15 things I wish I'd known about Europe

15 things I wish I'd known about Europe

by: Jeana Coleman | .
Stripes Europe | .
published: May 18, 2016

Whether you just arrived or have been here a while, you may be scratching— or still shaking —your head about some issues. We polled people at the office as well as other servicemembers, their spouses and U.S. civilians stationed in Europe. Here are some of their responses on things they wish they’d known sooner, rather than later, after arriving in Europe. 

“There are some great car rental places just outside the gates that were cheaper than those found on base. We could have saved a lot of money.”

“If you arrive on a Sunday and need a rental car immediately, car rental agencies on base are open on Sundays, while those off base are closed.”

“After three weeks of looking for a good but inexpensive used car on the lemon lot and American classifieds, someone told me about a German site called Autoscout24. Both dealers and individuals list their used cars for sale. We used Google Translate to help understand the site, and found and bought a great car in only two days. They even took a VAT form. If only I’d known about the site when we first got here. We spent a lot of money on a rental that could have gone toward the car purchase.”

Health care
“I wish I would’ve known that there were plenty of German options in regards to local activities, medical care, etc. that are comparable (if not better) to what I had in the States. I felt so isolated for my first year by living strictly by what was offered on the American bases.”

House hunting
“I wish that I had known how stressful house hunting would be. With so few homes and so many families, you have to be aggressive and ready to commit to a house that you like, even if it isn’t exactly what you are looking for.”

“Put your name on the base housing wait list when your arrive even if you want to live off base. It could take a while for a house to open up for you. When it does, and if you have the perfect house on the economy, you can turn it down. If you don’t, Housing will move you onto base for free, it could improve your living quarters and it’s an easier transition when you PCS out.”

Internet and cell services
“Having a smartphone with Internet-tethering capabilities can save you a lot of hassle and stress while you wait for your home Internet services.”

“Your stateside provider can unlock your CDMA-compatible smartphone or iPhone so you can use it overseas with a new SIM card. It’s a good fix until you decide what service and plan you want to use. Or, you can continue to purchase the pay-as-you-go SIM cards.”

“Carry some amount of cash on you at all times because not all places off base take an American credit or debit card.”

“The local Service Credit Union offers an EC card. Look into it; it’s worth it.”

“I wish I had known that more vendors accept VAT forms.”

“I wish at times I remembered that economy food stores are closed on Sunday.”

“I wish I had known how difficult winter can be for someone from a warm, sunny state.The lack of sunlight and low temperatures affected my energy level, mood and immunity. I really needed a better winter wardrobe before arriving here and a game plan for handling the winter blues.”

“I also moved here in July from southwest Oklahoma where it is hot and sunny all the time. We didn’t pack any winter clothes in our suitcases. It rained that entire summer. We froze! The Exchange wasn’t selling winter clothes yet, and our household goods weren’t here yet, so we had to go to the thrift shop to buy coats. I wish I had known more about the weather!”

Tags: art, Europe, food, ice, off base, on base, PCS, spouse, summer, weather, winter
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