Thursday, January 3, 2013

What to bring, what not to bring. For Witek et al.

I was *just* thinking about writing a post on this very topic, and lo and behold, Witek went and asked the exact same question I was hoping to answer. So here it is.

The "what I wish I had left behind, and what I wish we had brought instead" post.

Furniture:  We did not pack or ship any furniture. You can read about that here, and here. But all in all, we just didn't have anything worth shipping. If you have furniture and rugs and what not that you feel are valuable and important enough to bring all the way over here then I think you should do it. Partly because you have already invested in them, and if they are worth it, then by all means, follow through on that investment. Also, if they have some sort of sentimental attachment then again, by all means, make yourself feel at home, and have them shipped. (budget permitting of course)

I do not know for sure but there are several ways you can send furniture and household items. International Moving Companies specialize in these kinds of things. My only advice is to start booking a slot now because people move in the summer when the kids are out of school and you will need to get in line. Most adults these days know how to do online searches and ask around for the best companies. You know, interview them a little, tell them your situation. They will be handling all your stuff over seas for quite some time. Buy the insurance and if something doesn't feel right, switch companies  We did this when something just wasn't adding up with the first company we found for shipping our car and I'm glad we did. I really liked the company we went with, and everything was in perfect order when it got here.

Car: We shipped our car in a container with just as much stuff as would fit inside per their requirements. We own a minivan so a lot of stuff fit. We had two large paintings in there, all our clothes for the whole family, plus the in between sizes for Kacio. And just stuff that we felt was necessary or wanted. I did not have to leave anything behind that I wanted to take. That is amazing. This is a good way to go in my opinion because it's a great bang for your buck. If you are shipping furniture and rugs, etc. then you may be able to get a better deal through a company that will ship both for you and take care of it all.

Now, the nitty gritty...the list...

 Disclaimer: So that I do not get branded as painting Poland as some sort of 3rd world country, which seems to be one of the prevailing notions out there in the far Western world, I must say this: You can get everything you will ever need here in Poland. Everything. I have found everything (online or in stores). Ok? Ok.

Now, what I wish I had brought...
- bags and bags and bags of brown sugar ...if your wife or husband likes to bake with American recipes, Oatmeal cookies, Chocolate chip cookies, etc... pack some brown sugar! (what Americans call Brown sugar, not Poles)
- Vanilla is here in Poland, but not in Krakow
- Peanut Butter... oh Jif... I'm stuck on you...
- 4 cans of Canned more, no less
- large quantities of spices...spices come in every small quantities here in general, bring some to tie you over until you can find a good source... I miss my ground cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon so easily accessible in the HEB...
- large bags of coffee... in brands and flavors we know and like... coffee is either cheap and gross here or delicious and expensive...there is no middle ground...we're still searching
- large green cans of Parmesan silly, I know... but I like it... although freshly grated is tastier and healthier, that green can is so... so... reliable
- good, high quality athletic socks for the whole family (Hanes,Fruit of the Loom, etc)
- more kids clothes for every season in every size...just to clothes here are more expensive and the cheaper ones are limited selection...they are kids and will grow out of them fast so it's really no big deal...I am ok with Real and Carrefour clothes for the kids... if you have your trusted brand then I say stock up for the next year while you search here for the stores/secondhand shops here that you like/can afford.
- HOBBY MATERIALS... this is a huge one (for me). Just because they have everything in Poland doesn't mean that within 6 months of you getting here, filling out all the paperwork  taking care of the family, nursing nervous break downs, and taking time to sleep, you will be able to find every little shop that has those special little items for your projects. If you are like me and your hobbies are the only thing keeping you sane sometimes then be sure and pack the extra film for your camera (who uses film anymore? weirdo!), the extra canvases for your paintings, the extra paint, the needles and thread, the yarn, the scrapbook paper, or whatever, to get you through the next 3-4 months. Unless your hobby is woodworking or metalsmithing... pack those supplies, and then some. You might feel silly bringing an entire suitcase full of yarn or cotton summer prints, but in the end it is worth it, I promise.
-more pictures of family. Actually, I wish I had demanded that they all take a family picture and give it to me before we left. That would have been better. I am not going to see them for  awhile so I would love to have the most updated pictures I could get. This is easily remedied of course, I just wish I had thought of it sooner.
- bobby pins
- more American movies, my complete series of Seinfeld, our Indiana Jones Trilogy... what were we thinking?!
- more children's books in English...pack your favorites and some for the can get them on but it's more expensive

As you can see, my list is mostly made of English language and American specific items. If you dont have a hankering for Peanut Butter sandwiches during the first trimester of pregnancy and you don't have a hobby except reading on your Kindle (the most practical electronic to be invented since the fridge...if you're a big reader like me), while watching Indie eat chilled monkey brains, then you're fine.  There are no surprises of things that you will absolutely need and not be able to find, or be cost prohibitive.

