER INSURANCES* amount to about 1/3 of my paycheck. Initially it was about 1/2 until my tax status stabilized. I got the difference back the following month.


This depends on your income. if it's low enough you are obliged to have the government version; this is deducted from the paycheck. If your income is high enough you have the choice of taking private insurance of which the government will pay 1/2. your contribution is also taken out of your paycheck. I have private insurance at DM690 per month (ouch!) but it does cover visits to the dentist.

As regards insurance (personnel not health), one is very strongly advised to get Haftpflichtversicherung (3rd party or liability insurance). It's the one personal insurance one is most strongly advised to get. Although house contents insurance etc is also a good idea. Cause any damage to anyone/anything and you will be liable. No question of going to court to settle a dispute, it is simply settled by insurance claims. If you have children you are liable for any and all damage they do (your child runs into the street and causes an oncoming vehicle to swerve into a telegraph pole or another vehicle. YOU are liable for all damage (to both vehicles, the telegraph pole, etc) ... DM 2 Mio was the minimum (1993), 5 Mio was recommeded. added 1/96

eating out

Is horribly expensive. Cheap is  DM15. Decent is DM20->30+. No refills for coffee. customary in the US.

groceries and clothing

Generally these are also more expensive than in the USA but right now I guess the dollar is weak and this makes it worse. Food shopping is not that much more expensive but clothes are usually quite a bit more expensive. Typical prices in a j.c.penney type store: shirts DM30-80, trousers DM80-150 shoes DM100-200.


It seems that everything you want requires 10 forms plus copies of birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses (driver's license probably won't work) and whatever else you can think of.

note: I live in Aachen which is a medium sized town. I'm not sure how much different the cost of rent and food will be in a large city.

I forgot to mention something. It has to do with taxes/social security contributions in germany. Unfortunately, when I went to see the people in the administration, I spent about 1/2 hr and it was still not clear to me what the deal was but the gist of it is:

There is some kind of pension scheme into which everybody (Angestellte) pays (Beamte get this automatically I think (?)). however, if you are here for 1 year only, you are exempt from these payments. It turns out that my contract here at RWTH Aachen will now be extended beyond the original 1 year. As a result, I now become obliged to make these payments and what is more, I have to make payments for the previous year as well. The bottom line of all this is that I have to pay (approximately) DM1000 straight down. This came without warning. I thought I would let you know in case anybody else asks about taxes etc; I'm sorry I don't have any more details.


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