Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting Through Customs

If you are an expat (or thinking of becoming an expat), I'm sure you are interested in this post.  Our household goods were packed up and shipped on February 15, 2012.  We've been in Sydney since February 25, 2012.  Our things (finally) arrived in Sydney on April 16, 2012.  We were informed that everything would have to go through customs, which we expected of course.  Before leaving, the moving company had given us a long list of items that were not allowed in the country.  I had to give away all my Cajun spices (the travesty!!!).  In fact, you are not allowed to bring in any type of food product.  Or animal product.  Or whatever.  There were a lot of things we could not bring.  We thought we had been very careful about packing.  We gave away/sold/threw away a lot of things.  So imagine our surprise when we get an email from the moving company telling us that an item in our inventory was being held in quarantine.

Apparently there was a Halloween decoration that Mr. Smith just couldn't do without.  :)

We have three options to deal with this Halloween decoration (we don't get to see or know exactly what it is).  We can either pay to have it gamma-ray'd to make sure there are no pests of any kind on said Halloween decoration so as not to damage the environment or harm anyone.  For this, we would have to pay AU$440.  We can opt to have it repatriated to the US.  We were not quoted a price on this, but I suppose it would depend on who we would gift our lovely Halloween decoration to.  Or we could let customs workers destroy it for AU$125.  I asked Mr. Smith if we could just bring them a bucket and a match, but we both figured they wouldn't find that humorous.

We decided to let them destroy it.  Yep.  For $125.

I know that there is a reason why Australia has all these import rules, but this seems extreme.  Oh, well.  You live and you learn.  So just take my advice.  Perhaps just sell everything and start over when you get here.  Especially when you think that we've been sleeping on the floor for a while now.  Think long and hard...


  1. I agree .... think long and hard on what you intend to bring in to Australia.

    Our shipment arrived last Wednesday and we went through all of this too. We were extra careful (as we know how strict Australian Customs are) we declared loads of things that we were 'not sure about', but better to be safe than sorry!

    Was surprised that all my tea and coffee bags got through though .... I drink a lot of Cardamon, Ginger, Chai teas and sent two large boxes back from Asia in my shipment with a red tape across the box saying "DECLARE" .... yet they let it through. Surprised at that, but happy. :)

    There were other 'questionable' items, yet everything got through.

    I also asked the removalists why my shipment came through Sydney when in fact I know the cargo ship docked in Melbourne. Was told that customs in Sydney are a lot easier on household containers of expats, perhaps 'slack' might be a better word to use! But its a well known fact in the industry that shipments are better to come through Sydney than here in Melbourne.

    Learn something everyday eh?

  2. That is crazy ridiculous - perhaps that is why on House Hunters International, no one brings there own "stuff" and instead get a furnished apartment??? I don't know - but the prices over there are just crazy, aren't they?

    1. Unfortunately we have 2 dominant supermarket chains (woolworths and Coles) which control about 70% of the retail market for groceries so it's not as competitive as the U.S and therefore more expensive. But things are starting to change - Costco opened up a couple of years ago (it has been popular and will open more stores) and Aldi (a cheap german supermarket chain) is expanding quite rapidly. Just need Walmart to open a few stores!

      In terms of apartment prices, it depends on where you live. The inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne are expensive - but things get much cheaper as you move away from those areas. We need more high density developments in some of the older industrial areas close to the city centers so as to increase the supply of new apartments and bring down the prices.