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Working with International Movers

When we moved to Maastricht, the movers were handled for us by the University of Maastricht. Unfortunately that means when we moved back we had to locate and hire a moving company for the first time in our lives. A bit harried? Yes. Especially because the encounter isn’t over yet. To get the cheapest shipping we could we paid for literal shipping in a large crate with other people’s things. The upshot is that I won’t be able to wrap up this little adventure until our things arrive in mid-April. Slow boat indeed.

image (cc) Jim Bahn. Licensed via Creative Commons on Flickr

Picking the Mover

Selecting a mover wasn’t too bad, although it was hard to know who was trustworthy or not with our lack of experience. We researched mover options on expat websites and submitted quote requests to several companies through some online quote request websites. We also looked as “POD” moving, but couldn’t find a company that would go from the Netherlands to the USA (if you’re moving to/from the UK though, there are a few options).

Only 3 companies got back to us and after looking at reviews, comparing prices and finding out who could pick up the earliest in January, we went with Pearson Moving Company; a UK removal company that operates worldwide.

Packing & Pickup

I must admit I was a little concerned about Pearson hiring a Dutch contractor to pack and pick up our things. Not that it would be a serious problem; just that I was already in stress-ville over making sure the truck would have space to park and had recently had a really bad language barrier experience with a mason who came in to half-fix our tub. Fortunately for me neither issue came up.

The movers themselves turned out to be a couple of guys who had driven their huge moving truck from the UK and were doing a loop through several European countries doing pickups and drop-offs before returning to their home base. They were on time, friendly, packed all our items remarkably well (I think), and generally made this stage of the move headache free.

For parking I was able to get a prepaid parking slip for the truck, but we had to stake out space. Unfortunately Maastricht doesn’t have a system in place to post an areas as a “no parking” zone.

The Waiting Game

This week I got an email from Pearson indicating that our items would be arriving in port on March 6th. With import regulations and the travel I don’t expect to see our items until the end of the month. But I’m staying positive about it. I have no reason to expect that things will arrive in anything but a steller condition. With luck Dan & I will have jobs and be moving into our own place by the time they get here.


A girl can hope right?

Flying Home with Cats in Tow

And we’re back, but only for a limited showing. Now that Dan and I have moved out of Maastricht, I’ll only be making a few more posts before officially moving my blogging activities over to a new site. The website won’t be going away right away, but do expect to see changes some time in the future. I’d like the articles to continue to be available for new expats; in as much as they can be useful as things change. But for now, let’s talk cats.

The number one question I’ve gotten with our move back to the United States is “What about the cats?”. Would we be moving them? How? Do they have to be in quarantine?

Of course since the cats came with us from the US, we knew they would return there with us. I just didn’t expect US regulation on cats to be so straight forward. The USDA regulates the import of all animals, pets or for resale, and while their regulations on dogs and birds are pretty strict, about the only thing you need for a cat flown in cabin or hold is an inspection upon arrival. The inspection runs about $100 and they recommend you contact the airport before your flight to make sure someone is on hand. We avoided this inspection, as you’ll see below.

KLM/Delta in contrast has more strict regulations. They both required a rabies booster shot and a statement of health that was no more than 7 days old. We used a Pet Passport, an EU standard document for pet records, which was very handy. I hope that our vets here will be able to continue using it to track our cats’ visits and inoculations. Naturally the airline also had strict, and sometimes contradictory, regulations for the carrier, when to feed your pet before flight, etc. We were told to follow Delta’s rules since it was their airplane we’d be flying on (even though we booked through KLM). Finally you’ve got to get pre-approved to bring a pet aboard an airplane. Since there is limited space and other restrictions, it’s a good idea to get that approval early, as we discovered.

Flying Freight

The trickiest and more frustrating part of moving the cats actually arose from the time of year. In the winter most airlines restrict when you can transport a cat in the hold; generally because not all airplane holds are heated or because the animal could end up sitting on the cold tarmac. KLM/Delta had strict temperature rules, which is fine, but seemed unable to enforce them evenly. That was a problem. After weeks of no response from KLM, I contacted Delta (whose airplane we would be on) and they told me the cats could not fly in the hold. It would be too cold out in Amsterdam (remember how warm it was in early January? Seriously Delta?).
Of course Delta somehow didn’t communicate their decision to KLM and when we checked in the airline rep wanted to know where our animals were. Oh well.

Our alternative? Flying air cargo on the same plane. This meant we would have to contract with a third party company and paying 3 times as much. The paperwork was, fortunately, the same and the company we used did include carriers and pick up in Maastricht so we didn’t have to drive the cats up to Amsterdam with us.

