Whether you’re PCSing or moving to Germany, it’s a truly life-changing experience. So many people think they’ll just be here for a few years. But as soon as they fall in love with the country and the lifestyle, they stay for just another couple years, and then another few years, and before you know it, you have a dog and a house!
And this isn’t just my story! I sat down with Alina and Frank Rozanski to talk about their 16 years living in Germany, what they wish they knew before moving, and what they’ll miss about living here. If you’re thinking about moving to Germany, or if you’ve received orders to PCS, this will be a great resource for you!
How to Find a Job at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr as a Spouse
When Alina was hired as a teacher at Netzaberg Middle School, Frank gave up his career in the U.S. for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
He spent his first few months getting acclimated to Germany. But once all that was set up, he got that itch to get a job.
Are you a military spouse looking for job opportunities at USAG Bavaria? Check out our guide for resources and ideas!
Military spouses receive priority for jobs, so he struggled to find employment on post. Eventually he landed a job at the on-post hotel where he worked for three years. But his schedule never matched Alina’s, which made it really difficult to spend time together and travel. And that’s the point of living abroad, right?
He applied for a position at the elementary school library. It had nothing to do with his education in restaurant management and hospitality, but it meant that, after five years of living in Germany, his schedule finally synced with Alina’s.
Plus, after adopting their kids, their schedule meant that they could spend more time together as a family. Because as employees of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), they truly only work 180 days out of the year.
Making career decisions is challenging for any spouse who moves for their partner’s work. Perhaps the hardest part when living in Germany is choosing whether you pursue your actual career path, or take a job that fits your current lifestyle. But more often than not, spouses choose a job that allows them to travel.
And, in the long run, the experience of living and traveling internationally will provide so much value to your life and well-being!
Raising Kids in Germany
“You can stay as American as you like, but you can also be as German as you like.” – Alina
The Rozanskis spend a lot of time together as a family. Their kids moved to Germany when they were in second and third grade, but adjusted completely fine.
Alina and Frank feel confident and safe letting their kids roam around their town and countryside. But they also enjoy all the comforts and normalities that American kids experience as part of their youth, such as after school art lessons or soccer clubs. But they can also participate in those activities on the German economy as well, like ballet lessons or other sports clubs.
And the best part about moving to Germany is, of course, the travel opportunities. Traveling to a different country – or even a different part of Germany – is much more affordable than in the states. (We’ll get to that in a bit!)
Even going out to eat is cheaper than in the U.S.! A meal for a family of four could run you $90 after tax and tip in the states. But in Germany, you can easily enjoy a meal out for half the price.
Life in Germany
“The people who don’t like it here tend to be the people who never left post.” – Alina
The happiest Americans living in Germany will tell you the same thing: get off post!
Don’t let language or unfamiliar customs stop you from exploring. Even if you just walk into town, almost everyone will speak English in Grafenwoehr.
Pro tip: download Google translate and DuoLingo before you arrive! These two apps will make living in Germany so much easier.
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But if you’re really nervous about interacting with German speakers, try learning how to say a few phrases, such as:
Sprechen Sie Englisch?: Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kein Deutsch: I don’t speak German
Nein, danke: No, thank you
Ja, bitte: Yes, please
You won’t be fluent in German overnight, but remember that everyone appreciates effort, kindness, and patience.
And be open to new experiences, even if it’s just for lunch or dinner! Customer service may not be as fast or as friendly, but because the restaurant isn’t trying to turn tables, you’re usually welcome to sit and enjoy yourself for as long as you like.
Traveling in Germany
“Get out there. Enjoy what’s here.” – Frank
When those 4-day weekends come around, you’ll always want to travel outside of Germany. But don’t forget that Germany has a lot to offer, too!
Crete was one of the Rozanski’s favorite places to visit because it’s not as touristy or crowded as the Greek islands. The experience was intimate, local, and really affordable. Four sun beds with two umbrellas cost €10, and the beach was just a short walk to find gyros and beer!
If you’re nervous about visiting a foreign country, London may be a good first trip to take. It feels new and unfamiliar, but all the signs are in English! Just be sure to look both ways when crossing the street.
And for the Rozanskis, Paris is a great example of why you need to visit places twice (if you have the time). Their first time was not ideal in any way, but they fell in love with it the second time around.
Pro tip: If you drive to Paris from Grafenwoehr, start the journey on Thursday. Leave in the early afternoon, stop at Ramstein to fill up your tank at the Esso, then go to Paris the next day!
And remember: don’t let one bad experience leave a bad impression of an entire country or city. Sometimes it may not seem worth visiting a place twice because there are so many countries to see! But it’s rare that you can experience everything a city or country has to offer during a long weekend.
PCSing To and From Germany
PCSing is always stressful. But when you PCS out of Germany, Alina and Frank encourage you to be persistent, patient, and prepared.
Be persistent to get what you need. Be patient because you don’t know what the other person has already experienced today. And be prepared because there will be bumps, and having all your ducks in a line will keep you just a bit more sane.
And speaking of being prepared, make sure you keep all of your important documents and medication with you. Set aside all important documents and things that you don’t want to be accidentally packed in a locked room or your car.
You don’t want to be that guy at the VAT office trying to out-process who accidentally had his VAT forms packed with his household goods! (Trust me, I’ve seen it – it’s not good.)
If you’re PCSing to Germany, sign up for Facebook groups ASAP to get a lay of the land. They exchange a lot of great information, but always verify it with the Garrison website!
Alina and Frank also suggest that you spend some time with Google maps to learn more about the Grafenwöhr area. Look at what towns are nearby and how long your commute could be. That way, when you’re offered housing, you already have a sense of where you’ll be located.
And before moving to Germany, get an international phone plan or some data so that you can still communicate during your first days in the country! It may take a while before you get a German SIM card.
Frequently Asked Questions about Moving to Germany
Moving to Germany has a lot of moving parts, but here are some of the most common questions about the process.
While you don’t necessarily need a pet passport, you’ll need to take your animals to the vet to have paperwork completed. Learn more about the process in our guide to PCSing with pets!
There are tons of Facebook groups where people can answer your questions right away, but we also have a guide that can help you plan a smooth arrival.
Raising your kids in Germany for a few years is an amazing experience. Read more about it in our guide to living in Germany with kids!
Reflections on Living in Germany
Moving to Germany will have its obstacles, but once you’re here, you won’t want to leave. It is such a unique opportunity to explore a part of the world that would otherwise be expensive to visit!
And with all kinds of guides and resources at your fingertips, you can really live your best life here.