According to the English Webster Dictionary, the word Expatriate or Expat means to withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one's native
country; to leave one's native country to live elsewhere,
living in a foreign land. 

In Practical terms, an expatriate could be an executive from a multi-national company, a diplomat from an international mission or simply someone that for many reasons, including retirement, decides to move from one country to another one.  

The logistics involved in making this relocation possible can begin with any of the aspects involved in this process, but certainly the transportation of household goods plays an important role and is one of the main tasks and usually a major concern for every expatriate and their families. 

 There are many steps involved in the process which when placed in the proper order can make a difference in a move and result in it being smoother and more efficient than others.

 With the exception of those of us that work in the Moving Industry, almost everybody feels nervous when facing the overwhelming number of questions that an international move can generate.  When the appointed day for departure comes closer, doubts and stress arise.   Then the key for a successful moving is PLANNING.

 In a recent article published by Lacma News, The Magazine for the Latin American and Caribbean International Movers Association, there was listed some things to do once a move is on your agenda.  After carefully reviewing it, here is a summary of the check list for the count down period.


 8-12 weeks before the moving date 

  • Choose appliances, furniture and objects you wish to move.  Figure out how you are going to get rid of the rest.  You can give them away to friends, sell them out or donate them to charity.
  • Contact the Moving Companies and ask for quotes.  You should provide all the details, ask for available options and give clear instructions on what you wish to include or exclude from your quote.   Make sure you select moving companies that are affiliated with high-standard-quality-international organizations.
  • Start to gather your personal information like medical and dental history, school transfers, banking and commercial references.
  • Check that all paper work regarding visas or work permits are proceeding.
  • Search all information available on your new destination.  Start initial contact with the relocation company on the other end, so you can start looking for housing and schools in the new country or region where you will live.
  • If you are packing electrical appliances, be sure that they will work in your new country.  It is possible that the plugs may need adaptors, or that the appliances may not work without some sort of modification.


 4 to 7 weeks before your moving date 

  • Double check the departure date with the Moving Company, also double check the insurance requirements.
  • If you have not made flight reservations for your trip, do so at this time.  Also arrange the temporary accommodations, make reservations at the hotel where you will stay once you have packed and before the departure day.
  • Notify the change of address, either by email or post to friends, relatives, credit card companies, magazines that you may be subscribed to, banks, etc.
  • If you have pets, this is the time to arrange the pet relocation as well.  Some Moving Companies and Relocation Service providers arrange this kind of service, so make sure your vet provides you with health certificates, shot charts and permits.
  • Get ready for the new school.  Request study plans, syllabuses, dress codes or uniforms, schedules, transportation, etc.
  • Sell any car that is not being shipped with your household goods.
  • Cancel club memberships.


1-3 weeks before your moving date 

  • Pick up all clothing from the dry cleaners, seamstresses, friends or relatives.
  • Return books or any items that you have borrowed.
  • Ask your doctor for several prescriptions for medicines you take regularly.  It is also wise to buy and carry with you a supply of medicines to last throughout this period of transition in your new destination.
  • Carefully get rid of all flammable material, like oil paints, cleaning supplies and petroleum-based products.
  • Arrange the cleaning of the house after the move.
  • Cancel newspaper deliveries to your house.
  • If you have plants, find them a new home.
  • Arrange for utilities to be disconnected (water, gas, electricity, internet, cable, cellular) and get the deposits back.
  • Set up a ?survival case? with the things you may need during the moving process.


The week before the moving 

  • If you have children, start to clean and pack their toys.
  • Put away valuables, documents, jewelry, and money.  It is wise to keep these items with you during the trip.
  • Unplug your freezer and fridge.
  • Wash and dry your clothes.
  • So that your small children are not at risk or become anxious during the moving process, make necessary arrangements to have them stay over with friends or relatives.


The Moving Day 

  • Check shelves, drawers, storage-closets to make sure they are empty.  Make sure everything is packed.
  • You have to be present during the packing and loading to verify that everything leaves your house in good shape as well as to give instructions and sign inventories and shipping documents.
  • Before leaving the house, close doors and windows.  Make sure all water faucets are tightly closed.

When your belongings are delivered to your new location, make sure to be present to verify that everything has arrived in good condition according to schedule. 

It is always important to coordinate the timing of the whole process.  Always ask the Moving Company for an estimated arrival date of your household goods (including air shipment), so that you can plan on the other end the beginning of the new lease contract, the length of stay in a hotel or the temporary rental of any furniture.  Always make sure you know the timing of everything:  Find out how long it takes for Customs to clear on the other end, how long it will take the Moving Company at destination to deliver, are all immigration processes covered to receive the household goods, how long does it take to get the utilities connected on the new home.  These are some of the questions you need answered in order to know what to expect in your new location.  

Moving is never a simple matter of pack and go.  It is a daunting task involving planning, timing and lots of coordination.  The world is getting smaller; you never know where you will be next.  We are all moving in new directions in a changing world.

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Article prepared for AmCham Business Magazine by Analisa Villalaz de Laffitte, AMCHAM Member and General Manager for Panama Relocation Services and Walter M. Laffitte, AMCHAM Past President and President of Panama Moving and Logistics.

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