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30 Things you MUST know Before PCSing to Germany with the US Military

stressed out about pcsing to germany

“PCSing to Germany was a breeze,” said No One. Ever.  

Moving to Germany

My wife and I arrived to Grafenwoehr Germany through the US military back in 2014 and haven’t looked back.  However, before we realized how incredibly rewarding it was to live and play in Europe, there’s 30 things you MUST know before getting here!  

Before we get into this list, you need to understand that prior to our arrival in 2014, there was hardly anything online that truly helped us PCS to Germany. No YouTube videos of the area, house tours, checklists, packing guides, we didn’t even have a sponsor… sound familiar?

Because of this, I decided to build my career around being the #1 online resource for helping US military families & civilian employees smoothly transition to Germany. 

*Although we’re stationed at USAG Bavaria, these tips are applicable to all US military installations in Germany.

So if you’re stressed out about moving your whole life to a new country for the first time, or unsure on where to even begin, let me help you get started with these 30 MUST know items.

For a quick resource guide to each base, check out our new cheat sheets below!

PCS to Germany: Cheat Sheets

*Stay tuned for additional cheat sheet information

Table of Contents

1. Hurry Up and Wait

Let’s talk about expectations first. There’s A LOT of things to do in a short amount of time.  I’m not going to sugar-coat this move, you’re gonna experience some pretty “sucky moments,” but literally EVERYONE feels your pain (or has at one point in time), so try to be mindful of the fact that you’re not alone.

There’s a community of people willing to help & support you (we’ll get there). Plus, after this stressful transition, PCSing to Germany is totally worth it!

I mean… this may be your once in a lifetime opportunity to FINALLY explore Europe with your entire family!  If you don’t have some of the most important/expensive items done first, you’ll often have to wait till that’s done before moving on to the next step (such as your orders). So focus on these items first…

Getting excited about orders to Germany

2. PCS to Germany: Orders & Command Sponsorship

When a military member receives orders overseas, they will either be accompanied (w/dependents) or unaccompanied (w/out dependents).  

If you’re accompanied, your family members MUST be command sponsored to your overseas location to be eligible for all types of special benefits.

Command Sponsorship Benefits:

– Fully Funded Move

– House Eligibility

– Concurrent Travel (w/military member)

– Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA)

– Household Goods (HHG) Shipment

– Employment (On base)

– On Base Schooling (DoDEA)

Visa/SOFA Status

– Postal Services

VAT (Value Added Tax) Forms

– Post Facilities: Commissary, PX/BX, Gym, Medical/Dental Clinics 

You MUST get your dependents (spouse/kids) on your orders. This will help kickstart so many things, such as your passports and getting on the housing waiting list (more of that in sec).

Check out an example of a Command Sponsorship Checklist from the Military Personnel Division (MPD)

There are several requirements to get started.  Assuming you have soft orders… 

First thing’s first,  apply for your ID card through DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System).

For command sponsorship, submit a packet through the MPD (Military Personnel Division).  You’ll need to fill out several forms, and then provide proof of your dependents (birth certificates, marriage license, custody documents, etc). 

Requirements to get started: 

– Apply for your ID card through DEERS 

– Submit a packet to MPD

– DA Form 4187 (Request of Command Sponsorship)

– Enlisted/Officer Record Brief (ERB/ORB). ETS date must have 12 months left in service and sponsor must serve a 36 month tour

– DA FORM 5888 w/EFMP review stamp: Family Medical Screening

– DD FORM 2792 

– Marriage/Birth Certificate (for all family members). *Notarized copies

– Spouse’s citizenship

– Passport (for non US citizens)

– Proof of Custody Court Documents (As required) Minor dependent must reside with military member for min 6 months/year

– PCS (soft) Orders to Germany

However, the only way to get hard copy orders and all your dependents on command sponsorship for an OCONUS (overseas) tour is by completing, and getting approval of the EFMP program first.

*Usually… “soft orders” will be provided with only the service member on them initially. Then once EFMP and command sponsorship is complete, they will amend the orders to add the family members. Once everyone is accounted for, you’ll be given “hard orders” on paper.

3. EFMP: Exceptional Family Member Program

All military members PCSing to Germany on an accompanied tour (with dependents) are required to have their family members complete the EFMP overseas screening.

Mandatory enrollment for Active Duty.

*Civilians are not required to enroll in the program, but if going overseas, they must identify family members with special education and/or medically related service needs where family member travel is authorized at Government expense. Learn more here.

Military health clinics and on-base DoDEA schools have limited options and services overseas (compared to the states), so the DoD requires families to have an EFMP screening to ensure that you and your family will have the necessary medical/educational resources while abroad.

