Hong Kong is a transient city, hosting expats for short stays or becoming a home for residents won over by all that our city has to offer. Either way, we all eventually pack up boxes to move to a new flat or a new city. This is incredibly stressful for many of us, to the point that it is compared to experiencing the death of a family member or going through a divorce. So how can we lessen the emotional load?
In our latest instalment of Ask the Expert, we speak with Gregory Sietz, General Manager at AGS Four Winds, to find out how to pick the right moving company (spoiler: it’s going to be AGS), how cold your wine should be if you are bringing it to Hong Kong, and whether to tip your movers or not (the answer may surprise you).
Localiiz: Moving can be extremely stressful. How can someone make the experience more enjoyable, without unexpected headaches?
Seitz: Everything is in the preparation. Consider not only what you have to do in your current location, but also what you need to do at your destination. For example, what are the visa requirements? What import issues do you have to be aware of? For example, you cannot send any Buddha statues to Thailand, so it’s better to be up to speed on these restrictions to avoid complications during import customs at the end destination.
Localiiz: Moving can be a pricey proposition, especially with less relocation packages being offered these days. How can someone save money but still make sure everything arrives at their new home safe and sound?
Seitz: It’s very simple: moves are charged by volume, so the best thing you can do to be cost efficient with your move is sort all of your items before you move. Decide what you definitely want to take, and what you don’t absolutely need.
The upside of choosing a professional mover is that we’re very good at understanding exactly what costs will be involved, so what we quote you will be very close to the final invoice. There are a lot of steps involved in a move, which an inexperienced mover might not be aware of, or might not want to reveal. For example, sometimes there may be some tricky issues at ports; where there might be unexpected costs for an unprofessional mover, we know what to check for, and therefore can be more responsible to our clients.
Localiiz: People arrive in Hong Kong from all over the world. What restrictions, specific to Hong Kong, should people know when shipping their goods here?
Seitz: As a free port, Hong Kong has one of the easiest customs procedures in the world. Essentially anything you want to import, you can. A few exceptions are tobacco and alcohol. For tobacco, you need to fill out a form; for alcohol over 30 degrees, you may need to pay taxes, but importing your 13 degree wines from your summer vacation in California, Australia, or France will be a breeze! You can check out specific requirements here.
Localiiz: It’s pretty tempting to just have your home boxed up and moved, but what should people consider leaving behind or replacing once they arrive in Hong Kong?
Seitz: Take a look at your “maybe” items and compare the cost of buying them at your new destination versus shipping them. If your furniture is quite standard, something you can get in most cities, then the cost of moving it will probably be more than the cost of buying it in your new home. If you’re using a professional mover, our surveyor comes to price out your items, but he can also give advice on whether you should bring that table or not, based on those moving costs. Afterwards, we will prepare two lists for you: one that includes the cost of your “maybe” items, and one that excludes the cost of your “maybe” items. If that vase or dresser is unique, of course bring it.
Localiiz: What is the rule when it comes to tipping?
Seitz: Tipping is very cultural and personal. In Asia, tipping is not as commonplace as in other parts of the world, such as Europe or the U.S. These norms are applied across industries, including moving.
For us, we don’t encourage our clients to tip in any place in the world – they’ve paid the full price for the move, but they often ask to tip anyways, both for international and local moves. Their tips are usually around HK$1,000 for a full moving team, which we take as a very personal contribution and thanks for a job well done.