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?

Military Relocation, The PCS in 10 Steps

Photo by garann

For those who have not been around the military for long, the idea of moving to a new duty station seems pretty scary. Military moves are actually pretty predictable, though.

What happens first? How does my stuff get from my old place to my new place? How will I find a new apartment or house? Will I live on-base or off-base? How much time will I have to prepare? What the heck is a DITY Move, anyway? The questions just go on and on. . .

For those veteran military spouses, the information in this post will be old news. For those that are newer to the military or those that have not moved recently, I will give you an general overview of the process.

Hopefully, this overview will answer some questions about your upcoming move.

Step 1 – Orders! The military service member will receive orders. Often, rumors precede these orders. Sometimes the rumors are accurate, other times they are not. Do not automatically spend hours researching a move until the orders are in hand. Even then, things may change.

Step 2 – By now, you know where you are going and when you need to be there. Now you will contact your installation relocation office for a briefing. This briefing helps you to understand military regulations and procedures relating to your move.

Step 3 – After your relocation briefing, you will contact your transportation office. The transportation office will probably have its own briefing. You will learn about how to use the portal. You will learn how much stuff you can move (your weight allowance) and what items can be moved to your new location.

Step 4 – The transportation office will schedule the movers (otherwise known as TSP or Transportation Service Providers) on a date that hopefully you have discussed ahead of time. Although your preferences are taken into consideration, you will not always have control of when transportation schedules movers.

Step 5 – You will take care of all the personal stuff involved in moving. This step covers everything from researching the new location to purging the things you don’t want to drag to your next duty station. Depending on your situation, you will have different items on your to-do list.

Step 6 – Packing up. If you choose to use movers, they will come and pack up your things. The things involved in this step could be a series of posts. I promise I will give you more information on this later!

Step 7 – Time for temporary quarters. No matter how carefully you plan your move, you will be spending time in temporary quarters. Most likely, you will be in temporary quarters when you leave your old duty station and when you arrive at your new duty station. Pack what you will need, but not too much. You will likely be put up in a hotel or at the military installation temporary quarters facility.

Step 8 – Get yourself and your family to the new duty location. The way you get to your new duty station will depend on where you are moving. Many people combine leave time and visit family along the way. A few military families have a short time line and end up making a more rapid transition to the new duty station.

Step 9 –  Find new housing. Hopefully, you have been working on this the whole time. However, if you live in government housing, you may not be able to do anything until you are physically at your new duty station. Once you know where you are living, schedule the movers to drop your things off.

Step 10 – Unpack and settle in to your new home. By the time you are good and settled, it may be time to move again!