Now the list of things I wish I hadn't brought...
- extra linens of any kind
- extra clothes that I should have given away the first time around
- extras of anything really...

Just bring what you need, what is necessary, and leave the rest.... starting fresh is really nice, and it helps to de-clutter your life before you go and clutter up your new place! It is really tempting to go out and buy all new stuff in fear that you might not find what you really want here. And there is that danger, but if it comes at the cost of leaving other things behind or making the move more expensive then it's really not necessary. Again, if you have the space and the cost is the same then you will save money bringing what you already have, but we didn't have this ability, so we only brought what was necessary.

Things I think you should bring... ahh! A surprise category... you are all very surprised...

- anything specific in the brands you like... deodorant,  tooth paste, tea, coffee, whatever...bring it so that you have a smooth transition until you can find the same thing or an equivalent
- 6 month supply of medicine and vitamins. We like Advil. They don't sell Advil brand here. They have equivalents of course, but there is that psychological attachment we have to certain brands in times of pain that we swear are just better.  This includes Childrens Tylenol and Ibuprofen, Neosporin, Vitamins, etc. Again, they have all this here, but if your child picks up a virus on the plane you may not have the time to find the nearest Apteka before the fever spikes.
- a couple ridiculous items that make you feel at home. I brought some sentimental things that I didn't want to be parted from, they took up space but I don't regret it for a second. They are here. And that is good.
- with kids... a couple new toys to ease the transition and to look forward to upon arrival...

I really thought there would be more of everything.  I'm sure if I thought longer on it I could come up with more. But these are the basics I guess. This does not replace the ability for anyone, including you, Witek, to ask me more specific questions about certain things. If you want to know if they have your favorite brand of salsa here (THEY DON"T) then ask me, maybe I know and then you can make an educated decision about what to bring (BRING THE SALSA, and bring me some too, nothing fancy, Pace Picante, medium heat is fine, one jar, two, whatever you can manage).

I hope this helps someone. I am also going to direct you to the "Practical Stuff" page a the top of the blog next to the About Me page. It has links to posts about the car situation. A situation which just recently was finally completed. BUT, again, great company we worked with, highly recommend!



  1. Nice one! :) Thanks, Olivia, for, as always, your details and perspective. I must say, I’m surprised (in a good way) that there isn’t more. Looks like your misses are mostly food related (were you hungry when you wrote this post?) :)

    I do agree with you that you can get just about anything there these days as you can in the US, but, maybe because I just haven’t explored enough, from what I’ve seen, many of the same things come at a higher cost in Poland. Plus in the US, with the competitive retail market, you can find good deals on just about anything. So we’ve implemented an opposite tactic of buying more things now in preparation of the move, and buying while we can now afford it… Here’s what we have on our list!

    - Cars, two of them. One just purchased one brand new one (SUV, 4-wheel-drive for the snow, diesel for better economy, third-row seat when needed) for what it appears to be 35% less than for the same one in Poland. The second car is a bit older with high mileage (low resale value here) but plenty of life left in it so might just be worth bringing.

    - Mattresses – Never yet slept on a comfortable bed in Poland, nor have I ever noticed a mattress store. Have you noticed if these things are pricy?

    - Furniture. Yes, bulky living room furniture. A few people have told us that if we find what we like, then we should go for it. We ended up getting a leather couch set at Restoration Hardware Outlet for 65%+ off and some chairs for 80% off (incredible after Christmas sale). An office desk (American made) with matching bookshelf is coming, as well a free armoire someone was giving away.

    - Extra clothes/winter clothes/baby clothes/shoes. Good call with the baby books and vitamins.

    - Laptops and a few monitors.

    - Some of the flooring for the new house (Brazilian walnut, some bamboo found on sale, and a little bit marble).

    - ATV (4-wheeler). Something that might be useful living outside of the city? Maybe plow some snow with it? Heard you can make them street legal there.

    - Most of our existing things.

    What do you think? Not worth dragging all this stuff?