EFMP screenings will check any of your dependents that may have a physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services. The purpose of the screening is to identify potential medical, mental health and/or educational issues so that those concerns will be considered in the assignment process.

This must be cleared BEFORE you PCS to Germany.

The Air Force currently has a system that gives you 2 parts of your orders – The Accelerated Orders Initiative (AOI) through the Family Member Travel Screening (FMTS).

The 1st set of “soft” orders allows you to ship your vehicle, schedule movers, etc while waiting on EFMP to be approved.  Once approved, the 2nd set of “hard” orders will be your “ticket” to enter Germany.

**New Video: Listen to a FULL EFMP experience from a military spouse!

Learn more about the Air Force & Army EFMP requirements:

– Ramstein Air Base EFMP enrollment information.

– Army online enrollment process can be started with E-EFMP.

You will also need to fill out these forms for each family member:

– Family Member Medical Summary – DD Form 2792 (Filled out by family member and Primary Care Manager (PCM)).

– Early Intervention/Special Education – DD Form 2792-1 (Filled out by parents and school/early intervention staff)

*Additional support:

EFMP Consultants

EFMP & Me

EFMP Podcast

Civilian Employees & EFMP

DoD Early Intervention, Special Education and Related Services in OCONUS Communities

Pro Tip: What to do BEFORE orders?

Although many of these important checklist items require hard orders to finish, here’s what I would focus on BEFORE your hard copy orders are in your hand.

Watch the FULL video here! 🎥

1. Start your EFMP and schedule physicals for all family members. In order to speed things up, the Air Force now allows you to start EFMP with a “soft copy” of your orders.

2. Apply for your travel passports (Blue tourist “fee passports”).

3. Pet preparation & appointments (health certificate, shots, crate, etc).

4. Book your plane tickets (if possible), or see what option is best for you Patriot Express or commercial airline. Reserve your room at temporary lodging (after you have plane tickets and you know your anticipated arrival date).

5. START SAVING MONEY. Many people don’t account for the real life expenses that go into moving overseas. For example, even though the government pays for most the move, they won’t pay for a rental car (or pet expenses for civilians) when you arrive. You never know how long it’ll take until you actually have your POV (and a license from the base).

In addition, the TCJA made most civilian permanent change of station entitlements taxable. 
So if you’re a civilian, this means you’ll be taxed on items related to your (OCONUS) PCS move such as en route travel, lodging, meals, and transportation, Household Goods (HHG) shipment, etc.

So make a monthly savings plan to help offset unforeseen moving expenses. You’ll thank yourself later for saving a little extra cash when you finally get here.

Watch the FULL video here! 🎥

4. Passports

This one gave us a headache. There are 3 main passports you need when PCSing to Germany, and they need to be current. It should not expire within 6 months of arriving to Germany.

1 – Tourist “Fee” Passport

Special Issuance Passports (SIP):

2 – No Fee Passport

3 – Official Passport + Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Stamp/Card

You don’t necessarily need all three BEFORE you arrive, but you should DEFINITELY apply for them. Active duty military members can get away with just military orders & ID when initially flying over, but all dependents (even infants) need to have a tourist passport (minimum) before arrival.

However, all should be aware of the Foreign Clearance Guidelines:

Effective October 1, 2022:

SPECIAL ISSUANCE PASSPORT (SIP) REQUIREMENT FOR GERMANY
Eligible family members and DoD civilians on official travel to Germany must have either Special Issuance Passport (SIP) (i.e., No-Fee/ Official Passport) or, after applying for a SIP and if it cannot be obtained prior to departure, use of a Regular (Blue Tourist) Passport in lieu of the SIP is permissible for travel via MILAIR, contract or commercial air travel. 

which US military passport do I need again?
Quick run through of which passport(s) you need before arriving…

*CORRECTION at 0:49: Active Duty military PCS with orders and military ID, *NOT with a SIP (No-Fee and/or Official) passport. The No-Fee Passport is “most common with DEPENDENTS, *NOT Active Duty Military.”

I realize this topic can get confusing so I made a video blog that explains it all.

5. PCSing to Germany with Pets

There’s no way you’re leaving the US without your fur friend, I get it. However, getting your pet overseas may be more stressful than getting a human over here, so get this done right away!

First off, check your military installation/housing rules on how many pets you can bring. For USAG Bavaria, you can only bring two pets maximum (cat or dog) into Germany (unless you have an Exception to Policy wavier). There’s also pet categories for authorized dogs in the country.

You can send pets via Patriot Express (cheapest option but limited spots), commercial flight, or a pet shipper. Regardless of each travel option, there’s many requirements you’ll need to take care of before they can fly – such as shots, chips, temperament test, health certificate, and registering your pet once you arrive (on-base clinic, TASSO, Rathaus).

