In a recent chat, I sat down with Kiara Butler to get a spouse’s perspective on what it’s like to be stationed here in Grafenwoehr, Germany. She has lived in Germany for three years with her husband and dog Winston. We went over expectations on PCSing to Germany, career options as a military spouse, travel, and so much more!
Based on our conversation, here are my “Top 3 Ways to Maximize Your Time in Grafenwoehr, Germany.”
1) Home Sweet Home: Grafenwoehr Germany
When embarking on a new adventure, like a PCS to a new country, all kinds of emotions are running rampant. The excitement in getting a chance to explore a new place. Nervous about not being able to speak the language. Uncertainty of being on your own when your spouse is off to work.
This is when homesickness eventually starts to sink in.
Newcomers PCSing to Germany
A few suggestions for incoming families, especially if this is your first overseas assignment is to make your current home as comfortable and homey as possible. Kiara spent her “COVID time” cleaning and organizing her home so that it actually made her feel like it was home.
I know this may sound silly, but a little color, decor, and hanging family photos on the wall can really have a big impact on your transition into your new German home.
Second, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Literally every American family is in the same boat as you with regards to PCSing to Germany. It’s completely acceptable to rely on the military community and ask for help.
This is also a good opportunity to connect with neighbors and spouses that have like minded interests and are looking for friends.
A home isn’t a home unless your fur baby is with you! However, PCSing your pet to Germany can be troublesome – such as understanding the restricted pet list in Germany. Make it a first priority to get your pet here so it’s not last minute, too expensive, and to ensure the airline has a dedicated “seat on the plane” for them.
Kiara recommends that whether you choose to bring a pet over when you PCS, or you adopt when in Germany, take into consideration the cost it will take to ship them across country.
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2) Work & Hobbies
When looking for employment as a dependent, it may not be easy to get a job on base or out on the economy. If that happens, many spouses have opted to start their own business or HBB, also known as Home Based Business.
Going this route is a great way to pursue something you’re passionate about. Also, an opportunity to keep busy while your spouse is away at work. Having your own business gives you the flexibility to create your own schedule to do more things like travel or work out in the gym. Posting a job with the local military spouses page can help connect you with clients.
Kiara made it a priority to stay active by joining the Grafenwoehr crossfit gym where she was able to train and meet new friends. You could also get involved in your community by volunteering. For example, Child & Youth Sports (CYS) is always looking for coaches and child care providers.
Staying active comes in many forms. If you’re a busy stay at home mom/dad, staying active could also include keeping your kids and pets active in extra curricular activities, hiking, walking, and exploring new cities.
Which is a great segue into why we’re really here…
When living in Germany, it’s easy to hop on a train or car, and within a few hours, you’ll be in a new country. To make the most of your time, use the four-day weekends to your advantage.
Also, create a bucket list of all the places you want to go. Kiara and her family recommends to make travel goals so you can make sure to hit your wish list before you move!
While working on your travel goals, consider exploring locally. Many people often forget that Germany (even small town Bavaria) has exceptional local gems right outside your doorstep. Don’t forget about local Christmas markets, castles, and small towns.
Don’t let COVID put a damper on travel plans, instead, make it an opportunity to explore the area that is right in your own backyard. Like most Germans, they enjoy getting out and walking, so join them!
When traveling, you’ll notice that cash is King! So always make sure you have Euros on hand because you’ll never know when you’ll need it – shopping carts, bathrooms, most small town restaurants, etc.
Don’t wait on that “perfect opportunity” to book travel tickets. The perfect opportunity is right now, while you’re stationed overseas “be in the now.”
“Eat the good food!” Enjoy as much of the local cuisine as you can and keep in mind that local markets are a great place to find fresh produce.
After reflecting on their time in Germany, they give the country an 8/10. However, minus 2 points for COVID and a few speeding tickets.
Kiara’s final recommendation is to learn the basics. Take the time to download a great app like Duolingo to fully learn the language and chat with the locals properly.
Experience the German culture and don’t be afraid to ask questions or try new things. This is your opportunity, so YOLO!