Expat Interview: Moving from South Africa to Germany

Oct 29 2019, Sharon Rouch

We recently asked Sharon Rouch to tell us about her experience of moving from South Africa to Germany. Find out what she had to say!

So, to start – tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m Sharon, I’m from Germany. I used to live in Cameroon with my husband and two kids, and three years ago we decided to move to Cape Town and try it out. After two years we decided to move back to Germany where I’m originally from. My husband still lives in Cameroon. We decided to move everything we had bought in Cape Town and move it in a container as we didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to find people to buy it off us.

When did you start planning your move?

In January we decided we would move end of June so that the kids would be able to join a French school in the new year, but when I saw my husband in Cameroon in February, we decided we wanted to move earlier. So they had holidays in March-April which is when we decided to move. It was difficult with schools as the French school in Hamburg wouldn’t accept the children mid-year so they did their last term in Cameroon in the school there. Now they have started the new school year at the French school in Hamburg. I’ve not started a job yet so I am the driver for the school journeys!

What were your worries about moving?

I knew it would be easier for me actually as I’m originally from Hamburg so I knew how things worked, I knew people, my mum lives there…

What did you research before you moved?

I didn’t have to research about schools or taxes so much as I knew the system, but I did have to look into how to get the dogs from Cape Town to Hamburg! The dogs can only travel 3-6 months after they receive their jabs and vaccinations and chips, so they had to stay in kennels without us, which was tricky. There’s only one laboratory in the whole of South Africa so it was a struggle! But the transport company managed to deal with transferring our dogs to us from the kennels which was good.

How did you choose your removal company?

I did a lot of research on the internet, and then I got several removal quotes from Sirelo. The moving companies then contacted me, and one of the moving companies sent an employee that came to see us and the house. She seemed efficient and quick to answer us, which was a plus.  A lot of the moving companies were slow – one of the companies replied six months later, that’s too slow, I’m gone by that point!

Which service level did you choose?

I wanted the speed and quality to be high – even if that meant paying a little more to know that my belongings were safe

What paperwork did you have to prepare?

The one thing that I did on the advice of a friend was to go to the German embassy in Cape Town and tell them that I was moving. They then provided me with a document stating how long I was in Cape Town for. This helped at customs as they can then tell that the goods we had in the container was more than a year old, not just that we had gone to South Africa and back to Germany to sell new things.

How did you find the packing and cleaning process before you moved?

I started packing quite a few weeks before they came as I knew the kids would be going to Cameroon first before Hamburg, so I wanted to pack some things before the move to Hamburg. I also had boxes of day to day basics as well as boxes full of winter shoes, etc.… every day I did a bit of packing for three weeks.

How was moving day?

In Cape Town things went really well. I even sent an email saying well done for packing everything! It was only on the German side that things went wrong….

Oh no, what happened?

Lots! I chose the company as the lady told me not to worry about anything. But then big surprises came up – we left Cape Town after packing from Wednesday to Saturday, we then gave back the keys, and on Sunday we were on the plane to Cameroon. For me everything was settled and ok as I had paid for everything. But after a few weeks I still didn’t know where my container was and if I needed to be in Hamburg to collect the container.

My husband tracked the container and we realised it wouldn’t arrive on the correct date – it was going to be four weeks later! We had to pay a fine for this, and it was a lot. So I sent them an email, got no answer, so I had to contact the moving agency in Cape Town. By the time I got an email from them, the container had already arrived… but now they were saying there were papers missing! My container couldn’t be released without them. I was so surprised – what papers were missing? I didn’t know what to do as I wasn’t even in Germany to go to the Town Hall, and I wouldn’t be for two weeks! Luckily I was able to get my mum to help sort things out in Germany, but by this point I had already had to pay a fine for 2000 euros. I was annoyed by this as they should have told me which documents I needed. But if I didn’t pay the fine, they wouldn’t give me the container – I had to pay as all my stuff was in there, it’s robbery!

Then there was an issue with delivering the container – they said it was high season so they couldn’t deliver it for another two-three weeks, and I had to pay another 1300 euros so they could deliver it. They finally came and delivered the container, they didn’t unpack all the boxes as a 40ft container has a lot of stuff in it. When I finally unpacked everything, I saw that a TV, lamp and desk was broken. When I went to complain, it turned out they hadn’t told me how to fill out the insurance form correctly, so I couldn’t claim anything back. I’m still not getting any real feedback from them.

What was something you wish you had known before you moved? Do you have any advice?

I would definitely never pay my move in full in advance, I would pay maybe 70% before and pay the rest when it all arrives. It’s your life in that container!

Thanks Sharon – we’re sorry to hear the move wasn’t perfect! We wish you the best of luck in your new home in Germany!

moving from south africa to germany

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