I put together a comprehensive “PCS with a Pet” video blog to help you get started. Within the vlog, you’ll also find my recommendations on a pet shipper, kennel requirements, and dog care once you arrive.

6. PCSing to Germany with Kids

Most kids go to a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Europe school on-base, very few are home schooled, and even fewer American kids go to an off-base German school (but those are still options). Regardless of which school they go to, get them enrolled BEFORE you PCS to Germany!

If you have little ones (6 weeks – 5yrs), you especially need to get your child on the waiting list for the Child Development Center (CDC). It can take weeks or even months to get your child enrolled.

DoDEA is an agency of the US Dept of Defense. Just about every overseas base has DoDEA school facilities.

Enrollment is guaranteed for “command-sponsored” children, those officially approved to relocate overseas at government expense.

Children without command sponsorship may enroll on a space-available basis. DoDEA determines the enrollment policy, which will fall in one of four categories.

*If you’re a civilian contractor with kids, make sure your contract covers school tuition, otherwise that expense will come out of pocket, and it will definitely play a BIG part in accepting an overseas position.

Learn more about what it’s like to live in Germany with kids.

Also… if your teen already has their driver’s license BEFORE you arrive to Germany, you might want to read up on how they could acquire a USAREUR driver’s license on-base.

The biggest differences from Patriot Express and a Commercial Flight

7. Plane Tickets (Commercial vs Patriot Express)

There are two main ways to fly over to Germany – Patriot Express (Rotator) or a commercial airline. The Patriot express is the cheapest option for you and your pets.

The flight leaves out of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshal airport (BMI) and flies into Ramstein Air Base. I’ve outlined the pros & cons of both options for you, but if you want to save money, try to get on the Patriot Express as soon as you can (psst.. pet slots fill up FAST).

8. Shipping a Car

You have the option to ship your car to Germany from the nearest Vehicle Processing Center (VPC), but it’s not a requirement. The military will pay for 1 car to be shipped through a VPC, but any others is out of your own pocket.

Motorcycles can be shipped through your Household Goods shipment.

Keep in mind, roads are smaller in Germany, which means cars and parking spaces are smaller as well. Do you need that oversized truck here?

My advice: If your car is paid off, bring it. If you’re currently making payments on a vehicle (or two) and will NOT pay that off during your tour, you might want to think about selling it. There’s plenty of cheap, reliable cars to purchase here that’ll get you from point A to B.

There’s a lot to think about for this part of the move, and everyone’s situation is different. For example, mini vans and small SUVs are hard to come by in Germany, so if you own one, hang on to it!

Oh and what about that 2nd vehicle? If you decide to ship it overseas, I recommend using this company 🚢

Also remember, rental cars aren’t reimbursable, and chances are you will NOT have your POV as soon as you arrive.

For a more detailed answer on this topic, check out my “ship a POV” email that I send to my subscribers. This covers my recommendations for shipping, selling, and storing a POV as well as some trusted companies for Tax FREE new & used cars that you can purchase BEFORE YOU ARRIVE – which is ideally what you want (and need) while running errands around base.

Learn how to inspect your vehicle after picking it up in Germany!

This is so important, yet I STILL hear from hundreds of people who do not or did not have a sponsor before they PCS’d to Germany.

*If you don’t have a sponsor, or don’t know how to get one, here’s what you need to do.

You ABSOLUTELY need a sponsor to help you navigate through PCSing to Germany. Give them a copy of your orders so they can get you on the housing waiting list early, and set up your mailbox so you can start mailing yourself (Step #12).

Sponsors can also help you learn about job specific requirements, and can you “pick a brother up from the airport?” 🫣 

Here’s the TOP 10 things your sponsor SHOULD be doing for you BEFORE you PCS to Germany.

Civilians can request a sponsor through the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC), or through their gaining supervisor with a DA Form 5434.

10. How to Pack

There are three specific shipments when you PCS to Germany with the US military.

1 – Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB)

2 – Household Goods (HHG)

3 – Personal Luggage (what you bring on the plane)

There’s a strategy for preparing for each shipment and I’ve put it all together for you here.

11. Make TLA or Hotel Reservations

Make sure you have a place to stay once you arrive! Even if you don’t know your exact date of arrival, reserve rooms at lodging on-base and narrow it down later.

If there’s no room on-base, you’ll need a “statement of non availability” before going straight into temporary lodging so you can still be reimbursed. You are authorized Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) to cover your lodging and meals while waiting on a house (more of that in bit).