In fact, except for the cost I was pretty cool with the cats going air cargo. They were on the same plane as us, I knew they would overnight in a proper pet hotel, and we got a day to clean up without pets under foot. Unfortunately the positive aspects of the experience were overshadowed by 2 hours of driving around Logan airport and the docks in Boston trying to get someone to sign our import documents. We had been given the impression that the contractor was taking care of all the clearance documentation and we just had to pick our cats up. Instead we had to track down an official who had the ability to release the animals to us. An official we found on in an office building several miles away in the docks for cruise ships. My takeaways?


  1. I’ll never use VCK Logistics as a pet carrier again. I don’t know who got their lines crossed, but I wasn’t impressed.
  2. If you bring animals in cargo into Logan Airport, give plenty of time to do paperwork.

Fortunately both Agatha and Einstein have settled in well over the last several weeks. They like their new, bigger space in my inlaws’ basement and I suspect the kibble they’re getting now might be a little less fattening. They’ve both lost weight, but they seriously needed it.

The Maastricht Minutiae Virtual Yard Sale

Since I haven’t got a yard, but I do have a load of furniture and such that we can’t take with us, I offer you this virtual yard sale. All the items we’re selling are listed here and on this downloadable PDF; most of them with pictures. I’m happy to answer questions, take pictures, etc.

Prices are as listed or best offer. Pick up after January 1st is preferred, but must be before January 8th. Please email me as soon as possible to purchase an item or for more information. 

 2 Large Tables/Desks with adjustable legs – €10 each

Grey Clip-on Desk Lamp – €5

Short Filing Cabinet on Wheels, white – €20

2-Door Wardrobe with upper shelf. Light wood with frosted plastic panels - €20

1-Door Wardrobe with upper shelf. Medium wood color - €20

Drying Rack - €5

Cannon all-in-one Printer (Pixima MP560) - €30

Cannon Printer (Pixma iP3600) - €20

Vacuum Cleaner (canister, no filter style) - €25

Long Mirror, wall hanging - €5

Magnatron (microwave & oven combi) - €30

6 cup Coffee Maker, drip style - €10

1 cup Coffee Maker, drip style. Can take coffee pads - €5

Butcher Block counter on wheels. Natural wood - €30

Electric Teakettle/Watercooker - €10

TV Stand, black - €50

Washing Machine - €20

Dryer - €50

Standing lamp, silver - €10

4-Drawer Bureau, black - €30

2 3-Drawer Bureau, black - €30

Glass Digital Bathroom Scale - €10

Toiletry baskets, black webbing (4) - €1

Short standing cabinet with door and one drawer - €5

Shaving Mirror - €2

Small silver trashcan -  €2

Men’s bike. 3-Speed (back wheel needs repair) - FREE

Broken Men’s Bike (petals/gears broken) – FREE

Broken Women’s Bike (shifter needs to be repaired. Needs new tires) – FREE

My Repatriation To Do List

Our return to the United States has been slowly sneaking up on us and I’ve been handling it the same way I handle most stressful events. Somewhat poorly; and with lists. Here’s my “big picture” to-do list for our move.

1. Give Notice at Work: In our case this was straight forward since our various and sundry contracts are up at the end of December. But if you are leaving before your contract is up (or have something more steady), certainly giving appropriate notice is important. Another thing we’re doing is making sure we understand our rights regarding the Dutch pension system; not an issue for me, but possibly something Dan can benefit from.

2. Provide Notice to the Landlord: We had to give between 1-3 months notice and opted to give about 3. We’re hoping he’s willing to purchase some of our furniture; particularly the washer and dryer.

3. Line up a Mover: This took a while since we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we have finally decied to go with a British moving company. They will be packing and moving the things we’re keeping to our new location in the states. On the downside we’re still nailing down the pick up date so we can plan the rest of our travel.

4. Book Plane Tickets: We haven’t done this yet, although we know what flight we wants. We need to nail down all the dates for the movers, etc. before we can decide what day to fly. I expect we’ll be traveling via KLM to ensure a direct flight to Boston for the cats.

5. Prepare the Cats: Speaking of cats, we’ll be arranging a pair of vet visits for them to get a wellness check and rabies shots. These two appointments are actually required by the airline rather than by the United States. On that frontwe need to have the cats checked for health upon arrival. There will be no quarintine unless one of them exhibits symptoms for something that humans can catch.

6. Sell Off Items: We are leaving a lot of things in the Netherlands include about half our furniture. I’ll have a list up soon in case anyone reading this is interested. With luck the new renters will want to keep some of it and then we won’t have t worry about removing it.

