10 essential things to have when you arrive in Germany

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Between the jetlag, sleep-deprived family members and for some, anxious pets, the journey to your new overseas duty station is perhaps not as organized as it ought to be. Ideally, this would never happen, but let’s be real. PCSing to another country is stressful and often times difficult. To ease the stress from this PCS, be sure to have these 10 items with you when the plane touches down in Germany or very soon after!

  1. Stars and Stripes Welcome Folder – These handy folders equip you with the best survival guides! It will include the most recent publications of: “Welcome to Germany” – Everything you need to know within the first 30 days of arriving to Germany. “European Road Guide” - The rules of the road throughout Europe. “Health and Medical Guide” - Understanding health care in Germany. Look for a packet at your in-processing brief or request a packet by contacting Stars and Stripes Member Services via email or +49 (0) 631-3615-9111.
  2. Euros. The local currency is euros, and euro coins are especially important for a variety of things like parking, using the restroom and getting a cart in the airport to haul luggage and pets.
  3. Rental car. When you arrive at your new location your car likely won’t be there waiting. Ship your POV early so it gets to Germany sooner, but also plan ahead for a rental car so that you aren’t stuck in lodging with anywhere to go.
  4. European plug adaptors. European outlets run appliances on 220 volts, compared to the American 110 volts and also have a different prong (pin) configuration. Adaptors will allow you to plug in appliances, assuming they are 220 volt compatible. Some appliances will need a transformer. For example, do not plug in your hair straightener with just an adaptor before you check to see if it is dual voltage. You will be purchasing a brand new one if it’s not!    
  5. Unlocked cell phone. While you could certainly buy a new phone once you arrive, it may be easiest to just have an unlocked phone that allows you to change the SIM card. For example, when I arrived in Germany I signed up for a TKS phone plan and I simply put a new SIM card in the phone I had in the states. Now, when I travel back to the states on vacation I simply call Verizon and tell them to activate my plan for a certain amount of days. I switch SIM cards back and forth and am good to go!
  6. USAREUR driver's license. Driving in Germany requires a USAREUR license. Prior to arriving, study the road rules and take the driver’s license exam on JKO. Upon arrival, you can simply take your certificate with you to acquire the actual license at the DTTS office.
  7. Baby carrier/children’s essentials. If you have young children, be sure to pack either baby wearing items or strollers for ease of mobility while you are juggling several other things like passports and luggage. Don’t forget snacks and wipes.
  8. Pet supplies. Extra food, potty pads, medications and wipes are also essential for pets. The brand of dog food you currently use may not be easily available at your new location, and it’s important to transition to new food slowly to avoid upset stomachs.
  9. Curtains. This may sound silly, but if you can fit curtains into your suitcase, pack them. Stairwell housing has neither curtains nor “rolladens,” German shutters, making it difficult to get some privacy. Pack curtains, plastic track gliders and metal clips so that you can hang your curtains on the available curtain tracks. Check out this awesome example of what these look like.
  10. Clothes for various weather conditions. Like in most places, the weather in Germany can change very quickly. Be sure to have jackets and pants, even if you arrive in warmer weather, just in case!

BONUS - The patience of a Zen master. Perhaps this should be the first thing on your list. Remember that just because things are different, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. It may take a while to adjust, but give it time! As with any move, it will take time to get all of your belongings and turn your new house into a home. Stay positive, have patience and everything will come together.

            With just a few essentials and a lot of optimism, your transition to Germany can be a breeze! Plan ahead to pack these items so that everything goes smoothly and you can rest easy once you arrive.

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