12. Set up your Mailbox

There’s two ways to send/receive mail in Germany:

1. On-base through a “PO Box” (Command Sponsored/SATO Status)

2. At your home (German) physical address

After sending a copy of your orders, you should definitely ask your sponsor to open your mailbox for you before you arrive to Germany.

Pro Tip: Start Mailing Yourself! There’s quite a few things you need to know about the military post office, so I broke it all down for you in this video!

Prohibited items to ship to germany

As soon as that’s done, check your on-base weight limit allowance for individual parcels as well as unauthorized items. For example, at USAG Bavaria we can send up to 70lbs per parcel and unauthorized items include:

Weapon replicas, pressured air, zippos & lighters, kinder eggs, alcohol, medication, vitamins/minerals, supplements, protein powders, meat/dairy products, etc.

Psst… if you’re PCSing to Ramstein Air Base, you can set up your own mailbox online with this form. When you’re done filling it out, send it to 786FSS.postal.service.1@us.af.mil.

Prohibited items to ship to germany

13. Housing

What does housing look like?  What are your options?  How do I get on the waiting list?

One of the first things to know prior to moving into a new home is that housing is based strictly on rank, family size (dependents), and current availability.

This topic is so popular and has so many different parts to it that… surprise surprise, I went ahead and created a FULL housing guide with video tutorials for you.

*This housing guide is tailored to USAG Bavaria, but many of the military housing fundamentals apply to all US military installations in Germany.

Inside you’ll learn about loaner furniture, housing locations, housing amenities, and the different housing categories.

If you want a head start on housing, get a sponsor who can share inside information about the different housing areas to help you with a preference for where you want to live.

Check out all my video housing tours, or see what houses are available NOW through the home.mil online database! Type in “USAG Bavaria” or whatever your future installation is in Germany.

14. Unlock your Cell Phone

There’s two options for having a phone plan in Germany:

1. Bring your own phone.

If you decide to bring your own phone, you must unlock it first! Ask your service provider about this and provide your orders as some providers will do it for free for military. Once unlocked, talk with your service provider about your overseas contract options and/or terminate your contract.

2. Buy a brand new phone.

If you decide to get a new phone when you PCS to Germany, it will come unlocked out of the box and you can use it in any country.

No matter which option you choose, there are many service providers to go with such as Telekom, TKS: Vodafone, Google Fi, or your existing carrier.

When choosing a cell phone provider, keep in mind cheaper options are prepaid cell phones, back up phones, or emergency phones for family members/guest visitors. 

How do I keep my US number?

There’s a couple options, such as Google Fi (for up to 90 days unless government employment verification is provided) and WhatsApp (over Wifi), but keep in mind you’re going to run into trouble with incoming/outgoing international calls, such as your friend with a German eSIM or a German company trying to call you.

To resolve this issue, you’ll need a dual eSIM (German & US) which most smart phones have access to.

How to use my phone when I PCS to Germany – FULL tutorial

If you decide to get a German data plan (which I recommend), you will need a German bank account to pay your phone bills through an IBAN (International Bank Account Number).

But don’t be discouraged, IBAN numbers are automatically assigned to you (like a US bank account number) when you sign up.

In some cases, German bank accounts are also needed for paying insurance, loans, and rent for your home (if living in private housing off base).

Free international calls can be made with or without a data plan over WiFi through WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and/or Talkatone to name a few.

15. Banking

There are two main banks that most Americans use (on-base) to set up their “German bank account”

1. Service Credit Union

2. Community Bank

You can use these banks to pay bills for your cell phone and off-base house rent.

These banks will have ATMs on-base (only) and also at Edelweiss Lodge & Resort. You don’t need to cancel any banking in the US while living in Germany (unless your lienholder won’t allow you to ship your POV overseas).

Both banks are convenient, have great customer service (especially over the phone), and speak English for any in-person banking needs.

For example, I have my main bank accounts and insurance through USAA, but I pay my German house rent and monthly phone bills through Service Credit Union.

But… you don’t HAVE TO use these banks! In fact, you’ll find that the conversion rates for these banks can be a lot higher than a German bank off-base such as Volksbank.

Conversion rate? Yes.

Here’s some things to consider when banking overseas:

As a resident in Germany, you’ll be getting paid in USD by an American company (DoD). At some point in time you’ll have to pay a landlord (for rent), cell phone bill, loan, or insurance to a German entity (in Euro).

Once you transfer that money from USD to Euro, you’ll have to pay an exchange/conversion rate (the value of one currency in relation to another currency).

This is also true when you want to get Euro out of the ATM (exchanging your USD in the bank to spit out Euros).

The exchange rate will fluctuate daily based on many factors (government spending, supply/demand, political upheaval, etc).

