Saturday, October 5, 2013

Moving in Germany

The first time we moved was from Dresden to Hamburg six years ago.  All we had was my four suitcases of clothes and H's bachelor furniture.   Since the moving company didn't have much to move they did a really good job.  

The move took two days.  One day our stuff was packed and we worked on the apartment.  After we returned the keys we spent the night at H's family in Berlin before meeting the movers at our new apartment in Hamburg.  It only took them half a day to unpack us.  They were done by the afternoon.

The difficult part of that move was returning the apartment.  H had installed everything: floor, wallpaper, kitchen and cabinets.  The real estate company wanted the apartment back in the same condition it was before.   The movers took out the kitchen for us but we had to take out the floor and scrape wallpaper off the walls.  Why the real estate company wanted it that way I will never understand.  It took both of us working without breaks almost six hours to take everything out.  The wall paper was the worst.   When we were finished it was a bare concrete box but H got his full security deposit back.

Because we moved while I was waiting for my visa we had to drive back to Dresden some weeks later to pick it up.  A big part of moving is going through all the German bureaucracy.  You have to register your family, your car(s), and your dog.  Mail has to be forwarded, addresses have to be changes for everything.  New Internet and utilities must be set up.   Things get lost.  It's chaos.   We're usually without Internet for at least a week because it's next to impossible to get an appointment sooner.

The second move was from Hamburg to Malente.  We took the apartment unpainted and it needed some work.  Since I was pregnant and working H had to do it on his evenings off.   Returning the Hamburg apartment was easier.   It came with a kitchen and wall paper so we only had to take out the floor we'd installed and paint the walls.    Again, we got the full security deposit.

We used the same moving company that moved us from Dresden.  They did a pretty good job except that the second day they showed up hungover and probably still drunk from the night before.  I guess they decided to hit up the Reeperbahn?   I didn't ask.  But you could smell all of them from 15 feet away.  Since they were so hung over they did some complaining about how much stuff we had.  Even though we didn't really have that much.  Our Hamburg apartment was under 700 square feet and uncluttered.   For a group of men who weren't sober enough to drive they did a relatively good job.  They only thing they broke was a vase, no big deal.

Since Malente is close to Hamburg and we didn't have too much stuff the movers packed and started unpacking in one day.  We were able to drive to the new apartment and spend the night in our bed surrounded by boxes of our stuff.  We only had the movers put together the big furniture and chose to unpack most of the boxes ourselves.   Registering everything in a small town was much easier because there are no long lines at the tiny Rathaus.

This time we didn't want to have drunk hung over complaining movers.  We switched companies.  H did a lot of research, reading reviews of companies that had broken things and tried to cover it up so the insurance wouldn't have to pay.  He was very careful to pick a moving company that didn't have a bad reputation.  Switching moving companies might have been a mistake.  Or maybe we just have too much stuff now?  Three beds, one crib, four wardrobes, two sofas, dining table, chairs, many little end tables etc..  I can understand how movers get tired.  Packing and unpacking for eight hours a day is probably tedious.  But that doesn't excuse how awful they ended up being.   It's important to note that most moving companies will only pay for damages you report within 24 hours of your move so it's vital, no matter how tired you are, to go over everything and make sure nothing is damaged or missing.  Even though moving companies have insurance they are not going to tell you they broke something. 

This move from Malente to our little Eastern Berlin suburb has been the worst concerning the moving company.  They might have been sober but they broke a lot of stuff.   They cracked our entrainment set in two places and lost a rather necessary piece of it.  They broke the back of Sophie's wardrobe.  They broke some glassware.  They gouged our coffee table.  Some of the work they did was half assed.  Like putting up a curtain rod in one of the bedrooms but not putting up a curtain?  They were lazy putting up the shelves.  They didn't unpack anything in the cellar so we had a tower of boxes to go through down there.  When moving the twin beds they scratched the wood floor in Malente.  This was less than an hour before we had people coming to look at the apartment.  I just barely managed to get the floor stained and waxed in time.  Our furniture also showed up at the new place kind of dirty.  I was glad I never got around to washing to sofa covers because it would have been for nothing.

One of the conditions we had for the apartment in little Eastern suburb was that we needed to take it with zero work.  We didn't want to paint or install floors with a toddler and dog running around.  We were a little nervous but happily when we got here on Wednesday it was perfect and clean.

We didn't have to paint the apartment in Malente since it wasn't painted when we took it.  It still took H longer to turn it over than he planned.  This was annoying for him because we took the apartment in pretty bad condition.  The oven, drains and floors were filthy but off course we weren't allowed to return it like that.   We expect to get the full security deposit back.

It took the movers two days to pack our stuff this time and one day to unpack.  Sophie, Redige and I left for Berlin on Tuesday morning.  It took us five hours to make the drive.   That extra hour and a half was entirely due to me driving a reasonable speed and making frequent toddler stops.  We stayed in a nice hotel in Potsdam.  H arrived much later after he'd done everything to return the apartment.  The unpacking day was the worst because everyone was tired and Sophie didn't have a proper place to nap or play after we checked out of the hotel at noon.  I was never so happy as when the movers left.  Sophie fell asleep less than half an hour after they were gone.  Since he knew we'd be home H made an appointment weeks in advance for the Internet.  For the first time ever it was set up the day we moved in.

Moving companies are expensive but H's employer pays for it.  Our first move was only around €3000.  Our last move was twice that.  I'm interested to see how much their insurance pays for all our broken/missing furniture.  Hopefully they will be fair about it. It takes us about two weeks to settle into a new place.  There is so much to do.  I need to change my address for all my student loan paper work and magazine subscriptions.  I'm excited to get a (Berlin!) library card and finally get unpacked someday.  We still have a mountain of boxes in our dining room.  Unpacking always takes longer than I think it should.  That's because there is so much cleaning not to mention the two little ones we have to take care of :)

Moving is stressful and picking a good place to live is important.  Especially in Europe where so much quality of life depends on things like the availability of public transportation, the proximity of food within walking distance, Kindergartens and things like parks and tress and grass.  I feel like every time we move we have an opportunity to improve our situation.  Considering how crazy the last 12 months have been we really got lucky finding this place.  It's close enough to the city for me but also to H's work and should be quiet and safe enough for Sophie and Redgie.   So I feel lucky and relieved that the hardest part is over.



  1. I'm glad everything went good with the move, and sad we didn't get to see you before you left.. we'll be going to Berlin this weekend, if you're not to busy still unpacking and stuff maybe we can get together!!

  2. Welcome in Berlin, sorry it was such a nightmare with your moving company. I hate moving companies. I have been asked to advertise a number of them and I always refuse as I don't want to promote anything like that that is so often unreliable. Will keep my fingers crossed that you get a reasonable insurance payout for the broken stuff.

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