    (I’ll stuff in a 50lbs bag of brown sugar from Costco for you if we’re able to squish all this into a container.) :)

    1. If you have the space, and you want to have all those things then I say do whatever you want. I mean that. It's your stuff and if you like the idea of having it here then you should bring it. You can always get rid of it here, or sell it (although not for what it's worth probably) if you change your mind. You have to own your car and have proof of ownership for at least 6 months before you bring it here. But cars are always good to bring, they are much more expensive in Poland. And not that expensive to change to meet EU requirements. YOu are going to save money bringing it here and using it rather than buying new if you are already paying for the container and you already own the stuff. For me, I would look at a picture frame, some cheap thing from Target, and think..."why am I dragging this 6,000 miles across the ocean?" and it was left behind...but I had very limited space...I will have to some day replace those frames, so the cost is there, just delayed.

      Now... a word of caution...keep all your receipts, buy everything 6 months ahead (especially cars, computers, ATV's, etc) if not more...take the tags off of anything new and use it first so it looks used. Poland, and other countries as well, are looking for people who are just bringing things over here to sell. They will be particularly suspicious with a lot of vehicles and goods like flooring (I assume, I dont know about the flooring). I don't want to tell you to be afraid of customs but I also think you should probably have a healthy sense of caution in buying stuff to bring "just in case" and because it's cheaper. They will ask questions if it's suspicious, although, once it's in the container, I dont think they'll really mess with you. No one ever questioned us,but then again, it was just one car full of clothes and toys and books so...

      Bring the mattress if you can. I miss my mattress. We sleep on an IKEA mattress, cheaper here than in the states but they are not a mattress store (we sleep on one and I am not happy with it). I'm pretty sure they have my mattress here, they have the brand but it will be more expensive. If you have specific brands you like then bring it, specific brands that are American, on lawn mowers for instance, will be more expensive here. But if you are open to the European options and researching those and making them work, then it will be comparable, if not cheaper in price, and in our experience, just as good. I could not say the same thing about Poland even 10 years ago...but now, it has vastly improved in the competitive markets with more options and cheaper prices without compromising quality, on most things. Check OBI and Leroy Merlin, and Castorama in Poland and look at the prices. (see how I talk as if I'm an expert?)

    2. Yes, some things come at a higher cost, definitely. Furniture, I have noticed is NOT one of them. IKEA is really affordable here and Poland is full of so many furniture stores and handmade furniture stores, great antiques at incredible prices. But you have to search for them. We were sleeping on the floor basically for two weeks while we frantically furnished our place amidst jet lag and crying babies. It was intense and stressful, but possible, and not as expensive as it would have been buying the same furniture in America.

      All in all, I will just say that if you can afford it, you have the container anyway, and you already own the stuff, again, just bring it. Your container may not get here right at the same time as you will so you will need a contingency plan for sleeping and whatnot until it gets here. And for the cars...bring all the documents that say you own it, you paid insurance on it for the time you have owned it, proof of registration in every form possible, if there is a lien, a note from the lien holder, etc. Registering it is really hard if you don't have the right documents. It took us almost 6 months. A long story.

      I just got done with Christmas and Thanksgiving cooking and many items they just don't use here in Poland and so are hard to find. Supply and demand, you know? If you want those special foods that are "American" it will be harder to recreate them without the proper spices, etc. And sometimes those are the things that make you feel more at home, you know. But you guys are Polish so I'm sure it wont be as big a deal. Also, sometimes, I think as adults, we really take for granted that special treat at the end of the day to ease the stress of work, or that one brand of coffee that gets us through the day after a night of tending the baby...when it's not there you will still reach for it and then remember it's gone...forever...see how dramatic that is? Bring the big 5 lb bags of good coffee from Costco!

      I wish I could say, "yes, bring this," "no don't bring that," specifically, but I just don't want to do that. What if I'm wrong?! ;) There is no harm in bringing everything you want. You are moving here forever, you have a new house and a growing family...if it makes life easier and better and more comfortable...bring it all!

      ATV? That makes me laugh! Just for fun? Sure!

    3. Great tip on the receipts - We should be good on the time frame for most of the larger items, plus no liens on the cars (both of which are very much being used).

      I hear ya on the spices and will stock up on a bit before we go... but maybe not as big for us as we are notorious take-out eaters and not spoiled on delicious home made stuff.

      Good to know on furniture - Will probably stop with what we have now. Will just pick up a new mattress for us (our old one to go in the guest room) and one smaller one for our little guy.

