How and why we shipped our household from Hong Kong to Germany

We recently moved from Hong Kong to Germany. Before we moved, we thought about how much of our household in Hong Kong we should bring with us to Germany.

In cases like this, we usually do a very basic simple cost-benefit analysis with some pro/contra arguments. We knew that for many people it might not make sense to bring their entire household over. If you’re looking at the plain costs involved with the shipping process that might often be the case.

Costs are a big factor

We definitely had more stuff to bring over than we could have brought with us on the plane. So there would have always been quite a number of boxes we could have shipped with Hong Kong Post for example. They are cheap and reliable if the amount (size & weight) you ship isn’t too much. For us, the main things we really wanted to bring were toys & gifts, clothes, some of my computers / electronics and my wife’s camera & film equipment. All of that was quite heavy and bulky already so that it would have had some significant cost to ship it by post.

Then we thought about shipping our entire household and how much more that would cost. After doing quite some research, asking for quotations and having site visits of “relocation consultants”, we figured out that we would probably need an entire 20 foot shipping container. So we got the price for that and compared it to the cost of all the goods we had if we would have to buy them new again in Germany. Usually, you would compare it with the current value of the goods at that time, but to be honest: If you get rid of all your stuff in Hong Kong and then you buy it again in Germany, you’ll have to pay the full “new retail price” there. So it is actually more accurate to compare the retail prices.

It turned out shipping our stuff over would be about 33% cheaper than buying everything new again in Germany. That didn’t even factor in costs we would have had for shipping the other “important” stuff by post, like I mentioned earlier. I guess with that we would have probably ended up at around 50%.

Time is a factor too

At the same time, we thought about the time we have at hand. We’ve been living about 6 years in our loft in Hong Kong. As it is usual, over the 6 years we’ve collected a lot of things we thought we needed. Relocating to Germany gave us the chance to sort some stuff out and give it away. Yet, we are usually quite lean in terms of the stuff we get. So most of the things we had were quite essential and in good shape. We knew that after we arrive in Germany and we move into our new home, we would need to get most of those things again. That means, we would have had to go to department stores, furniture stores, etc. to select and buy the same stuff again. Maybe we could have ordered most of it online, but in the end, all of that would have eaten up a lot of our time.

So besides saving money by shipping our household items over, we also save a lot of time by not having to get the same / similar stuff again.

What shipping company to use

Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve looked at several companies. Considerations for us was of course the price, but also the level of service quality they provide and whether we feel subjectively safe with them. That last bit had a lot to do with the sales person they had serving us. Of course, the final shipping service might be worse, but if the sales person already made a bad impression, how good could their actual service have been? That’s all quite hypothetical, but there is a bit of truth in that, right?

Anyhow, we were looking into the following companies. They are ordered by preference top-down, with the top most company that we chose in the end. In case you are in the need of a relocation company, have a look yourself and feel free to contact them. At most companies you can get an initial quote by email.

Shipping / Relocation Companies:

  1. SwiftRelo (we went with SwiftRelo)
  2. Links Moving / Baggage XS
  3. VanPac
  4. AGS Four Winds
  5. Allied Pickfords
  6. Santa Fe
  7. Transworld
  8. Crown Relocation
  9. ReloSmart
  10. Unigroup
  11. Asian Tigers
  12. Asian Express International Movers
  13. Meta Movers
  14. Team Relocations

In terms of price, #1 and #2 ended up at the same price in the end. We still went with SwiftRelo, because I liked their sales person. Because there were a few hiccups in their service, I would probably give Links Moving a chance the next time. They weren’t significant ones, but I feel like it could have gone more smoothly.

Lessons learnt

Relocating to a different country obviously involves cross-border transport of goods. Usually that involves paying customs duty. If it is a family relocation, that customs duty does not need to be paid for household goods. Every destination country is different in that respect. Germany for example required us to prove that we were living in Hong Kong for at least 12 months. We thought that would be easy, but it wasn’t as straight forward as it should have been.

Bottom line, even though we had shipping clearance before our container left the port of Hong Kong, it was detained in the port of Bremerhaven, Germany. German customs required us to file some further explanation and provide additional documentation (utility bills of the last 12 months) to prove we’ve been living outside of Germany for long enough. Even though, I was incredibly quick replying to their requests, a public holiday came up in between and in the end our container was locked up for 5 days in Bremerhaven, which cost us a total of €300 (€60 per day). That could have been avoided by an experienced relocation company that asks for truly all necessary documentation beforehand. Though, I have to say, there is always the possibility that customs asks for additional explanation or documentation. Yet, I feel this could have been handled better.

Broken wardrobe

So far, we only noticed one of our furniture pieces to be broken. It was the largest piece – our wardrobe corner unit – which was but at the bottom somewhere and then boxes stored on top of it. Because it was a hollow piece, after the long journey it was completely deformed.