Nothing at of the ordinary here, but…

Both Service Credit Union & Community Bank operate overseas on a US military installation. Because of this, the host nation and DoD have come up with a “wholesale/purchase rate” to purchase foreign currency (this rate only applies to on-base banking/ATMs).

This “wholesale/purchase” rate is always higher than the standard exchange rate (which is the rate everyone else off-base most commonly uses).

See some exchange rate examples in this article.

So what’s the point?

You have options when it comes to banking overseas. You need to consider all the factors (like ATM fees, ISA credit card fees, interest rates, etc) before making any decisions.

A cheaper solution to conversion rates is Wise & N26. These two online international bank options will save you big bucks when it comes to Dollar – Euro conversion fees.

Oh and watch out for the ATM scams ALL OVER Europe! This guy can explain.

AFN Channels 1-21

16. Watching TV in Germany

For a small fee (off-base) you can watch American TV through AFN (American Forces Network), but you need a smart TV or Apple TV for streaming services like Netflix/Disney +. AFN comes with your home on-base.

Some streaming services will NOT allow you to use their applications because of “Geo-Restrictions or Geo-Blocking.” This restricts you from watching your favorite shows due to your geographic location.

In this case, you can try to get around this through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection (which I find to be spotty and unreliable at best).

However, VPN services like Express VPN or NordVPN will allow you to change your IP address to a US based IP address through your home router or fire stick. This “tricks” the streaming service into thinking you’re watching TV from the US and not Germany.

AFN Channels 22 - 41

17. Driving in Germany

Before thinking about driving in Germany, renew your stateside driver’s license immediately! You’ll need your US driver’s license current before they hand you your USAREUR license.

You can study before you get here and take the practice test through Joint Knowledge Online (JKO). Keep in mind you will need your USAREUR license for rental cars too. An international license can be acquired when you arrive to Germany, but it will not suffice for driving on-base.

The driving age is 18 in Germany and most European countries. If your teen doesn’t have their license BEFORE they arrive, chances are they won’t be driving overseas. It’s ok though, 99% of the high school kids aged 16 and up aren’t driving either.  

“For applicants under age 18 who already possess a valid U.S. driver’s license, their sponsor (ie: parent) must request an exception to policy.”

Take the bus, bike, walk, or ask your sponsor for a ride in the meantime.

18. Renter’s Insurance

Go over an up-to-date renter’s insurance plan with your respective agent to cover you for lost, stolen or damaged items during the move. Although you’re entitled to compensation, I would NOT rely on filing a claim through the Defense Personal Property (DPS) system alone.

Take the time to double cover yourself through another insurance company, back up all digital files on an external hard drive, and ensure movers are loading/unloading your things properly.

19. Know your Benefits when PCSing to Germany

Moving overseas with the government comes with many benefits for you and your family. Take some time to understand all your benefits and adjust your spending accordingly.

For example, Value Added Tax forms.

A VAT form allows you to make purchases without paying the 19% (or 7%) German sales tax. The US has an agreement with Germany (SOFA) so that eligible US service members may be exempt from paying VAT (once they arrive).

However, there are rules to follow and yep… you guessed it, I already created a complete VAT guide for you.

Some of the other benefits already mentioned include insurance/claims for lost/damaged moving items through DPS, per diem for 60 days of Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA) to cover temporary lodging and meals, Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB), Household Goods (HHG) shipment, Non Temporary Storage (NTS), POV shipment, tax free gas, etc.

Oh… and don’t forget about the on-base shopping benefits. Get your first look at the AAFES Exchange PX (or BX if you’re Air Force) as well as the Commissary.

A/o 2017, some of these benefits are now taxable for civilians. If you’re a civilian PCSing to Germany, you need to know about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). The TCJA made most civilian permanent change of station entitlements taxable. 

This means you will be taxed on items related to your U.S. (CONUS) and out of the U.S. (OCONUS) PCS move such as en route travel, lodging, meals, car shipment, unaccompanied baggage, household goods, etc.

For travel tax reimbursement, make sure to file for a Relocation Income Tax Allowance (RITA) the year after receiving taxable travel pay.

Learn how to use Tax FREE Gas in Germany with our FULL Tour of The Express: Shoppette

converting device used for 110V to 220V

20. Voltage in Germany

Know what you can and cannot plug into the wall BEFORE you PCS to Germany!

Make sure all appliances are compatible with OCONUS country voltage standards or use a converter/transformer when you arrive OCONUS so you can use your American appliances.

highlighting appliances that state the input of voltage

For example, standard voltage for electronic appliances in the US is 110V and 220V in Europe. If you’re bringing over your electronics, double check that it is both 110V & 220V. Most electronic devices will have this written on the product or on the actual wire cord itself.