      What? An ATV was not on your "I wish i brought this with me" list? I can't believe it ;)

      So no hits on house plans?... Curious to see what you're designing (America style home?)

      Have a good weekend!

    4. **hints** not hits

    5. Witek, you would love the house plans we have. I know it. I just cant share them yet. All in good time, my friend. ;)

    6. ok, ok, then we wait in anticipation.

  2. Hey Olivia, Fellow Austinite moved to Poland :) I definitely agree with a few things on your list... family pictures for obvious reasons, my parents and brother and his wife just visited us for Christmas which was amazing, but it really was the hardest goodbye ever because I don't know when we'll see them again :( I'm with you about spices too, HEB and Whole Foods sold them in bulk and WOW were they cheap! Salsa and Tex Mex for sure, I don't want to be rude but it's just not "right" here;) I agree with vitamins, deoderants, and toothpaste. I made my poor family bring me a suitcase full of these items. Because I teach, I also had them bring me a ton of folders, crayons, zip lock baggies, and stickers. Something else I wish I could get here is decaf tee, the selections they had at HEB and Whole Foods is something I dream about ;) I'm sure there is more if I thought about but that's all I have time for. I hope your holidays were nice and you are having a nice new year :)

    1. It's really hard int he beginning because you feel like everything is different and nothing is the same. Even my deodorant!? Really?! Come on! 20 years of using the same stuff to have it all be gone. And then you find some of it here. and you find new stuff and you breathe a little easier.

      They do sell spices in bulk here but you have to know where to look. We found some in the Stary Kleparz in Krakow. An old, downtown Targ of sorts. Also, most of the fruit teas are decaf. Aren't they? Maybe they aren't...I thought they were. Hmmm... I'll ask family about some good decaf tea and get back to you on that one. Have you been to a Herbata store and asked? They might be able to point you in the right direction.

    2. Its difficult to choose a perfect dress for the party. and the best dress In which you feel comfortable and look stylish.
      Harriton Polo in affordable

  3. I love your blog ;) I never comment before but I read it and love it ;)

    Do you know - you can buy english book here and shipping is free worldwide. Some books cost just $1,58 and shipping is free so it's not that expensive ;) There are some books for grown ups too ;)

    1. I have never heard of this and now I have a whole new website to visit and explore and probably love. Thank you!!!!

  4. You really didn't find peanut butter and vanilla extract (real, not 'aromat', I have bought this one: yesterday in Alma)? I always have some in home and it is easy to find. :)

    I can lent you some movies sometimes, I have a lot.

    See you in tuesday. :)

    1. The reply below is for you...That vanilla extract looks awesome. I will look for it tomorrow. Thank you!

  5. I can't find Vanilla Extract. I can find Peanut Butter but it's just not the same, nor the bread to our it upon so I'm kin of just disappointed in that whole thign. I will keep searching for the vanilla extract! See you Tuesday!

  6. The coffee comment is totally true! Whenever we travel in the EU, and aren't grabbing coffee at a cafe, we end up choking down instant Nescafé (blech). What's y'all's favorite?
    And you left your entire set of Seinfeld at home?! For shame. Sidenote: every time I watch Sesame Street with Frankie, I think of you ;)

  7. These are pretty good for instant coffee packs for travel...,default,sc.html

  8. Um, did you slip it in that you are in your first trimester?? I love reading your blogs. I get upset when I check in and you haven't written in a while. I need more pics and videos of y'all please.

    1. Melissa McCrary nee Barrett! I am not pregnant but thanks to you and your little comment I have had both Grandma's emailing me hoping to be the first to congratulate me! You will be the 3rd or 4th to know if ever I am pregnant... :)

      I know I need to just post more pictures and and video for family and friends but I figure a lot of other people will find that boring so I try and balance it out. I have been sick so much this Advent/Christmas that i have not had much energy for blogging, but am on the mend now. More to come!

    2. Hahaha! Well, look at what you wrote. It's very cryptic.

  9. Hi Olivia! Although we are not moving to Poland( I wish) you post made me laugh.... Especially about the socks( every time we go back I get tons of socks for my kids- love the colourful, with stuff on them- and so cheap!h and the coffee!! I miss European coffee sooo much!!!!
    But I understand!

    1. It's all about perspective! It's true. You just miss what you miss and want what you want, you know? I would be interested in knowing if there are nay brands of good coffee you could point me towards... :)