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The Expat’s Guide to Furnishing: Should you Move your Furniture?

By - June 3, 2014 (Updated: December 1, 2014)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series An Expat's Guide to Furnishing.
The Expat's Guide to Furnishing: Should you bring your own furniture?

The Expat’s Guide to Furnishing: Should you bring your own furniture?

Today, Interior Architect, Shanaz, shares some things to consider when deciding whether or not to move your furniture with you, on your expat assignment.

Expat living is an amazing experience. The hurdles, memories, and triumphs are all part of this package. However, before you settle in your new country you will have to deal with many practical issues; housing, furnishing, clothing, food, and understanding a new culture, to name a few.

I remember our first expat experience. We didn’t have much time to find a house, since my husband and I both ended up sick with a tropical decease, landing us in the hospital. When we were finally discharged, we rented the first available house, just in time for the container to arrive with some of the things we had brought along with us.

That first house was fine, but not great. The house had no soul and I was so glad when we moved a year later. The second time around, I was able to take my time and make it our home away from home. I could add the furniture and accessories of our choice and mix our old furniture with new pieces.

The task of creating a home in a different country was not easy. Luckily I was working as an interior designer. I knew where to look and the customs to follow. Of course, the process would have been smoother had I known what I know now, learned through trial and error. But with trial and error comes experience.

One such dilemma was whether or not to bring our own furniture and today I’d like to share some things to consider, to help make your own decision easier.

Should You Bring Your Furniture from Home?

While it is daunting to relocate, organise your home, and start from scratch, taking things one step at a time will make it easier.

The first step of course is to find a new residence. The next thing on your mind is to move or not to move your furniture? There is no correct answer, only pros and cons of a very personal decision.

Should your move your furniture from home to your new expat country?

Should your move your furniture from home to your new expat country?

The pros of bringing your furniture with you:

  • It will save you the hassle of buying new furniture.
  • You will have the comfort of being surrounded by your own personal items along with the memories you have created with them.
  • You don’t need to go through the journey of discovering new styles, or you can postpone this journey. Once your container arrives with your personal belongings you can settle right in.
  • You won’t have double of everything when you move back to your native country
  • You don’t have to worry about where to store your furniture and the associated costs.
  • The process of making a home away from home will be easier. This might otherwise be difficult if you are not used to the different materials, forms or textures available in your new country.
Will your old furniture fit with your new expat style?

Will your old furniture fit with your new expat style?

The cons of bringing your furniture with you:

  • You will have to undertake the huge task of packing, moving, and shipping your belongings. Yes, you do have companies that will do that for you, but all this still needs to be supervised to achieve the results you want. Believe me, you don’t want people packing your things when you are not there!
  • You and/or your partner will have to put some time into organising the whole process.
  • There will be paperwork … loads and loads of paperwork. (You can of course have your company take care of this or outsource it.)
  • You will go back to an empty home on holidays if you still have your house in your native country.
  • Your new residence might be bigger than your previous residence. In which case, you will need additional furnishing, which might not be in the same style as your existing furniture. (This is not a problem if you are good at mixing styles or you hire an interior designer to do this for you.)
  • If it’s smaller than your previous residence you will end up with over scaled furniture in small rooms. Your house will be lacking in form and/or function.
  • If your new residence is a different than your previous residence, your existing classic Victorian furniture might not suit your new modern contemporary loft
  • You will encounter some problems if you are moving from a house to an apartment or vice versa.
  • You might not be able to fit your existing furniture into your new residence. It would be a pity if your sofa has to serve as a garden chair!
  • Your goods can be damaged in transport. It might not be wise to pack your grandma’s heirloom chest of drawers for transport oversees!
  • Weather conditions differ from country to country. Some materials, such as wood, behave differently in a tropical environment compared to a dry northern country. This might result in cracks or damage.
  • Voltage and power points differ from country to country. Belgium has a voltage of 230v, which might differ from where you originate. Plug points will also be different, but it’s easier to adapt than difference in voltage. This is something to consider before moving your reclining sofa or bed.
  • It might not be worth the effort, time, or money to move your belongings, if you plan to be here for only a few months. In which case it would be easier to rent a furnished place.
  • It might not always be cheaper to bring your things once you account for the cost of packing, moving, shipping, and unpacking, plus insurance and duties.
  • It might give you a lot of heartache. I will never forget that moment when my custom designed office table fell off the crane! Thank god for the well-muscled mover who managed to grab it at the last millisecond!
Decorating your expat home should be a fun and exciting experience!

Decorating your expat home should be a fun and exciting experience!

There is of course a middle line. You can bring some of your things with you and mix them with your new furniture, spicing things up with a contrasting interior. Whatever option you choose; don’t forget to have some fun! It’s a privilege to play with new homes in new countries!

Next week, Shanaz will share her tips on buying new furniture in Belgium. Stay tuned!

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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