The Finer Points of Moving Overseas, Part II

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Movers at Kadena Air Base, Japan load household goods. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin)

This is Part II of a two-part series about moving overseas with the military. In Part I, we discussed the some of the finer points to consider before you move overseas. In Part II, we'll touch upon a few of the finer points to consider once you have boots on the ground.

Finer Point #1: You're not in Kansas Anymore.

Whether your overseas adventure takes you East or West, you can expect to experience a culture shock of sorts. Life will be different, not necessarily better or worse. Doorknobs may be flat and long rather than round. Beer may taste significantly better. People may have strange and unusual customs and look at you as though you are a foreigner. And there you have the point of it in the first place. You will be the foreigner.

Once you have settled into your new home abroad, you will find there are essentially two camps within the military community itself. There are those who choose to stay on the military installation in "Little America" and live their lives just as they would anywhere in the States. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that if it gives you piece of mind and a sense of stability that may be sorely lacking in your life so far away from home.

The second camp, however, is far more exciting. Those in this group may go to work, school and the commissary on the installation but they also take full advantage of the new world around them. They try to learn the local language. They shop off-base or post and they make friends in their strange new world with others who are actually from it. Some even send their children to public or private schools within the host nation communities. They travel and get a real feel for what life is like in a country other than their own. In many ways, they serve as ambassadors from the USA. Hands down, this camp is more fun.

Which one you belong to, however, is up to you and you alone.

Finer Point #2: Be patient, sometimes very patient, as you wait for housing.

Will you live on base/post or off? Will you even have a choice? You may or may not know for quite some time upon arrival at your new duty station, depending on the community. On some installations abroad, there are just not enough housing units to support the entire military population. In others, renovation projects have displaced current tenants already. In the end, you may have a real choice or you may have to settle for whatever you can luck into unless you just like living in a hotel for months on end. One thing is certain: The military housing office will be a big help to you here. Be nice to the overworked and underappreciated housing counselors and you may be rewarded for your kindness.

Finer Point #3: Eventually your household goods will catch up to you.

And when they do, you will be so happy to see them again despite the fact that there may be some damage involved. Anytime you stuff the entire contents of your life into a sea container, you can expect something to get scratched, scuffed or broken. Occasionally something will even disappear altogether. Expect it. This is the price you must pay to travel the world.


Lucky for us world travelers extraordinaire, the military will reimburse us for damaged items. You just have to do the paperwork, usually within a two-year period. Before you ship them, you also have the option to purchase full replacement value coverage, based on the weight of your household goods. The TMO (who you learned about in Part I) will have explained the sordid details in excruciating detail before this point in time.

Finer Point #4: There could be shocking possibilities.

Admittedly, this point could fit nicely in Part I, Before You Move. However, it takes an extraordinarily strong person to part with their beloved Cruisinart or margarita blender before arriving in a land where 110v just doesn't work the way it should. What works fine in a 110v electrical outlet in America, may not work quite the same elsewhere. For example, in Europe, you have to have 220v appliance or a converter/transformer to use the 110v item. In Japan, you can still use the 110v, as in the States, but you appliances won't have the same amount of power. Forcing the wrong plugs in the existing outlets could result in you being shocked or in shorting out the appliance.

Unless you want to repurchase all your appliances, bring them. Transformers and converters are readily available new at the installation exchange or used (and less expensive) at the thrift shop, where you can pick up great deals on appliances that use host-nation electrical voltage compliments of those returning to the States. Many military communities offer you the opportunity to borrow household furnishing and major appliances for the time that you are stationed there. And, generally, host nation voltage items are available for sale in the PX/BX as well.

Finer Point #5: He may be deployed before your household goods arrive.

Depending on his career field, his unit, your location and the world situation in general, he may be off and running before you have unpacked the first box. It's a fact of life here just as in the States. If he isn't being shipped off for months at a time, he may be working crazy hours. The time spent overseas may not resemble your second honeymoon as you had hoped.

Finer Point #6: You have resources available to help you. Use them.

You never need to feel lost or alone while you're stationed overseas. Your military family support center stands ready, willing and more than able to help you with any issue that pops up. Keep in mind that many overseas communities are "purple," meaning all branches of the service live and work there. What you know as the Army Community Center may be the Fleet and Family Support Center or visa versa. A name is just a name. Regardless of your branch affiliation, you can and should use their wonderful services.

Being stationed overseas is truly an opportunity of a lifetime. Enjoy it!

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