Still confused on the 110V – 220V conversion? Here’s some examples

It must say 220V or higher in order to work overseas, otherwise you’re going to blow it up! My packing guide video will explain this a little better for you.

21. SAVE MONEY!

Moving to Germany costs money.

Although the government reimburses you for a huge part of the move (Active Duty), you should definitely start saving money for unforeseen moving expenses – especially civilians.

Here’s a few things the government will NOT reimburse you for:

– Pet expenses (if civilian and you do not qualify for the new pet reimbursement policy)

– Rental cars

– Shipping a 2nd POV

– Taxes on moving entitlements (civilians only)

– Miscellaneous moving expenses (such as 220V electronics)

In addition, many military families go from a “dual” to “single income home” when moving overseas.

Which means, you won’t have the “dual income cushion” you’re accustomed to within the first couple months of settling in.

For this reason alone, you need to start putting away money to help offset moving costs.

22. PCS to Germany: Cash is King 

This one is quick and easy to understand, but even a “veteran” like me gets it wrong.

German’s love their cash and American’s love their cards.

But we’re in their country, so make sure to ALWAYS carry cash on you when traveling around Germany. Which is a great segue into my next topic…

23. German Culture Shock

There are so many culture shock experiences that you’ll encounter when moving here. Some of them will make you angry (everything is closed on Sunday), some of them will make you laugh (peeing on the autobahn), others will completely make sense (put your hazard lights on to warn others of traffic ahead), but you should definitely learn all about them before PCSing to Germany – especially recycling!

I created a pretty long list of them here.

24. Join a Facebook Page

Spouses are always helping spouses – especially when PCSing to Germany. Don’t be afraid to ask the community for help.  Remember, we’ve all been in the same shoes. We all need recommendations on the local hair dresser, auto mechanic, food spots, dog boarder/groomer, newbie FAQs, explanation on a VPN again, etc. 

Learn what it’s REALLY like to PCS to Germany from some of the real life experiences of military families

Here’s a list of the ones I use at USAG Bavaria: A Perfect PCS to GermanyGrafenwoehr Vilseck Military SpousesGrafenwoehr/Vilseck Army Wives, and Bavaria Army Wife Travelers.

Ramstein/KMC Spouses and Ramstein AB Spouses are great for those who PCS to K-Town!

25. Spouse Job Opportunities

Hot Topic. Let me be honest, finding a job on-base isn’t that hard, but finding a fulfilling job, or even a career as a military spouse overseas is SUPER difficult.

It only took me a couple months to become a substitute teacher, high school basketball coach, intramural referee, and a kindergarten aide on-base through USA jobs. I actually swallowed my pride and even took a job at a shoe store in the Grafenwoehr PX for about 1 month… but let’s not get into that (insert eye roll).

After we realized we could stay in Germany indefinitely, it took years for me to actually start my own business and make money through my skills/background as a videographer and online marketer.

My advice is to find something you enjoy on-base, create your own career as a home based business, or stay at home and do that “thing” you’ve always wanted to do – stay at home mom, earn your degree, volunteer, discover a new talent.

Your career doesn’t have to hit “pause” when you PCS to Germany. Time is on your hands (when does that ever happen?!). Think of this as an opportunity to rediscover yourself, work on what makes YOU better, find out how to maximize your talents, start projects that you’re passionate about, and don’t forget to lean on other spouses for inspiration!

Ouuu… I’m feeling motivated already, let’s keep up the momentum and talk about something fun!

taking a picture in front of rock formation at bastei bridge
Dresden & Bastei Bridge Germany

26. Cheap Travel

Ok, it’s what we’re all here for, travel. I’ve been living here since 2014, and my wife and I came here ONLY TO TRAVEL, so here’s what I can recommend.

Start local, then go BIG!

In other words, take the opportunity to know your local city first (even if it’s a tiny village). This is home base, so you’ll want to get to know the local butcher, local bakery lady, post office, playgrounds, bike trails, local history, etc.

Psst… Wanna see my home base? This is Weiden!

Once you’ve done that, take advantage of the closest train and airport for Euro travel. I would suggest finding the closest Ryanair flight from home and buy cheap plane tickets! They’ll charge ridiculous prices for baggage and leg room, but you can’t beat the airfare.

I recently just got back from Mallorca, Spain for €50 round trip.

Learn how others are maximizing their travel time when PCSing to Germany. Oh… and set travel goals!

New to the train system in Europe? Check out my beginners guide to riding the train in Germany!

If you want a consolidated list of ALL the travel opportunities in Germany, I created an entire travel blueprint specifically for US military personnel and their families below.

