Five Tough Things About Overseas Military Moves and Five Things that Make the Moves Worth It

The rumors your husband (or wife) has been hearing for months have turned into official military orders. You are heading to Europe or even Asia for your next PCS. While this move may be similar to every other move you have made as a military family, it will have it’s unique challenges. For all the challenges you face, moving to another country provides just as many opportunities!

For this post, I’d like to talk about what makes it tough to move overseas and what makes it worth all the extra hassle!

Things that Make an Overseas PCS Move Tough

  1. Planning and Preparation. Between figuring out what to take along on a move and filing paperwork, moving to another continent is hugely stressful. Unfortunately, each family has their own individual situations that must be addressed. For some people, visas or passport paperwork is rapidly processed while others wait months to receive word of their status. Families with a person in the exceptional family member program (EFMP) have additional paperwork to do. Attending a levy briefing to understand what you must do on your own and what the military will do for you is an important step in the process.
  2. Housing Issues. ¬†Finding a home in another country is challenging, even with the help of housing or a real estate agent. After finding the best location and house, it would be nice if the stress would end. It doesn’t. Communication with a landlord who does not speak English well is a constant challenge. Maintaining a private rental and navigating the billing system of another country can feel overwhelming to some.
  3. Language Barriers. Unless you have a gift which allows you to learn language easily, learning a different language requires work and a lot of practice. It is a challenge to meet neighbors and use local services properly when you can’t communicate. Fortunately, the military provides language coursework to help with this. Even using the Rosetta Stone online and taking classes in person does not guarantee you will ever be as fluent as you wish in another language.
  4. Finding Employment. For spouses looking for work, the positions available can be few and far between. Depending on the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the host nation, it can mean you can’t even run your own home-based business. For families who need two incomes to survive or for spouses who just need to get out of the house it can be frustrating. Using your employment readiness center and a lot of networking can help your chances of getting a job.
  5. Missing Family and Friends. Even though military families are accustomed to moving more often than the average family, it does not mean they ever get used to it. Leaving friends is difficult, but leaving friends for another continent is worse. There will be no weekend trips for a visit when you are living Europe or Asia. Thank goodness for for free or low-cost communication like Skype or Vonage!

Things that Make Moving Overseas Amazing

  1. Traveling. Once you have settled in your new home, it will be time to explore your new country…and possibly the neighboring countries too! Military families stationed in Europe can often visit several countries in a weekend! How many Americans have the opportunity to spend weekends in Paris or Prague?
  2. Eating. While some folks are happy eating only American cuisine, living overseas means you have the chance to taste amazing new foods. Bratwurst or pizza may be served in the U.S., but how cool is it to try the real thing?! You might be amazed at the difference.
  3. Learning About Different Cultures. As Americans, we tend to have a pretty narrow view of the world. We forget that not everyone does things “our” way. Experiencing life when surrounded by people who think differently is an eye-opening experience. Learning about a country from local friends gives you knowledge that you can’t get from any guidebook.
  4. Sharing Your Temporary Country with Friends and Facebook. After you live for a few months in a new country, you become a bit of an expert. You learn the best places to visit and where to find the most delicious food. When someone comes to visit, it is awesome to share all that knowledge. You can impress all your Facebook friends with pictures of all your adventures, too!
  5. Appreciating All the Stuff We Take For Granted as Americans! There is something to be said for living life like a native. There is also something to be said for having all the comforts of home. Living in a foreign country can make you really thankful for the stuff you are used to in the U.S. For me, some of the things I missed were nice wide roads, big parking spaces and a mall that is open on Sunday! Being in another country allowed me to realize how good I had it at home. I think it does the same for others, too.

Can you share some of what you love or hate about moving to an overseas duty station?

Car Insurance and the Overseas Military Move

Illustration by digitalart at

Moving overseas, or an OCONUS  move in military speak, is extremely stressful and requires a good deal of preparation. Before I spent time in Europe, I never even considered some of the necessary plans I would have to make. Car insurance is one of the things I rarely thought about. Car insurance for an OCONUS military PCS was definitely not even on my radar.

In the U.S., we might complain about the cost of insurance, but most of us don’t think much beyond that. An average driver has many companies that they can use to insure their cars. Unless you have some accidents or tickets, insurance is just another part of life.

Most people just don’t have to worry about car insurance when they leave the United States. For the military families heading overseas, though there are a few things they need to consider about car insurance.

  1. Plan ahead for your PCS. Call your insurance company and see what their policy is on insuring outside of the United States. Most companies don’t do cover anyone outside the U.S., but they may have a relationship with an insurer who does. You definitely need to let them know before you plan on shipping the car, because you will need an insurance statement before the military will accept your car for shipment.
  2. Learn about the companies that do insure cars overseas. In Europe, I know that two companies are the major insurers of military personnel. These two companies are Geico and USAA (United Services Auto Association.) We personally use USAA and have excellent customer service.
  3. Figure out what coverage you are required to have and how much coverage you want. Depending on the country you are moving to, you may have to carry a certain amount of coverage. Each country is different, so investigate that on your own. Many countries, including Italy, only require personal liability. We carry more. If you are driving a newer vehicle, the lien holder may require you to carry a policy that will cover the replacement of the vehicle in the event that your vehicle is totaled in an accident.
  4. Expect sticker shock. Insurance overseas is much more expensive than it is in the United States. Our bill more than tripled. There is a reason why you receive a cost of living adjustment when you are stationed outside the U.S. This is just one of the expenses that is higher than in the continental United States.
  5. Do you plan on storing your car instead of bringing it with you? Here is a word of advice. Don’t drop your car insurance. Although reforms in the insurance industry should prevent insurers from refusing to insure you when you come back to the United States, it won’t prevent the hassle it will take to re-insure your vehicle. Most companies will allow you to keep a base level of comprehensive insurance on your vehicle at a reasonable rate. This will keep your car covered in case of natural disasters. It also means with a call, you can get a higher level of insurance reinstated when you come home.

Most of us are accustomed to having a vehicle, so car insurance is essential. If you plan on shipping your vehicle, don’t forget to discuss your move with your insurance carrier! Preparing ahead of time will save you complications when it is time to drop your vehicle off for shipping!