Full service relocation

We wanted to get a door-to-door relocation. That means we get a team that comes in, packs up everything into boxes, loads that into the container and our stuff gets shipped off. The packing took about a morning (8am-12pm) and loading everything took about another 4 hours so that they were done about 5pm.  In Germany, we also got a team of local guys who unloaded our stuff in the record time of 2.5 hours. Though, there we only got everything loaded into my grandma’s garage. Our house hasn’t been built yet (but we’ll start soon hopefully!), so there wasn’t any other place we could put our stuff to.

About a month before the packers came to our loft in Hong Kong, I started packing things up bit by bit in the evening after work. The night before the packers came I was still packing and I ended up at around 38 fully packed moving boxes. I thought that was a lot. Then the packers came and started packing the rest up. Those were mostly not so important / not so crucial things like furniture, kitchen stuff, appliances, clothes, and so on. In the end, we ended up with 145(!) boxes. I was absolutely surprised. To be honest, though, the packers really packed every thing into boxes. An office chair was a box. The fridge was a box. The laundromat was a box and the printer was in its own box too. You can imagine how this can quickly add up to a high box count.

The destination garage in Germany is actually quite big. I always thought it would be easily enough, but to be honest, we just managed to fit it all in. It is not so easy to access certain boxes now, but we managed to find some important things already.


I still believe it was the right decision to ship everything over. It took quite some time to get it all packed up. It did cost quite a large sum upfront, but in the end we’re saving money and time because we don’t have to buy new things again. I would probably try another shipping company, but I’m not sure if their service would be much better.

Impressions from the move

Packers packing our stuff in Hong Kong
Packers packing our stuff in Hong Kong
Boxes everywhere in Hong Kong
Boxes everywhere in Hong Kong
Our stuff in the garage in Germany
The garage is almost full
The garage is almost full
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Why we moved from Hong Kong to Germany

From January 2005 to December 2007 I lived and worked in Kunming (PRC) and from January 2008 to March 2018 I lived, worked, got married and got a beautiful child in Hong Kong SAR. Moving back to Germany after living in Asia for 13 years was quite a move. Somehow I feel like having to write down why we made that move in the end.

Summerfest at Kindergarten

Education – The Main Reason

It’s a common theme in Hong Kong: When folks find out they are to become parents they start freaking out – big time. That’s largely due to the clusterfudged situation of the Hong Kong education system. I’m sorry, but there is really no better way to describe that.

I remember when my wife was 5 months pregnant we had a nice dinner with friends – a couple who were roughly at the same stage. During that dinner he dad-to-be asked me: “Which school is your child gonna go to?” I didn’t know how to respond. Come to think of it, we didn’t even know the gender of our baby yet!

Parents are freaking out

To be honest, it really is like that. Even before you’ve given birth you should know where your kid goes to school. If you want it to be a good school, you got to make sure the child goes to the right kindergarten. To get into that right kindergarten, the child needs to go to the right nursery. Of course, there are entry tests (think job interview) for 2 year olds. So basically you’re building up your child’s resume from the birth onward. It’s like an arms race!

Private is expensive

All of this is regardless of how ridiculously expensive international schools are in Hong Kong. Let’s look at the German Suisse International School for example. The tuition range is HK$148,960 – HK$194,100 (€16,286 – €21,222), which can be paid at HK$19,410 (€2,122) per month, but before you are even allowed to join the school and pay tuition, you need to pay a debenture of about HK$500,000 (€54,668). Source GSIS Fees.

Let’s assume you have that money and are willing to pay for it. You still need to get (your child) in by going through interviews, submitting resumes, etc. at kindergarten level. It might happen that your 5 year old gets three photos placed in front of her: one of President Xi Jingping, President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin. Then she gets asked to tell their names and their current title. (I’ll let that settle…)

Public is in Chinese

Of course, there is the public school system too. However, most of such schools teach in Cantonese or Mandarin. For us to be able to support our child during education – may it be just simply being able to understand what the homework is about – we would need an English-medium school. There are still a few such public schools in Hong Kong, but as you can imagine, these are quite popular and therefore quite hard to get in as well. Their school fees are affordable as well at about HK$3,000 (€330) per month or so.

Memorize or Learn

Besides the “getting into the school” and “paying for school” topics, there is – most importantly – the whole topic of how your child is being educated. The style of teaching and what is best for your child.

Still today, many styles of teaching all across Asia are focused on memorizing knowledge rather than learning, understanding and creatively using your free mind to come up with a solution. It is something I personally embrace and it is also very important to my wife who was fortunate enough to receive a liberal arts education in the US. We want our children to be free thinkers who can create new things and make the world a better place because they can think way out-of-the-box. Think of it like that: If high ranking government officials in Hong Kong and China send their own kids out of the country to boarding schools and colleges in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia — you know what they think of their own education system.

Roaming BL City Arboretum

Health Reasons

In Germany the air quality is definitely better than in Hong Kong. The kind of food you can buy (at affordable prices) is also of higher quality here than what you can get in Hong Kong. Though the differences are (in my personal opinion) marginal, they are definitely there.

