Saturday, 8 November 2008

One Month Left

One month from today we leave the US. Wow. I've been running around like a mad person organizing, and now we pretty much just wait.

Re: the banking stuff -

The Kiwibank application was accepted without a hitch. There was a slight delay, because we wanted a joint account, instructions for which weren't clear. Basically we had to fill out the single account forms once for each person. So all in all, once that was in, the account was opened within a few weeks.

I also decided to join HSBC, because they operate in both New Zealand and the States. So we can transfer money easily between the two countries through them. Since Aidan will continue doing contract work for a company here in the US, this will be a convenient way to get the money to us in NZ without dealing with wires and such.

The exchange rate through HSBC, though, is your standard bank rate, which isn't as good for us as we could get through other channels, so I set up accounts with both XEtrade and HiFX. XEtrade enables me to do foreign exchange transactions entirely online, taking the money from my US bank account through EFT, and wiring the money to my NZ bank account. They charge a small (around $15) transaction fee for the wiring, but the better exchange rate makes it worth the charge. HiFX seems to give an even better rate, but I have to wire the money to them, for which my US bank charges a wire fee. But HiFX doesn't charge any fees themselves. So for large sums they seem to be the best bet. Though trades with them must be initiated over the phone, and then a form filled out and faxed or emailed back to them. I've completed trades through all three channels (HSBC direct, XEtrade and HiFX) and they all worked.

And of course, while setting up all these accounts, the global economy has entered a tailspin. Things are all crazy, and so far, we seem to be benefiting from it, as the NZ dollar has fallen against the US dollar. Who knows where it will go, though?

Re: shipping our stuff -

I didn't think we had a lot of stuff, but I knew that we did want to bring with us most of the stuff we have, since stuff is generally really expensive in New Zealand. So I got a few quotes from international moving companies, and all of them seemed to think that we had enough stuff to fill a 20 foot container. But that's all good, because having a dedicated container, rather than sharing with others gets our stuff to NZ quicker. We ended up going with Allied International, and their local agent ABC Moving. Not the lowest estimate we got, but solidly in the middle.

The lowest quote was given by a kinda sketchy local moving company. They actually didn't seem sketchy in person, or in any way in fact except for one. When I asked them who they outsourced any part of the move to, they said they did it all themselves, except for the local moving in New Zealand of course. First over the phone I specifically asked who they used for the actual international part of the shipping, the freight forwarding, and he clearly answered that they do it themselves. When another employee came out to do the visual inspection for the estimate, I asked again, "Who does the actual shipping, the international portion, the container ship portion, the freight forwarding?" And again, he said they do it all themselves. But all international shippers must be licensed by the Federal Marine Commission. This company was not on any of the lists of licensed forwarders. I emailed and asked if they were licensed under a different name, because they were not on the list. And I got a response that they used a different company for the forwarding. Huh. Obviously I couldn't trust them to answer this straightforward question truthfully. How could I trust them with all of my worldly belongings?

So Allied came out and packed up all of our stuff on Thursday. And then Friday they put it all in the container. It fit with some room to spare, but not much. Now we get to live for approximately 80 days without stuff. Which means a month here, and a month and a half after we get there. It'll be such fun when it arrives!

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