7. Donate the Leftovers: If no one else wants the remains of our items, we’ll be donating the leftovers to a secondhand store (Mattie’s probably. I like them). The books we’re leaving behind will probably be donated to Books4Life.

8. Get Medical Records: Getting our medical and dental records is quite straight forward since everything  is digital. I do wonder if we’ll need to get some of it translated to make the records usable by our new doctors in the US.

9. Cancel Utilities and Cellphones: Cancelling utilities needs to be done at least a month ahead of time, but may need to be longer. I’ve checked with most of our utilities and they ask for a one month notice. That means I’ll be making some calls very soon.

10. Dealing with Bank Accounts: I spoke to Rabobank and they said they prefer that people close accounts that don’t have regular income. Fortunately they allow accounts to be closed by email (rather than face-to-face), so we’ll be able to pay everything offer and then close our accounts once we’re back in the US.

11. Packing: Before and after the movers pick up our things we’ll need to pack what we want to fly with: lots of winter clothing and probably the xBox 360 (if I know my husband).

12. Saying Good-bye: We’ve met a lot of great people here and I’ve emailed with even more. We’ll miss you.

A Long Good-bye: Starting the Road to Repatriation

How long as that wrong logo been there? Clearly I’m not spending enough time on the blog these days. Well it’s fixed now and hopefully I’ll be up and moving about on the old blog a bit more as we move into a new phase of our expat lives. In a word: repatriation.

Boxes from the "Out of Storage" exhibition in Maastricht

In a lot more words, Dan and I have decided to move back to the United States. Where? We’re not quite sure yet. It will depend a lot on where we can find jobs and if we can find a city or town that feels like a good fit. (Write me if you know of a good job opportunity. ;-))When? Our various employment contracts wrap up in December so we’ll probably arrange for the actual move to take place in January so we have a bit of time to handle last minute issues and don’t have to move in the middle of the winter holiday season.

Decision Time

Coming to the decision to move back to the US was a long one and it’s one I’ve been struggling with and feeling guilty about for a while. Many of the wonderful people we’ve met as expats are long-term expats, so it was only naturally I would start thinking about our stay in the same way. As a result, it’s hard for me to shake the feeling that we’ve somehow “failed” despite 2 years of personal growth and an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Even the hard bits that I really haven’t talked about here.  The fact is that I like living in Europe and have enjoyed Maastricht to the extent that I’ve engaged with the city and region. And there are many things I will miss. All other excuses aside, it ultimately comes down to two things:

1) I want to work in my field: Library preservation and archives. I could do that here, but it is astronomically more difficult given not only my citizenship but also my poor language skills. Frankly, I’m not willing to put my career on hold any longer than I have to just to get caught up on the basics. The Netherlands doesn’t exactly having a librarian shortage. Both part-time jobs I have now are good jobs, but it took me two years of struggling to get those lined up. Dan is also in a transitionary place in his career and we believe he’ll have more success in the United States as well.

2) I’m not happy. I’ve often complained (mostly to myself) that people who really hate on living in the Netherlands ought to move. I don’t hate it here (far from it), but ultimately I am not happy and haven’t been for a long time. So to put my money where my mouth is, we’re moving. Hopefully we’ll find the place that is right for us.

Why the USA?

Since we don’t have jobs lined up yet, isn’t a move back the the United States a poor career move too? Maybe, but the country you are a citizen of is always the easiest fallback option. I’d actually be interested in moving within the European Union, but currently countries all over seem to be battening down the hatches on expatriates; particularly non-EU ones within the EU. We’d only be interested in moves for jobs we could do in English as well, so if we see something: awesome. If not, we’ve got a long life ahead of us and I won’t rule out another expat adventure in our future.

In the Mean Time

Of course in the mean time I’m not really going anywhere for a while. Now that I feel free to write about our decision to move (I’ve informed everyone who needs to know expect our landlord), I hope to write more about our process. Coming here we had a lot of help from the University but on our way back, it’s all us. Repatriation isn’t glamorous, but it is part and parcel of the experience of many expats so it deserves to get written up. I hope you find it interesting.

Other things to watch out for:

  • We’ll be selling and giving away a lot of our stuff since most things don’t need to move with us. If you live in the region, keep an eye on the blog since I’ll be posting about it here.
  • I’m developing a “Maastricht Minutiae” digital archive project which I hope will take the place of this blog once we’ve moved. The archive will be a collection of our three years in Maastricht and will essentially be the same thing as the Maastricht Minutiae blog with more pictures.