Shipping personal belongings between Australia and The Netherlands

It’s now been 5 years since we relocated from Australia back to the Netherlands.  I’ve just found the old paperwork for shipping personal belongings between Australia and The Netherlands.  I do wish now I’d written an article earlier as I’ve now forgotten a lot of the process, but if you have shipped personal belongings between the two countries and would like to add your practical experiences or recommendations, please do so in a comment below.  Meanwhile, here is my personal story.

2002: From Australia to NL with a backpack

On my initial move from Australia to the Netherlands back in 2002, I bought just a backpack of belongings!  I had been travelling the world for a while already and stored the remainder of my personal belongings with my parents in Australia.  I didn’t own any furniture and most of my “weight” was books and clothes.  On each trip “home” to Australia, I would load up a few more things I wanted to bring back.  I also had a few boxes of keepsakes with my parents.

2007: From NL to Australia with a baby and belongings

After living here in the Netherlands from 2002-2007, by the time we planned on moving back to Australia in December 2007, we had a baby – and a lot more belongings!  We sold off all our furniture, but arranged for a pallet to be shipped from Rotterdam to Brisbane.  As my father then had a company that regularly needed to ship things internationally, I arranged it with his help.  That was now a decade ago and I don’t remember the details so am not much help sharing.  I do remember being a little jealous of my Shell friends, as their company arranged to ship their entire household, including furniture, to their next destination.  As we weren’t moving with a company, we had to go through the painful process of trying to reduce our belongings, as we reassessed the personal value of each item.  From memory, we had about 20 boxes of things which were mostly of personal but not of financial value (such as books, photo albums, diaries etc).  I know it was a debatable topic between my husband and I, as he had a lot less belongings, and I found it quite stressful going through and deciding what to keep and throw out.

After organising the shipment in November, we packed up our baby and a couple of necessities and stayed with my husband’s family for a couple of weeks, borrowing a lot of things we needed from them.  Then in December 2007 we flew from Amsterdam to Brisbane with a baby and a couple of bags.  I discovered that there was a big 2nd hand baby good market in Brisbane the weekend we arrived so that was great timing to stock up on everything we needed such as a cot, baby bath etc.  My excited parents – first time grandparents – bought the rest.  Our shipment arrived around 6 weeks later.  I can’t remember much about the process or prices unfortunately.  I know it had to clear customs in Brisbane and there was a fee for this.  I also remember that we packed the kind of things you usually declare when flying into Australia, such as wooden items, separately, so that they could inspect these easily.

2012: From Brisbane to The Hague with a family

When preparing for the return journey to relocate from Brisbane back to the Netherlands in 2012, I found this really difficult.  With two children, and a house we had just sold, it was a much more challenging process.  We again sold all our furniture, but I found this harder this time around as I’d gathered some pieces of furniture I found hard to let go but would be expensive to ship. In the end, we shipped 2 pallets of belongings, which was 30 boxes.  Again, we organised it via family contacts, so I don’t have a company that I can recommend, but if you do, please comment below.  I also didn’t keep a record of the costs.  I do have documents showing it was around 834kg (2 pallets) and 4.126 cubic meters.  When the goods arrived in the Netherlands, we had to pay around 500 euros to a shipping agent for taxes and charges.  This doesn’t include the shipping cost, which I think was around 750 euros.  My husband did a declaration with the Belastingdienst (see links below) to declare it was personal belongings and that we met certain criteria, for example that it was goods that we had personally owned and used in Australia and that we weren’t going to sell within a year of arriving.  Without this declaration, we would have had to pay more taxes and charges.

Storing stuff in Australia

Back in Australia, my parents stored some furniture for me for a while, but then didn’t have the space, so had to give it away later.  At the time of that move in 2012, I really wasn’t sure how long we’d live in the Netherlands, but as I write this post 5 years later, we know we are staying long term.  I also still have a few boxes stored with my brother in Australia, mostly of keepsake things that I don’t really need at the moment but don’t want to throw out.  Every few years, I do a cull of what I’m storing in Australia, it’s interesting how some things mean less and less over the years, but others still are of personal value to me.  I’m very grateful to my family for keeping some things for me, it would be expensive if I had to ship them here too or stressful to get rid of them.  In hindsight, I probably should have just bought everything in the shipment.

My relationship to stuff

Moving back and forward across the world has changed my perception of and relationship to “stuff”.  I’m constantly trying to reduce what we have in our house in The Hague, and teach my children to do the same. I often have nightmares where I have to leave somewhere quickly and am stressed about what I am going to bring with me!   It’s also still a point of sometimes heated discussion between my husband and I, as he has less of an attachment to things than I do.  I feel that as I am not in my “own” country, instead I have additional belongings that remind me of my other home in Australia and childhood there.  For example, I have a box of barbies I used to play with as a child, that is rather bulky, and a lot of English books.  Much of this probably cost more to ship than it’s worth, but which makes me happy to have here with me.  Many things are also gifts from people and which I find hard to part with.  Though family and friends – particularly those who understand moving house – have instead been encouraged to give experiences rather than things over the years.  When you stay put in one place as we have now in The Hague for 5 years, it’s amazing how quickly things accumulate.  I love 2nd hand shopping and have found that “easy come, easy go” has been a good philosophy with things over the years.  I’m also trying to go digital with a lot of my books and files.

Your experiences and tips

Have you had to move personal belongings between Australia and The Netherlands or vice versa?  Please comment below.  Meanwhile, I’ll put some links and information that may be of use below.  Note that I’m providing this purely as a starting point, things can change so I suggest you do your own research.

Moving from Australia to the Netherlands?

You will need to declare your shipment of personal belongings with the Belastingdienst (tax office) and can avoid paying import duties if you meet certain criteria.  Details here:

I am moving to the Netherlands and want to import my household effects to the Netherlands without paying import duties

Alongside the Belastingdienst, who are responsible for taxes, there is also Douane (customs), where we had to fill out a “vergunning vrijstelling ver verhuisgoederen”.  You can find more information at www.douane.nl 

Moving from the Netherlands to Australia?

The link below gives details from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, as to the things you are allowed to bring in:

Moving to Australia or importing personal effects/household goods

Hope this is helpful and if you have information to add, please comment below or contact me.

Renee

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