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?