Young couple moving in a new house and unpacking boxes with belongings

Young couple moving in a new house and unpacking boxes with belongings ()

We recently celebrated two years of living in Germany, and I love it here. I’ve gotten used to having four separate trash/recycling bins and the German practice of Stoßlüften (opening windows daily, even in the cold). I’ve picked up some conversational German and I take total advantage of the travel and coffee and cake cultural ideals.

Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about moving into our off-post house as I’ve met some new-to-Germany people. It was such a hectic and exciting time; however, we did find a house with a great landlord that we live in today.

Arriving in Germany

Our adventure to Germany began with a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Baltimore, eating a questionable cheeseburger at the Baltimore airport, then an overnight flight on the Patriot Express from Baltimore to Ramstein Air Base.

Once on the ground, our sponsor picked us up and got us set up at our temporary lodging in the Lagerhof Inn on USAG Baumholder. This one-bedroom suite would be our home for the next 30 days.

Within 48 hours of arriving, we had to go to the housing office even though we were still adjusting to the time change. In Germany, it is required to live on-installation unless there is no room. We assumed that we would be on-installation, especially in a country where English is not the primary language. However, we quickly found out that we would have to find housing off-installation. In fact, upwards of 85 percent of military families live off-installation in the KMC area, according to Military One Source. At first, we were really nervous at the thought of living off-installation in a foreign country, but I can say, two years later, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Beginning our search

After our initial meeting with the housing office at Baumholder, we were given sheets of paper that had empty boxes labeled “addresses,” “phone number,” “are you renting this property,” and “if no, why.” We were instructed that we had up to 30 days to find off-installation housing, but we had to submit those papers with proof that we had contacted five properties per day and provide explanations for not accepting properties.

We used and to find our potential German home. We discovered that the key thing to have during a search is patience. These websites are not updated as quickly as homes become unavailable and many of those “If no, why” slots were filled with “spoke with landlord and property is no longer available.”

Seeing properties

Searching for off-installation properties meant that we had to take on the additional expense of renting a vehicle since our car was still on its way via a boat somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. We worked with the Enterprise that is located right off of the Baumholder base and it was fine. We also had to take time to get a temporary Esso card from the Exchange so that we could get the reduced-price gas on-installation.

Despite the many unanswered calls or being frequently told that the property was unavailable, we ended up walking through seven different rental options over the course of four or five days. Since we were new to Germany, we weren’t too familiar with the geography of some of the smaller villages. This meant that two of the properties we saw were almost immediately eliminated once we drove from the base. They were too far off the autobahn to realistically commute from on a daily basis.

Three more properties were eliminated based on the simple fact that they would have not been a good fit. One place was styled as more of a bachelor-pad apartment. One had neighbors that were way too familiar with us as we walked through the house, and the current tenants were still there; it was just an overall awkward experience. The third was a series of rooms that were in a hotel that was being converted into apartment-style housing. It was still under construction, and we had to walk through the master bedroom to access the one bathroom.

We narrowed it down to our final two choices. One choice was a great apartment in downtown Landstuhl which would have put me within walking distance of an Aldi grocery store, shops, restaurants and my (now) dentist. However, its downfall was a longer commute and the fact that I would have to walk up and down four flights of stairs to do laundry or haul my groceries. Our second choice was a beautiful house in a quiet village right outside of the town of Kusel. The downside was that it wasn’t within walking (or reliable bussing) distance of anything. We ended up going with the house in the small village.

So, we had our house. Now, what? Read part two to learn about the moving-in process.

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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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