Future of Hong Kong

1997 Hong Kong was returned to China, which was sealed by a joint declaration signed between the UK and China, which guarantees Hong Kong’s extensive autonomy until 2047. Almost half of these 50 years have passed now. Hong Kong has prospered like never before, but politically, nobody knows where that incredible city is headed towards. No one has an answer about how Hong Kong will look like after 2047. The only thing Hong Kong locals are experiencing is that the China mainland is slowly but steadily creeping more and more into the everyday lives of Hong Kong people. There are many small cases that happened over the 10 years I have been there and it really felt it is getting more and more. Maybe that was objectively not the case, but let me give some examples.

The Chinafication Hong Kong

Things like this happened: Booksellers who sell books critical to the China mainland political system disappear from Hong Kong and suddenly pop up somewhere in China at a police station. China law is being practiced in Hong Kong at certain border crossing stations due to ludicrous reasons, simply to create precedence cases of that. Independent, reputable and China-criticizing media companies that get bought over by pro-party mainland companies. Mainland liaison officials constantly targeting demonstrators with public statements that get broadcast all across HK, which in turn tries to influence public opinion and split the society. Liberal lawmakers getting disqualified for office (though some of them were serving as lawmakers for over a decade already) over an oath-taking ceremony that they felt being too pro-China. China having the power to re-interpret the Basic Law (kinda mini-constitution) that Hong Kong exists by. More and more public schools teach in Mandarin rather than Cantonese or English. Mainland Chinese business folks buying up property in Hong Kong en-masse in cash – probably with some kind of dodgy money – driving up prices and making it harder and harder for younger generations to find places to live. And so on …

If you look at each of these incidents individually, they are not that important. Yet, combining them, looking at the bigger picture and the (most likely) goal of the final reunification of Hong Kong with the communist mainland China; you can’t shake the thought of slow assimilation of Hong Kong into the China-System. I might be paranoid here, but it definitely has that kind of feel.

My wife and I were “foreigners” in Hong Kong. We possess permanent residency there, which means we can go back any time we want and don’t need a work visa. We are flexible and if SHTF it would have been easy for us to simply get out. But we also know a good number of locals who don’t have that kind of flexibility.

So again, this wasn’t a major concern for us at the moment, but it was a topic of concern and I truly hope Hong Kong’s people and politicians find a common ground with their China Mainland counterparts for a prosperous future of Hong Kong that guarantees individual freedom, rule of law and an open society as Hong Kong citizens enjoy right now.


Another reason for us to move out of Hong Kong was space. As I mentioned earlier, Hong Kong’s property prices are ridiculously expensive. We were fortunate enough to live in a 990 sqft (91 sqm) apartment that we owned there. Rent for that would have probably been in €3,000 per month range or so. Yet, we only had 1 bedroom for the 3 of us. It was tight, but we managed for quite a while.

Besides normal living space, there are also these moments I remember from my childhood in Germany. I was able to just open the door, go outside, ride the bike around with friends, play somewhere in the woods and so on. That kind of play is simply not possible in Hong Kong. Because everything is so dense, there are people, cars, buses, trains everywhere and up until a certain age, you basically can not let your child walk around alone in HK.

Park with ducks in the city of Eschwege

Work & Friends

These were probably the only factors that were counter-arguments for moving out of Hong Kong. The majority of our friends are in Hong Kong — though quite a number have left already to other countries as well. Our work was in Hong Kong and everything we’ve built evolved around that incredible city. Though, most of work can be done online nowadays, certain things we’d like to do in person. I personally liked working in Hong Kong, I liked my colleagues and I liked the kind of work we were doing. It was great, inspiring, challenging and yes, even the controversial conversations I’ve enjoyed. So again, work and friends were the arguments for us staying in Hong Kong, but everything else eventually outweighed those.


When it was just my wife and me, it was easy to live in Hong Kong. Even without any immediate family of either of us in HK, we could live there comfortably. We had the freedom to move around, go on holidays and visit our family whenever we felt like it.

With a child your life suddenly becomes quite a different one. You want her to grow up with her grandparents. That’s great for the child, but also for the grandparents. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a baby sitter option at hand, but that wasn’t that much of a concern for us. At the same time, for your child to be with her cousins and other relatives is quite something. It’s just fun.


While there were many reasons for us to move back to Germany, we truly loved Hong Kong and it was not an easy decision to move to Germany. Hong Kong is a very diverse city and in the 10 years I was living there, it never stopped to amaze me. There were so many hidden gems that surprised us and that happened again and again. Yet, the final reason for us moving was really for the sake of our daughter. She’ll get some great education, she’s got space to grow, play and roam around, she’ll grow up with at least one side of her family and she’ll be among many kids of her age whom might or have already become her friends.

We’ve moved to the small town of Bad Langensalza where I grew up in. Some of my friends still live here, most part of my family lives here too. It is a very different way of live here. It’s much slower (especially the Internet connection!), but it is great in its very own way.

We’re now in the process of building a house for us to live in. Again, it’s a much slower process than I anticipated, but I am sure I will share some stories about here as well. You’ll laugh your butt off! Stay tuned. Subscribe to my blog or join my Facebook page.

P.S.: Check out (long jump meeting) which took place in Bad Langensalza two weeks ago. The world’s best long jump of the year took place right here in the green heart of Germany. Can you believe that?

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