So, you’re planning a permanent change of station (PCS) to Germany? You probably have a lot of feelings about it, excitement, nervousness or even uncertainty. I have a few things to share with you that I wish I had known or had better understood about the transition to the Ramstein Air Base that can help with your preparation.
Utilize Social Media Groups
I will age myself a bit here, but our PCS to Germany was in the early years of Facebook, and I wasn’t aware of the wonderful resources it could provide. Now, there are great resources for spouses to prepare well in advance of the actual move. Ramstein spouse Facebook groups and pages for the many organizations and locations on or around base hold a plethora of information about things like housing tips, restaurant suggestions and money saving travel tips. They are also a great way to make connections with spouses already there that you can get to know a bit beforehand to make sure you have something familiar to arrive at. Take the time to prepare yourself and use the search options in these groups and filter for recent posts so that you get newer information on anything you may be curious about.
We wanted to live off base, on the economy. What I didn’t know was that the market for rental homes is competitive. There are many people trying to find homes near the Ramstein area. Service members will only have a set number of days to house hunt. We were a little shocked when we looked at a home, decided we loved it and wanted to rent it only to be told by the landlord that he will let us know next week. Landlords have the luxury of being picky when deciding who to rent to.
We did eventually find a large apartment in the adorable village of Rodenbach. Overall, I was very happy with our village. Be aware that some landlords take advantage of military families. Ours, unfortunately, was one. We did end up moving on base after almost two years and reported him to the housing office. Definitely check their list of reported property owners. Landlords are another reason to check social media groups. People can tell you who to avoid and which landlords are great. Some even let you know that their home will be available soon if their landlord was awesome. Base housing is nice and worth the wait if that’s what you choose.
The Three Shipments
When you are moving outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS) you are entitled to three shipments. The first to consider is storage. Anything you don’t want to deal with and must store in closets will need to be in storage, and Europe is known for little to no closet space. For example, I stored my high school memorabilia and extra sentimental things that I wouldn’t need for four years. I made the mistake of leaving most of my 110v appliances and lamps behind in storage. There is no need to leave lamps, you can use them with Euro bulbs and plug adapters.
The second shipment is unaccompanied baggage, which is supposed to be a “quick” shipment to arrive long before the bulk of your things. There is a chance you will live in temporary housing or your new home for a while before your belongings make it over. The unaccompanied baggage is meant to provide you with a small shipment to make life bearable when you have nothing else. We included towels, sheets, kid toys, pots and pans, a small TV, small tool kit and laundry baskets to name a few. Keep in mind that this shipment might arrive when you need it, and it might not.
The last type of shipment is the household goods. This is everything else in the house. Think about paring down a bit or storing some things; again storage in Germany can be tight. Bring storage furniture pieces like bookcases or standalone cabinets. Sometimes bathrooms don’t have cabinets in them at all. The base will provide wardrobe closets for each family member if your home doesn’t have closets. So, if you’re thinking of getting rid of that armoire, I would just take it.
Cell Phones and Internet
If you have an unlocked iPhone or something similar, take it. At Ramstein you can get a new phone or SIM card inside the KMCC (Kaiserslautern Military Community Center). The KMCC houses the military Exchange, a couple banks, food court and other stores and vendors as most BX/PX buildings do. You can also set up your on-base cable inside. Off base, you will have to find a local office to do this. Be prepared to wait, there was no hurry for installation appointments when we were there.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Your PCS to Germany
The first moments in a new country can be exhausting and stressful. However, don’t forget to make memories and take in the beautiful scenery. Germany is beautiful, just wait until you experience Christmas there! It is enchanting. As you drive though the villages you will notice how clean they are and you may even see people sweeping the sidewalks on Sundays. Germans know how to be good neighbors when it comes to cleanliness and quiet, and they expect the same from newcomers. Begin this new experience with optimism and openness to embrace the culture, and an eagerness to make the most of life in Europe, it has so many adventures to offer. Good luck on your PCS to Germany!
Featured image: Ramstein Air Base personnel watch the unveiling of the newly built 86th Civil Engineer Group mascot at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, May 5, 2022. This is one of many symbols of heritage the 86 CEG has planned for traffic circles around the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Edgar Grimaldo)