This military travel guide will save you a ton of time researching where to go and what to do.

Inside you’ll get:

– Local Travel

– Travel & Recreation On-Base

– Budget Travel

– Family Travel

– Seasonal Travel

– Bonus: Travel Goal Spreadsheet

27. Transportation from the Airport to your Temporary Lodging

If you PCS to Germany with the Patriot Express in Ramstein, bribe see if your sponsor can pick you up from the airport with all your luggage instead of taking the long dreaded bus ride. Although the bus ride is greatly appreciated, it’s a miserable, stinky time for everyone.

PS: After landing, pets MUST go into their kennel (again) under the bus while driving. Yeah… I’m not a fan of this either.

Pro Tip: If moving to the KMC (Kaiserslautern Military Community) check out the “KMC Roadrunner” for a private (or shared) luxury ride. *Use discount code “DTV10” for 10€ OFF

Here’s your FIRST LOOK at Army Lodging in USAG Bavaria: Grafenwoehr

28. PCS to Germany: Newcomers Brief 

Once you arrive to your new duty station, you will have the opportunity to go to the newcomers brief. It’s actually got quite a bit of good information, but you JUST arrived to Germany. You will be bored, jet lagged, and tired, so get a head start on the online version so you can catch some Zzz’s.

Ramstein’s in-processing brief is literally called RIP (see what I mean).

29. FREE Wifi

This may sound funny but find out where all the FREE (reliable) WiFi locations are on-base. When you arrive, you probably won’t have access to internet for awhile, so it’d be nice to know where you can go get some work done on-base.

For most military bases, check out the USO, Army Lodging, and the Library.

30. Learning the Language

You’re moving to a new country, so why not learn the language! You can get a head start on the basics by downloading Duolingo, change your TV language settings to German subtitles, or start playing fun language exercises with your kids!

If you want to take it to the next level, here’s what I did…

Quick story.  In 2009, before moving to Germany, I was living in Japan for a short time as a young Air Force officer. 

After living there for 2yrs, I got down on myself for not being fluent in Japanese, so I promised myself if I ever had the chance to live overseas again I would for sure be fluent!  

Fast forward to 2014…

Here we go again, living overseas for what I thought was only a 2yr assignment in Germany!  

Don’t expect to be fluent!

Before I tell you how committed I was to learning German, let me say that after 2yrs (of hardcore studying) I was no where close to being fluent (and I’m still not 😕). 

But I got the basics down, and that has helped us tremendously while living here. 

This video will explain exactly what I did, or follow along below:

1) Learn the Basics

Depending on your status (AD or Civilian), you have anywhere from 3 – 5 yrs in Germany, so don’t expect to be fluent within this time, just LEARN THE BASICS!  

Numbers, colors, common phrases, days of the week, months, foods, etc.  This picture book really helped me out.  

Taking a class (online, private, or group) is the best way to learn.  You may be able to find FREE classes on the base through ACS or the USO. 

You can also use FREE tools such as “Mango” (similar to Duolingo) at the MWR Library, but if you want to get started right away, I recommend taking a course.  

For face to face classes, see if there’s a Volkshochschule (VHS) you can enroll in near the base. I studied here for years because it was close to my house, but if you that’s not an option for you, then let me introduce you to my friend Nadja!

Many Americans (including me) are active members of the “Survival German with Nadja” online course.  This helped me so much with pronunciation, vocabulary, brain exercises, and an all in one crash course for getting started. 

You need to get the fundamentals down before you can start spitting out sentences. 

Take a peek at her Facebook page to learn more!

*Use the coupon code “MilitaryDTV” for $100 OFF!

2) Write Stuff Down 

I’m a visual learner, so I wrote German words on sticky notes and placed them ALL OVER THE HOUSE (my wife was “thrilled”).  Kitchenware, bedroom stuff, bathroom items, etc.

It forces your brain to read, even when you’re not trying to study. 

For example, even though I’ve yet to use this in a real life situation, I will NEVER forget the German word “die Waage” (the scale), because I looked at this every time I walked into my bathroom.   

3) Watching TV & Subtitles 

To this day, I still have German subtitles playing while I watch TV.  We all watch TV, so why not just put up subtitles to keep your brain busy.  

I would also watch movies I’m super familiar with (such as Disney) all in German with English subtitles, and then vice versa.  

If you can consistently take action on all three of these suggestions, your German will be Ausgezeichnet!  

31. Extra – PCS Webinar

Still have questions? Of course you do. We have answers!

If you’re still feeling unprepared or you just need a little more clarification on a specific topic, check out my new pre-recorded webinar!

DTV Webinar: Your Virtual Sponsor!

Death by powerpoint, yippie!

