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Looking back on my
family’s years in the Foreign
Service, I would say that
generally, the Service takes
care of those who take care
of themselves. So it is crucial
to become actively involved
in all aspects of your career
and life—whether you’re
planning to travel, managing
a move, assembling infor-
mation for claims or submit-
ting a travel voucher. You are
your own best advocate!
Beyond that, here are
some specifc pointers I’ve
found helpful.
Prepare the Whole Family to Move
Te importance of involving everyone in a family move
cannot be overstated. Some households, if the children are old
enough, actually start with a “family council” during which
everyone looks at possible assignments together. As one Foreign
Service child I know recalls, “Even decisions about what posts
my Dad would apply for were family discussions. Tere was a
sense of adventure, of being in it together.
“We were less vagabonds than travelers. At every new post,
my father would get out the maps and the history books. Tat
enthusiasm, the sense that we were so lucky and privileged,
stayed with me. ”
Another interesting aspect of adaptation to a new post—as
the U.S. Army illustrated in a study years ago—is that the attitude
of the mother is crucial to how well children adapt.
Keep Complete Records
Most of us know how important it is to hold on to receipts
and track expenditures throughout a transfer. But in addition, be
sure to retain all inventories from packing and storage compa-
nies, and bills of lading.
Further, inventory all your possessions and videotape the
more valuable ones to have proof of possession if you ever have
to fle a claim. And if you are working with a State Department
transportation counselor to facilitate your move, take the initia-
tive to stay in touch with him or her.
Some people erroneously assume that since they are auto-
matically covered by the Government Claims Act, it is a waste of
funds to purchase private
commercial insurance for
their household efects and
automobiles. Such a deci-
sion is the very defnition
of being “penny wise and
pound foolish,” however.
Te Government Claims
Act exists as a safety net, but
the reimbursement received
through it for lost or dam-
aged property will always
be inadequate. Te best
compensation for lost and
damaged property comes
from private commercial
Work with Your Movers
Preparing for the movers is of prime importance if you want
to facilitate and encourage a good job. Moving is a psychological
game, so you want to show the movers that you know what you
want—but also that you have gone to some trouble to make their
job easier. As daunting as the prospect can seem in the midst of
all the chaos and stress of a transfer, it is absolutely necessary at
some point to devote yourself entirely to organization.
One basic task is to make clear where items are to go: unac-
companied air baggage, household efects or storage. Since
movers will not pack suitcases, you might want to set up another
category for your own luggage. Tis can be done with Avery col-
ored dots—blue for UAB, green for HHE which is going overseas,
and red for stored items that will stay in the United States.
Using colored dots has many advantages. You can start to
label your belongings to show where things will go long before
the move, and it is easy to change the color of the dot if you
change your mind as to the object’s destination. Tat way, the
movers can readily tell where an item is going, and as you group
items to be packed together for the movers, the colored dots
make it easy to identify them.
Knowing what exactly is in each of the diferent cartons can
be a real challenge because the inventory notations of the mov-
ers are usually vague. A good way to avoid such confusion is to
have the movers number the cartons as they go, while several
friends make notations of the contents of each carton as it is
packed and then note the number the movers assign to it. Tese
friends will need to be in diferent rooms if things are being
Moving is a psychological
game. Show the movers you
know what you want—but also
that you have tried to make
their job easier.