11 key points about the move from Europe to the USA

We finally had THE meeting with the move company. In THE meeting the move company assesses the size of your home content in terms of ship container(s). They also explain you what you can and what you can’t take with you to the USA. This last part was new to us, since we have moved across countries in Europe but never to the USA.

In the below list I’ve summarized what we learnt in THE meeting:

1) You don’t have to pay custom duties for your used household goods, as far as they’ve been in your possession for at least 12 months.

2) There are a number of goods that are strictly prohibited (i.e. fresh meat, fish, etc.) and others that are strongly discouraged (i.e. alcohol).

We had a couple of Rioja wine bottles that we wanted to ship to California but the move company claimed that the red tape was such a weight that it wasn’t worth it. Then they referred me to the US Food and Drug administration site about Bioterrorism. I didn’t really get how shipping two bottles of Spanish Rioja wine was related to bioterrorism, but since we were pressed by time, we decided to consume them with friends during our farewell dinners at home.

3) Antiques, arms and ammunition are expensive and difficult to import into the USA,  so the move company is always going to suggest that you store or sell them in Europe. We had one of those small air guns that my husband always claims is a toy not a real gun… but the move company strongly disagreed with him and therefore they discouraged us from taking it with us.

4) Same with vehicles. You need to pay extra to move motorbikes and cars from Europe to the USA, plus the hassle of customs,  plus the registration paperwork and all this without a confirmation that they will let you operate your vehicle.

5) You need to take strong precautions with the items that have been in contact with non-US soil. They must be thoroughly clean before packed and shipped, i.e. bike wheels, roller skater wheels, plant pots, beach toys, etc.

6) As you can imagine (also common sense) the move company won’t ship your perishable plants nor the food in your fridge.

7) Combustable items are prohibited (i.e. your gas lighter refills, your charcoal lighter fluid for the barbecue grill, etc.) as well as other articles that could damage the shipment (i.e. paint, caustic, substances, cleaning products, etc.)

8) If you are lucky enough to have one of the following toys, then I envy you but I’m also sorry for you because it’s very expensive to take them with you to the USA: the move company won’t ship the following under a standard contract, you’ll need to pay extra ship rates and insurance fees:

  • your pool table,
  • your snowmobile,
  • your jet ski,
  • your boat, canoe, kayak (if over 14ft).
  • nor your table football game.

9) Wardrobes. I have two wonderful wardrobes… and I’ve been advised not to take them with me. Why? First of all because the ceiling height in the USA is lower than in Germany. Secondly, because 99% of the American apartments have built-in wardrobes…

10) Home appliances. The move company will pack and ship them for you, now do you want to take them space in your container, when they won’t even work in the USA (read 5 annoying things when moving from Europe to San Francisco).

11) And finally: please read carefully the following official list of Prohibited and restricted goods. Read it carefully. I’ve already mentioned some of the items in the list and others, it’s common sense that they are prohibited.

What’s your experience in moving from Europe to the US?


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