My big move today went remarkably well–from one flat to another, from a place that was offered to me to a place that I chose. The movers were professional and efficient. They showed up perfectly on time and wearing uniforms of their company. They were prepared, not just for the move, but had brought their own implements for making tea for their mid-morning break. (! Oh this is when I love you, England.) The whole thing took about 2.5 hours less than had been scheduled. In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to see (unless there is an utter disaster when I go to unpack) how this could have gone any better. Which seems remarkable for a moving day. A day when Murphy’s law seems to take over. My (American) (temporary, for a year due to someone else’s maternity leave) secretary whispered to me–when I appeared in the office this afternoon before the close of business when no one expected to hear from me today–“were they British?” We had a laugh in the way expats do. We love it here, we are not slagging off the locals. They were British. But the expectation was probably not that they would be quite as efficient, and, well, as “American-like” as they were. I’ve heard horror stories from around my town. But for the record, I used a local, family run company and one that I chose solely on the basis of the fact that they responded to my request for a quote faster than anyone else, and I kind of didn’t shop around on price, as much as on response time. For me, today, this strategy paid off. They were amazing and if anyone who knows me in my area wants a recommendation for movers, I’m all there. And maybe you do get what you pay for and that is okay.
I have never had full-on professional movers before today. The closest I’d come was when I relocated to the UK, and a moving company handled the overseas shipment and delivery of my goods. But then I had packed the boxes all myself, and in fact things had been in boxes in storage because I didn’t know I was moving to England until I actually did move to England. (I thought I was taking a junior position on the East Coast of the US after travelling in Europe for two months. But I interviewed for my current position early on during that Europe trip and I ended up taking the job in the UK and shipping all my clearly marked “self-packed” boxes through customs.) But the crazy last few weeks with the whole (1) finding the flat and committing to taking it sight-unseen from the US, (2) dealing with my work commitments including trips to Newcastle (UK), Munich and Singapore and (3) preparing for my trip to the US literally tomorrow meant that I needed some professional help.
All other previous moves in my life had involved a rented truck of the U-Haul sort. (I have no idea what the British equivalent even is. I didn’t consider it.) Sometimes I even got to drive the truck, which I think more women should do 🙂 And these previous moves always featured me doing all of the packing. I can see now how this never could have worked in the current scenario; I did not have the days needed to do the packing that was accomplished by four professionals in four hours. And my wonderful sister was not here to help me! I most certainly did not have the local knowledge needed to figure out how to park a truck (lorry) in the city centre on a one-way street during daylight hours on a busy weekday. Oh yes, in England. There is that. The complications of doing something rather difficult in another country really could have been stressful, if I had not thrown caution to the wind and hired actual professional movers.
The movers cost me almost exactly an additional month’s rent. Add that to the deposit on the flat (1.5 months rent) and all the incidental one-off charges associated with the move, and it was about three months extra of rent that I’ve paid in the last few weeks in order to facilitate this move. And as I sit here in the new place, planning for my suitcase packing and departure for America tomorrow, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I’ve hit some strange place where, after living in England almost four years, most of which were in some ways rather uncomfortable, I’m completely delighted at the fact that I ate into my savings but got me and all of my worldly possessions out to the new flat with a minimum of fuss on my part.
Even better, I tipped these guys (as far as I can tell) more than they are used to. It was totally in my nature to thank people who did a job well, fast, and orderly. (NB occasionally I tip well when a waiter flirts with me, but that’s a different story.) And there is in this case the instance where tipping is actually fun, as opposed to obligatory: when you really want to reward someone for a job well done. It’s not the same as giving a Boston cab driver more than what reads on the meter but still being berated for not tipping enough (as has happened to me in the US.) I actually wanted to thank these guys for being pleasant to work with and professional and fast. It was utterly voluntary. I was unclear of the etiquette and so played up my American card, and just asked the leader of the moving crew (when I was making out the cheque for the formal cost of the move) if it was okay to tip them. He said something like, “well, you don’t have to but it’s much appreciated” and so I did. Perhaps extravagantly. Call me American. (It took the total from just under a month’s rent to just over, and I am so very OK with that!) Notice how happy I am at how well this all went. Said moving crew leader made a sweet comment about taking the guys out to the pub tonight (especially since they were done at my place at 3 pm!) and I felt happy and at one with the world.
The deeper meaning of this move has not escaped me either. I did not incur that additional three months’ rent worth of charges to have done this temporarily. My several years in work-subsidized but not exactly comfortable housing was very economical. In the last few weeks, I have made a significant investment in my life in England. Not that I claim that I will be here forever, I still don’t have a long-term plan. But I do think now that I will have to start working on that application for permanent residency.
Permanent. Now there’s a scary word.