This is actually my most valuable piece of content I’ve created for you. It’s a step by step, pre-recorded webinar of this exact blog post. I go over all 30 “things you MUST know” in great detail, so get out a pen and paper, glass of wine, and take it all in!

There’s two different ways to receive this webinar:

1) Watch my pre-recorded slideshow hosted by me on Youtube or…

2) Download the webinar for all the external links & recommendations (ie: videos, blogs, and guides).

Be Prepared. Be Patient. Be Flexible. 

As you’ve probably now discovered, PCSing to Germany has a TON of moving parts. It can get stressful at times, but the reward is so so worth it in the end.

These will be family memories that you can’t put a price tag on, so enjoy the process, be patient, and be flexible when making adjustments.

As a content creator, I’m always trying to find ways to make this initial transition less “sucky.”

Preparation is the key to winning this game, so I spent a lot of time creating an Ultimate “PCS to Germany” checklist that goes over ALL of this information (and more) in fine detail for you.

My Ultimate PCS to Germany checklist has helped thousands of military families find a solution to their PCS problems. This checklist has been PROVEN to take you down a path that will help you feel confident about taking action and relieving some stress during PCS season.

You can learn more about our FREE version and the Ultimate version below.

Auf Wiedersehen!

PCS to Germany Checklist vs The Ultimate PCS Checklist
The Ultimate PCS to Germany Checklist

Get Our FREE Checklist!


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16 comments on “30 Things you MUST know Before PCSing to Germany with the US Military

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I wouldn’t recommend bringing your lawn mower. You do need it mowed off base, but your landlord usually takes care of that. Also, no need to mow on base with a heavy duty lawn mower. Yards are tiny on base.

  1. Hi Daniel, I PCS’d to Ramstein in January and used your guide to help me with the process. I found the guide invaluable and wanted to thank you for your efforts to support the DoD community.

    1. Hi Laura! Thank you so much for supporting me and using the guide! I’m so happy it helped you! I hope Ramstein is treating you well, happy new year!

  2. Can I bring my motorcycle over? Does the PCS move cover the shipment of my car and motorcycle or would I have to pay out-of-pocket to ship the motorcycle. What are the license requirements/procedures? Thank you

    1. You can bring your motorcycle through your HHG shipment (double check with housing when you schedule your move, but many people have done this). There are specific requirements for Active Duty vs Civilians at each base, so become familiar with them before shipping.

      For example, here’s USAG Bavaria motorcycle rules: https://home.army.mil/bavaria/application/files/3016/1348/3085/Motorcycle_Licensing_Requirements_USAG_Bavaria_Jan_21.docx.pdf.

      You’re authorized one POV shipment (not a motorcycle) which you can learn more about in my blog here: https://www.dtvdanieltelevision.com/2019/11/04/pcs-to-germany-welcome-to-grafenwoehr-checklist-shipping-a-car-overseas/

  3. Hey I have a question I’m a dependent everyone in my family is us citizens but me I only have my residency and I’m trying to see if that’s an issue for me to pcs with my family. Do you know what I need or I should be fine? Would I be able to come back to the us with no issues?

    1. Hi! No, that won’t be a problem, but you (and the rest of the family) MUST get command sponsored and put on your spouses orders before PCSing overseas. You will also need to get SOFA status in your passport. This allows you to travel in/out of Germany, live there with your spouse, and guarantees your entitlements/benefits. Watch these videos for more info:

      Orders/Command Sponsorship: https://youtube.com/shorts/M4T9MtlZxc0?feature=share

      SOFA status: https://youtube.com/shorts/FfPw8qSKCA4?feature=share

        1. I’m not 100% sure if you’ll get a SOFA “stamp” in the Mexican passport, they may give you a SOFA “card” instead, but either way, yes, you’ll get that when you apply here in Germany.

          1. Hey I have another question once I get get my sofa card will I be able to travel like to Switzerland, France, Greece and more of nearby places?

          2. Hi! Yes, but your Mexican tourist passport (like the US) allows you to travel freely within the EU for a period of up to 3 months. The SOFA card allows you to come in/out of Germany for the length of your tour. This is your “visa” to continue living and traveling in/out of Germany.

  4. Good evening

    My name is Kristin and I want to help American people who pcs to Germany. 😊
    I have a few questions I would like to ask you.
    Is it possible to get in contact with email for example?
    I would really apreciate it😊
    Thank you 🙏🏼

    Greetings Kristin

  5. If you’ve been assigned to Luke Air Force Base and are considering living off base, working with a reputable real estate agent who understands the PCS journey and the intricacies of the military lifestyle, terminology, and benefits is crucial in making your sure your move goes off without a hitch.

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