“Have Racecar” Part 2

This week my car is finally finished being imported. Yes, more than a year after the shipping company pickup in the US, and 8 entire months after her arrival in Roosendaal, the Belgian government has agreed that Elena is, in fact, a car, rather than some sort of cobbled-together rolling safety hazard, and seen fit to grant me local registration and plates. Here is the rest of that story.

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If you thought all the hard work of importing a car had been covered in the previous post on this topic, oh how wrong you were. Getting on the road on a new continent was just step 1, I still had to go get Elena certified for extended use on Belgian roads. Think if it like the difference between a tourist visa and permanent resident visa. After a certain time, a foreigner (car or person) is not allowed to stay in country without satisfying additional bureaucrats. I’m not exactly sure how any authority would figure out my car has been here too long, or what they would do in such a case, but I didn’t want to find out.

Continue reading ““Have Racecar” Part 2″

“Have Racecar”

Last week I finally drove my Lotus in Belgium! Four months to the day since it was picked up by the shippers to be brought here. That process was certainly one of the most confusing, beureaucratic, stressful things I’ve ever done. Probably #2, right after completing a Master’s Thesis, and before actually taking up residence in Belgium. Having a car again has made life feel almost normal again, removed a lot of stress, and greatly opened up my travel opportunities.

The name of this blog is “Have Racecar, Will Travel,” but for the last four months, only half of that has been true. Up until now, I’ve only been doing the travelling bit, and then only so far as not having a car would allow me, which, to be honest, is not very much. If I wanted to get to Brussels, it took over an hour via trains. If I wanted to get somewhere without easy transit access, I had to fork over a hundred bucks for a weekend rental car, or try to convince someone to take me in their car. I had to walk to and from stores, which severely limited where I could go and how much I could buy.
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Packing Priorities

As I mentioned in my last post, an overseas move is much different than a regular move because of what you have to leave behind. Chosing what I wanted to take with me I found to be an interesting exercise in determining who I am and who I want to be. When given a limited shipping allocation, I think it’s very revealing to look at what a person chooses to bring for a long-term stay. To illustrate this, I would like to share the decisions I made in this process.

In the intervening time between my last post and now, I’ve had a few minor interesting adventures, but have been too busy assembling furniture and doing more shopping to do much writing.

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Decision Fatigue

I have never before so comprehensively started over. Even at my first apartment, I had a lot of inherited/hand-me-down furniture. I left behind a lot of stuff when I left America, and European apartments come barer than any I’d seen before. As a result, there is entirely too much shopping to do, and the decision fatigue is wearing me the heck out. But it’s Sunday and all the stores are closed, so I have some time to tell you about it.

I’ve been moving in to my new apartment since last Tuesday, which means I’m on about step 587 out of infinity of roughly establishing a home for myself in Belgium. Two months ago I estimated that an international move was only about 25% worse than a regular move (It’s like regular moving, but with more paperwork!). It has gotten so much worse in the last week, I would now put it at 150% worse than a regular move. The reason for this is shopping, which I hate.  Continue reading “Decision Fatigue”

Househunting in a Foreign Land

Great news! I signed a lease today! It’s nearly my perfect apartment! Well, not really; it doesn’t have a gas stove, or an in-sink disposal, or even a two-basin kitchen sink, or bedroom closets, or any appliances (not even a fridge or oven), or a pantry, or decent cabinetry and countertops in the bathroom, and it’s “against the rules” to do grilling on my terrace (something about “smells” and “smoke” “antagonizing” the other tennants).

But you know what, it’s got two bedrooms (come visit!), a great living space (come party!), a nice view off the terrace (come drink beer with the sunset!), an elevator (come…elevate?), and (most importantly) an in-building electrified box garage in which I’m allowed to do my own mechanical work (you can find somewhere else to park). And it’s only 900 EUR/month. Check out that picture! Doesn’t it seem nice? Compared to the other places I saw, this is perfect. Continue reading “Househunting in a Foreign Land”

How not to order Euros

How’s a person supposed to get a large quantity of currency exchanged at a decent rate? I have no idea. Don’t go to a bank. Any bank. I don’t know how they get away with, like, anything they do. This particular incident could be adapted into a Seinfeld episode with very little embellishment.

People have, on occasion, told me I should start a blog. Usually my thoughts could be sufficiently summed up in pithy facebook or twitter posts to avoid writing more than a paragraph. But now I am moving to Europe, and I imagine I’ll have sufficient inspiration for more loquatious musings. Plus I’ll have more time to write on these international flights.

Things have been very busy for the last couple months, as things are wont to be when moving abroad. There’s the visa, the actual packing and moving part, and in my case shipping a car. I may or may not comment on these later (no promises). But one relatively minor task turned into much more of an ordeal than I would have expected. Words like “kafkaesque” or “seinfeldian” provide a rough summary within 140 characters, but to use those words to describe the process of a currency exchange demands more detail.

Going to Europe, one needs to have some Euros. I had a cashier’s check from an account closure that I thought I might take to a local bank (at which my parents were account holders) for an exchange. Plus I had a fair bit of cash in hand from craigslist sales. A suggestion had been made to me that “a brick of cash” is the easiest, most straightforward way to move money from one continent to the other, plus I would need a bunch for, you know, stuff. So with the cash I had, I thought I might get 5000 EUR. Continue reading “How not to order Euros”