African american couple moving in new house. Young man and woman standing in new house and looking at each other

Moving in ()

Living in Germany can be an exciting experience. You get used to sorting and recycling everything, constantly opening your windows and not doing any loud chores or grocery shopping on Sundays. There are great cultural aspects to immerse yourself in such as picking your new ride-or-die football team, choosing your favorite place to have afternoon cake and coffee, and being able to walk or take public transit. A lot of those experiences will depend on where you live, so here are some things to keep in mind when picking your new German home.

1. Don’t feel pressured to choose too quickly.

Military families must go to the housing office within 48 hours of arriving in Germany. There are forms, communication with the housing office and websites that aren’t up to date. Honestly, it can be overwhelming. There is a time limit to your Temporary Living Arrangement and there is a lot of pressure to just pick something. The reality is that, yes, there is a deadline, and you may have to provide reasoning for turning something down, but that doesn’t mean you have to hastily accept the first place you see. My husband and I saw seven places in person between the end of one work week and the beginning of the next week (four or five business days total). Even with a short time limit, you can have options.

2. OHA and BAH are not the same thing.

If you have lived off-installation in the States, you know about BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). In short, you have a certain amount of money each month specifically for housing. In the past, my husband and I have strived to find something under BAH and “pocketed” the rest. That doesn’t work with OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance). With OHA, you are given an allowance of a certain amount of money; however, if your rent is less than your allowance, you will only receive the cost of the rent.

3. What is most important to you?

Are you a dual-income household and working in two different areas? Do you value being close to the city? Do you want a short commute? Do you have multiple vehicles and need places to park them?

These are all things to consider when choosing somewhere off-installation. My husband works at a small base where my employment opportunities would have been limited and we picked an area midway between his job and the bigger military bases with more opportunity. I ended up with a 35 to 45-minute commute versus what would have been an hour or more if we had lived close to his work.

4. Does your cellphone ring?

If you live in a tiny German village, like me, your cellphone reception may be limited. As you are touring properties, check your phone’s reception in each room. I have just accepted that I need to go into the dining room to have a conversation that doesn’t consist of “Can you hear me now?” Thankfully, most of my phone conversations take place over WhatsApp. Speaking of the internet…

It is also a good idea to ask potential landlords about internet options. In our tiny village, we only had one option. It’s okay internet; we can stream Netflix and games on our computers, but it is not the typical bandwidth we were used to in the States.

5. What about the neighbors?

At some of the places we looked at, our potential landlord would have been in the property with us. For example, if we were renting a mother-in-law suite, or situated right next door. One place was two houses away from the local playground. As you are looking at properties, note these things. Do you have kids and want to live somewhere that welcomes the noise of children playing? Do you value privacy and aren’t that chatty? Ask your potential landlord about the neighborhood and neighbors. I like the fact that my little street is filled with older couples who tend to keep to themselves.

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Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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