PCSing! It’s a perk of military life and exciting to see what new state or country you will get to live in. It’s also the bane of our existence (at times) having to up and restart our lives every few years.
If you’re moving to Germany and have never lived OCONUS (outside the continental United States) it can be scary moving to a whole new country. Currency changes, plugs change, driving changes and so much more.
We asked military spouses on Facebook who live/have lived in Germany what every military spouse moving there should know. Here’s what they said:
Take your driving test before arriving- “Your sponsor signs you up for a JKO account, and then you are able to take the test online. Print out the certificate at the end, and bring it with you to your local on-post DMV. You will get a temporary license and you will receive the actual license in about two weeks. I strongly recommend, once you have your actual license, to get a memo from your on-post DMV to take to the German DMV to get your international driving permit, as you are supposed to have that on you whenever you leave Germany crossing into another border. You will get your IDP the same day. They have a photo booth there, so you can take your pictures there. Pictures run about €5 and the IDP is around €35. This is only if you didn’t manage to get one while you were still stateside”.
Yes you can take things- “Dont listen to ppl who say you cant take anything. Only leave behind big appliances like washer/dryer/fridge. Take the kitchenaid lol!”
Leave the base- “You cant experience Germany on American soil, so go out of your comfort zone. Learn a few words before arriving and know that ACS is your best friend for finding activities and ways to meet fellow spouses. Know that some days will be the best day ever and you’ll want to live there forever and ever and somedays it frustrates you beyond reason and you just want something familiar again.”
Language- “Learn ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘goodbye’, the moment you enter a new language’s territory. Everything after that is so much easier! People will go out of their way to help you if you are polite and show effort to adapt. Travel, travel, travel.”
Get Euro- “Always have some euro on you when shopping on the economy”. “You can’t buy ice cream or a hotdog with a credit card.”
About That Euro- Once again get euro! “the farther you are from base the less likely your card will work in their machines, they have a different card reader than us.”
Phone Home- “Get a homephone and add the 24/7 line to America on to your contract.”
Check your Cars- “Be sure your cars are in tip top shape and no work needed before you ship them there. German auto inspections are nit picky, and very thorough. Ive had friends fail for wrong tires, too loose of a parking brake.”
Fur Babies- “Make sure they have their necessary vaccinations early enough so they can go too.” You don’t want to have the hassle of having to leave them behind. “Make sure they have updated shots, health certificate, and a pet passport. Rotators into Ramstein have very limited pet slots, so book as early as possible. Most people have to pay to ship pets commercially.
Sato Travel- “Take advantage of SATO Europe, usdtravel, abctravel to get super cheap roundtrip flights to and from the states. It’s easier to get family here or if there is an emergency it’s cheaper to get home. $550 round trip, if you pay for flights home without using these companies it will be $1000+ round trip.”
Travel- “Take a million pictures!! Eat all the döner’s you can. We saw 20 countries in 2 years. Best 2 years of my life!”
Travel local too- “Go everywhere. Attend the local town events. Drink German beer and Mosel wine. ”
Beware of Speed- “Speed cameras are hidden everywhere- in parked cars, down ditches & behind bushes! They aren’t the bright well signed uk versions either.”
A Fee to Pee- “Oh, and remember you have to pay to use toilets while in public…make sure to always have 50 cent Euro on you to either give the lady sitting when you walk into the bathroom or to open the door.”
Let there be light- “Your lamps will work overseas! Just two things…1. Screw a 220v light bulb and 2. Plug an adapter to the plug! Ta-da!!”
Be A Flea- “Hit up the flea markets. Such cool finds that you will not find or be able to afford stateside.”
Trains- When traveling “take trains everywhere” and “Download Deutschbahm (train) app. It’s a DB in App Store.”
Taking Your Car- “If you have a car loan make sure the bank allows you to take it overseas.”
Wi-fi Sigh- “Plan for it to take at least a month to get internet set up AFTER you move into housing (or find a house).”
Castle Passes- For travelers ” Germany offers a castle pass. Pay like 60 euro for a whole year of 4 ppl to get in all Bavaria castles. Poland is super close, France is close, Austria, Italy, etc!”
Quiet Sundays-Excessive noise is prohibited on Sundays in Germany. Be mindful of the quiet hours and respectful. Also, know that most things are closed on Sundays. “Be prepared for things to close early, frequently, and on holidays.”
The people of Germany– “ALWAYS be kind and respectful to Germans. Germans are not inherently rude, they are direct and that can sometimes come off as rude.” And of course, learn as much German as you can and always attempt to use their language when conversing with them. They appreciate it.
Jailbreak- Germany’s cell phone network operates on GSM technology. Check to see if your phone is compatible. Some people will recommend to get a jail broken phone.
Small Housing- Onpost housing can be small so use this PCS as a time to clean and get rid of things you really don’t want or need.
Transformers- “Germany has 220 V, the kitchenaid and other electrical appliances are 110 V ! Either you need to live on post or need a transformer to use everything!”
Color Code- “The best thing I was told before moving here was to color code the moving boxes and then color code the doors in your new home! That way regardless of language abilities with your movers when you arrive you can just tell them to match the colors instead of endlessly telling your movers which box goes where.”
While we tried to list a variety of different tips in this article, the general consensus from military spouses was to TRAVEL. While in Germany you are only a short distance from so many countries. Enjoy traveling by train and enjoying the beautiful scenery. There are a ton of festivals and of course German beer to drink. Enjoy the authentic local foods. One spouse says “Visit all kinds of Christmas markets especially the ones in Rüdesheim am Rhein and Christkindlmarkt in Nürnberg. Use vat forms. Eat lots of Fleischkäsebrötchen and Weisswurst.”
Whatever you do enjoy this once or twice (because we know how the military is) in a lifetime experience.
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