I love getting emails from readers. Though I’m not always prompt about it, I try to respond to them all. I was going through the blog emails this morning and came across one from a fellow military spouse looking for insight about living overseas. I get emails like hers all the time and I’m glad. In the military family, you always have someone to poke and prod for advice. I have my military mentors that I couldn’t survive without and am so happy when I have the opportunity to share my experiences with others! Rather than reply to her email, I thought I’d share my thoughts in a post since many military families wrestle with the idea of trying to go overseas for their next assignment at some point in time.
I can’t convince anyone that moving OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) is the best thing they will ever do. It has certainly been a very positive experience for us, the Viper Pilot’s career, and our growing family.
Regardless of you or your spouse’s job in the military, most families have the option to complete a “Dream Sheet” and request their top choice in location. Believe it or not, we actually do get some say in where we want to live. Sometimes the AF gods listen, sometimes they laugh and tell us how nice our base of preference is and send us somewhere completely different.
Germany was our first choice. Our decision to move overseas wasn’t tough. Our base options are fairly limited and most of them are overseas.
A lot of people make their base of preference decision based on where home is. Okay. Totally valid. We don’t have the option to get stationed close to home, at least not at this point in his career. We’re okay with that for now, though my family may not be. Maybe someday we’ll get back to the midwest. It was a great place to grow up, but why stay in one place our entire lives? Life is short, we want to get in as much as possible. Some say go overseas while you’re young and childless but we want our kids to see the world, too. We plan to travel with the babe as much as we did when it was just the two of us. The baby will adapt to the lifestyle and be a pro traveler in no time. Without much discussion, the Viper Pilot and I agreed that there is so much of this world to see, we might as well go on the AF’s dime. Thank you, Uncle Sam.
I’m getting more used to living in Germany. We’re global. I miss the United States, I haven’t stepped foot in my home country since July 2012. I don’t miss seeing grocery shoppers in sweatpants (sorry, this is a personal opinion), but I do miss smiling at strangers, and being able to banter. I especially don’t miss all the media drama. There’s always something, usually negative, making the headlines in the states. I might catch it briefly on the radio or online, but it doesn’t consume my day. I still lock my doors (we have a culture here who won’t hurt you, but they might try to take your things) but I feel safe, actually, I feel safer than I do in the states. Politics, crime and everything else aside, mostly, I miss my family. I can’t believe I’m going to raise a baby while they’re 4,500 miles away. Neither can my mother.
Although living in Germany has gotten easier, I haven’t really assimilated. I don’t think that’s possible, anyway. I live in Europe with all the benefits of being an American, it’s the best of both worlds. To the contrary, having a baby – and picking up a bit of horrible broken German, enough to get by – makes me realize just how much I appreciate this culture and how foreign I am becoming. Euros are more familiar than US dollars. I have no problem moving someone’s shopping cart because it is in my way and they don’t mind me doing it. When someone asks me how I am doing it is because they actually want to know. Saying “what’s up” is not a greeting. Staring isn’t rude here – I love this because I’m an excellent people watcher. I don’t have to mind a person’s personal bubble (while waiting for my coffee, a woman reached across me to grab a packet of sugar and rested her arm on my baby belly in the process like it wasn’t even there and she had zero ill-intent) and I don’t have to apologize if I bump into someone. All of this might sound like rude behavior, but it’s not. I can’t emphasize enough how kind Europeans are.
What are the biggest challenges of living in Europe? The obvious: being away from family. Fortunately, flights are cheap for families of military (if you know about the Delta secret), and technology has made our world smaller. Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Vonage…Amen. Other than that, I haven’t met many challenges. We learn and experience something new almost daily. I guess that can be a challenge if you let it, but if you embrace the uniqueness of the culture you’re living in, you begin to adapt.
Wait, does trash pick up only twice a month count as a challenge?
What do we enjoy the most about living in Europe? Oh my gosh…just, everything. The other day we were discussing our first trip after the baby is born. Between the deployment and pregnancy, we are travel deprived right now. Prague, Paris, Dublin, London…why pick just one? Let’s go see them all. When our time in Germany is up, as they drag me out of here kicking and screaming, I know my biggest regret will be not travelling more. And we’ve traveled as much as possible. Our hopes are to stay overseas for our next assignment, but regardless stateside or otherwise, there will be new adventures awaiting us and our suitcases.
Think it over, consider the option, discuss what’s best for your military career, you, and your family. It’s really not that scary, I promise. 🙂
If you could live anywhere in the world for 3-4 years, where would you go? I love Europe but I think I’d enjoy Australia.