Moving Essentials – Pack it or Store it?

How much do you love your car? The roads here are VERY narrow in places and cars park sometimes on both sides of the road and into the lane making two lane roads often a very tight one lane. Accidents happen frequently. Cars get scratched, bumped, and banged in parking lots. Mirrors are ripped from cars. It’s not everyday, but it’s often enough.

Can you have a nice car here? Yes. Can you keep it nice? Yes, but with luck and a lot of care. It’s not easy. Two cars is pretty necessary. Spouses without cars/transportation will go crazy pretty quickly not being able to get out. If you have two cars there, you’ll want two cars here.

A lot of people purchase German made cars here. Volvo and other car dealers have very good deals here for Americans buying American spec cars. You can also find a variety of “lemons” on the lemon lot here to buy if you just need a small commuter vehicle. So don’t feel like you MUST ship two cars.

Schinnen has most of what you’ll need, so you don’t need to pack any food items, but if you have the weight allowance, most spices and pantry items can be packed well in tupperware containers. Just make sure that they’re sealed properly.

While there’s no guarantee that your house will be huge, most floorplans that I’ve seen are quite accomodating to larger furniture styles. After all, this is the land of the ginormous shrank. If you don’t know what that is, you’ll find out soon. :) So, that being said, bedroom sets? Bunk beds? 7′ tables? Yep. Bring it all. You will most likely have plenty of room for those things and a few antiques you may pick up along the way.

Getting rid of garbage here is a lot more difficult than in the states. We have to sort everything and there are a lot more restrictions on what we can throw away and when. It is difficult to get rid of large, bulky items. So, when moving here, keep this in mind. Don’t move it thinking you’ll easily be able to deal with it later. Purge. Most people end up bringing things they really don’t want/need. I have boxes of junk in my attic we’ve never touched.

German outlets use 220 volt power. Most of the electronics in your home will require a transformer. Transformers can be expensive depending on the wattage required. For example, my coffee pot requires just a few watts and can run off of a small, inexpensive transformer. However, my freezer would require a 1000 watt transformer and these can cost a couple hundred dollars. So, when you sort you things pre-move, think in terms of power. Most of you 220 items will need a transformer.

Things like computers, most hairdryers and curling irons, printers, scanners, etc… usually DO NOT require a transformer and will work just fine using an inexpensive converter plug (check the item – it should have a voltage range on the back printed somewhere). So, those are no problem to bring.

Small appliances that don’t move around are easy to plug into a small transformer. Most people have a small transformer in their kitchen that coffee pots, toasters, kitchenaids, etc can be plugged into when you need them. It’s easy enough to bring these smaller kitchen items and all share the same transformer. Some say that over time a transformer will blow out the appliance. I have yet to do that, so who knows.

Stereo systems, televisions, DVD players, etc… will usually require a transformer, but you don’t necessarily want to replace those all here either. We brought ours and just unplug the transformer when we’re not using the television. It is important to do this. Transformer pull power even when not in use.

Moving electronics like vacuum cleaners are better purchased here. You don’t want to lug a vacuum cleaner around the house with a heavy transformer attached. Especially up the stairs. Most people buy their vacuums here. Also, many houses do not have carpets at all, so a good mop may be more useful then your US vacuum anyway.

BIG things like a freezer or refrigerator that require a transformer 24/7 will pull a lot of power and cost you a small fortune in electricity. I do not recommend bringing these items. Schinnen will provide an American-sized 220V refrigerator and you’ll learn to live without your large freezer. I brought mine and it’s been sitting in the garage untouched for 3 years. Running it with a transformer is not worth the expense.

Lamps are inexpensive to buy here at IKEA.

Gas Grill:
You can bring your gas grill. Tanks are available at the NATEX and at Schinnen.  You can also ship your grill back to the states as long as it’s clean.  You may not, however, ship propane tanks even if they’re empty.


Germany is VERY pet friendly, so it is easy to have a pt here. Not all the rental houses allow pets, but many of them do. There are a lot of veterinarians, kennels, and pet supply shops here as well to provide all the services/support that a pet owner needs. Dogs are allowed in many German restaurants. There are TONS of walking/biking trails for walking your pets.

Do get your pet’s passport (at your veterinarian’s office), check-up, and ID chip before you try to fly over. Also, make sure that the airline knows that you’re traveling with a pet. Even cats that can easily be stowed underneath the seat in front of you should be noted on your travel reservation. Airlines restrict how many pets are in the cabin, so if the number is exceeded and your pet isn’t noted on your reservation, then it may not get on the flight with you.

Power Tools/Garage Items:
Again, you’ll run into transformer issues on these things too. Just think about it. We have not needed ANY garden items here. Many landlords do all the gardening for the tenants and it can be easily arranged to have that done. It all depends on the house though, so it’s kind of a gamble.

A lot of people travel enough here that they don’t have time for their US hobbies. Very few men actually use the power tools they’ve brought over. It’s just a matter of usage. Do you think you’ll use them with the transformer? Will you so busy with travel that you don’t have time to build things? Plus, we’re all renting. So the whole home-improvement aspect is pretty much out the window. It changes things.

You can get many OTC medications at the shoppette on the GK base or at the commissary or shopette at Schinnen. There are also some decent medications at the local Apotheke (pharmacy).

As for allergies, some people’s allergies improve here and others get worse. You can get Claratin here, but not Claratin D. There are a lot of other medications that are just not available. Many use or have family members ship OTC medications to them. If allergies are a big problem, you may want to shop ahead and move a little more than you need.

There are no 24/7 shops here, so make sure you always have a good supply of medications with you at home and on trips. You won’t be able to run to the corner store at 2am looking for children’s cough medicine.

When traveling, it is always handy to keep a small bag of necessary medications with you in a Ziploc bag. Remember the airline regulations with liquids and make sure that anything which will not be allowed, is packed well in your check in luggage.

Trash cans:
Reader Observation:  “We just recently moved to Germany and had an observation.  Trash cans for your home are freakishly expensive here.  I suggest people coming here but good trash cans with lids before PCSing.  2 cans at the REAL were 100 euro and a can at the PXTRA was 60 bucks.  That’s outrageous!  Buy trash cans in the states!  

Packing out – on the way to Germany: 

Every moving company/group of movers will interpret the rules differently and follow them differently, so keep that in mind. Rule #1: No one will follow the rules the same way twice. Just be patient

Don’t always rely on what someone tells you is rule #1. Just because an office tells you the movers will pack and move it doesn’t mean the movers will, and visa versa. I’ve had some pretty good arguments with both sides of the street over some of that.

1. Check with the list of items that are allowed/not allowed by the host nation. For example, Germany has rules about bringing fire arms into the country and proper storage of them. Make sure you know what you can bring legally or not.

2. Check the moving company/TMO do/don’t list and weed out things like opened containers, liquids, candles, etc. I’ve found that spices packed nicely in sealed Tupperware containers move well. I’ve also found that many movers will pack just about anything, so it will serve you well to carefully set aside things like paint thinners, cleaning supplies, and other potentially flammable liquids.

Unpacking in Germany/Netherlands:

If you have the storage space, keep a few of your boxes. Paper is recycled here and having large boxes to store paper in helps tremendously. Plus, boxes full of paper on the sidewalk are less likely to become a mess in wind and rain throughout the year.

And now you’re here
and you think, “I should have brought that toaster,” or “why did I bring that ugly chair???”  Now it’s time to find a few things to fill in the blanks or get rid of those things that just don’t work here.  IKEA is the one-stop shop for many household basics, but if you want to go “thrift,” then check out this link.  There’s a list of great suggestions:

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