Y’all, I loved my time OCONUS. A bowl of ramen in the US won’t ever hold a candle to the seriously fresh stuff I devoured in a small shop in Japan. Yeah, I watched the owner/chef whip it up right in front of my eyes.

But now that we’re back stateside, I’m realizing just how much I missed the good ol’ US of A. It’s little things that I never thought I would be so excited about.

6 American Things I’m In Love with After an OCONUS Tour

I’ll admit, coming back to the states after three years of amazing Asian adventures didn’t really sound like the best idea. I might have even angled and hinted that I’d be okay if we had to extend OCONUS. Fine, I’ll keep traveling on the cheap, whatever, I guess.

It wasn’t until we landed in the US that I realized I had missed a few things more than I thought.



I’ll go with the biggie: Target. I missed The Spot, filled with cheap supplies to fill my home and empty my wallet. I missed the variety of items I can purchase, too.

I walked into my first Target after a 3 year absence and walked out with new clothes, some classroom supplies and seeds for the garden. Because why not, right?

Plus, I can grab a coffee while I shop. And maybe another one when I leave, too. It’s a reward for not buying everything Target sells.

Two Day Shipping

Ordering online from Japan was kind of cool, if I’m being honest, sometimes. I’d order something from Zulily or Amazon or Old Navy, but by the time it showed up (2-6 weeks later) it was a fun surprise. Who sent me that cute sweater? Oh, it was me!

Other times, it was a pain in the rear. I’d need something hard to find, like size 10.5 women’s running shoes, ASAP. So I’d order and then wait weeks to get my shipment. Sometimes it would get lost or get sent UPS instead of USPS, adding an extra delay.

But on Monday I ordered business cards. Two days later, they were waiting for me on my porch! What kind of magic is this?

I’ve been semi-impulse buying things to tide us over until our HHG arrives online. Let me tell you: getting things 24-48 hours after ordering is a miracle from heaven.

Starbucks App

Japan just recently got their own Starbucks app with the rewards system. Except it was in, you know, Japanese and I don’t read that language so well. So I was pumped to download and sign-in to my previously dormant US Starbucks account right away. I even had some leftover money waiting for me!

Being able to order my coffee or pastries from my phone, then swing by while I’m out running errands is kind of crucial. It literally saved me while we were in a hotel without a fridge or included breakfast. I ordered bagels from the Starbucks app on my phone, dashed out the door and was back before anyone else woke up.

English Food Labels

It’s been a little scary buying food at grocery stores in Japan. Again, I don’t read that language. Not super helpful when trying to read labels for allergens. I mean, I know the kanji for “milk” but it could get dicey when different characters were combined. does that one mean butter (no go) or just lactic acid (totally fine)?

Now that we’re back in the US, I can read all the labels and avoid dairy! Which is totally going to save me several ER trips.

Grocery Stores

Guys, the first time I stepped back into Harris Teeter I might have wandered around with my mouth hanging open for longer than necessary. Have you noticed all the cool things we can buy at the grocery store? There are like a million, billion options for everything and I’m amazed.

After three years of being limited to whatever one brand the commissary decided to stock or what I could decipher at off-base shops, US grocery stores are amazing. Aisles of organic, non-dairy, non-GMO, non-whatever else foods and snacks and everything.

You guys! I’m crying.

Craft Beer

Okay, so Japan is maybe not known for their beer scene. They have it and everything, but it’s not what we’re used to the in the US with all the millions of kinds of beers. I found a cool spot on Miyajima, near the floating Torii, with amazing craft beer. Otherwise, it was Asahi, Sapporo or Orion. US-based beers were expensive.

On-base you could buy US beers, but there might be some issues due to travel time. For example, we routinely got summer beers around October, fall beers around Christmas and winter beers around Easter. Not ideal for those “best by” dates. We’ve poured more than one beer down the drain.

But now? Now I am spoiled for choices! There is a craft beer store or brewery or gastropub around every corner. In my new neighborhood, there is even a combo coffee shop/brew pup that serves amazing sandwiches and is kid-friendly!

Right now, I’m proud to be an American and enjoy all these little (big) pleasures of a stateside tour!

What did you miss during your OCONUS tour? What did you love most after you rotated back? We’d love to know!



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Meg is a military spouse, teacher, writer, and mom of two MilKids. She is an education blog and coaching/advocacy service focused on military families. Meg's mission is to help families understand and navigate the K-12 world. She provides timely posts, timeless advice, and personal assistance to families with school-aged children. You can find Meg online at megflanagan.com and @MegFlanaganEducation

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