The excitement of moving to Germany was overwhelming. We were eager and full of excitement above moving to another country. We were curious about how to prepare for PCSing to Stuttgart, Germany.
How would I begin to prepare, I had done other PCS moves, but this one would be different, it was across an ocean. Below are my best 9 TIPS!!!
9 Things I wish I had known before PCSing to Stuttgart Germany
Get Your International Drivers permit
Head down to your local Driver’s License Agency or AAA and get an International Driver’s Permit. You will need this document to rent a vehicle at most of the car rental companies. You can then plan to get your USAREUR License as soon as possible. You will not want to sit in your hotel room for days and days waiting for your vehicle to arrive.
You can obtain your USAREUR license by attending a day-long course on Friday’s at the Driver’s Center on Panzer Kaserne. There are 100+ signs to learn, so I’d start learning them before PCSing to Stuttgart. This website has a practice test to help you. You will also want to get your International Driver’s License.
You will need the following items to get your International Driver’s License:
1. USAREUR Driver’s License
2. Application Form from the Driver’s Testing Office
3. Passport Photo (One)
4. Bring U.S. Stateside driver’s license, U.S. Passport and military ID
Attend In-Processing with Your Spouse
There are so many details that will be helpful to the spouse that attends the in-process briefing held at the local Welcome Center. At the time of this blog post, the Welcome Center is located on Panzer Kaserne, Bldg. 2913, you can register here. Also, refer to the website for updated hours due to COVID-19.
The sessions were invaluable to me as a new military spouse PCSing to Germany. One of the absolute must attend is the Hospital Tour.; however, due to recent COVID situations, they are not taking place, but be sure to look for when they resume. You never know when you or your loved one might need medical care and the hospitals here in Stuttgart are set up completely different than stateside.
Register your children with services such as CYS (child & Youth services)
Your children will want to be involved in sports or take classes such as Karate, Cooking, or take Piano lessons. This requires registration at the Child & Youth Services. You’ll need to complete paperwork and submit a health physical so be sure you have those items before heading to Parent Central Services for registration. Scheduled appointments are available if you call to save you time. TIP: The office opens at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Try to avoid taking your and children over only to discover the office is closed.
Start Inquiring about Places to Live
If your spouse has a sponsor they may know in advance which base they will work. It’s never too late to start inquiring about a home or if you’ll live on base. If you live on base there is a Shuttle Bus that goes base to base which very convenient and locating the schedule is quite easy with the USAG APP found on the APP Store. Living off-post has it’s advantages as well, but consider if your home is near one of the train stations and what the commute would be like to work or get to post.
Also, make note that the voltage is 110V stateside but is 220V in Germany. I didn’t pay close attention to this on a couple of our electronics which were not dual voltage and “fried” a Blu-Ray DVD Player and a Television.
The day finally arrives and your vehicle is here. You will need to schedule an inspection and go to vehicle registration. This process is very tedious, but fortunately, you can make appointments. I must confess that it goes quite smoothly when you have all the necessary documents and insurance verification. Make note of the list of documents you will need by visiting this site.
Research the School System
There can be so many documents to keep up with when you’re PCSing to Stuttgart. If you have children that will need to be registered. Be sure that you have their Transcripts, Immunization Records, a copy of Orders or Employment paperwork. There are 3 Elementary Schools, 2 on Panzer and 1 on Robinson Barracks. One Middle School, Patch Middle and One High school on Panzer Kaserne. The DoD schools are awesome and our children started at Robinson Barracks Elementary and will graduate this summer from Stuttgart High School.
There are also several options for German School, the most popular one is the International School of Stuttgart. They are located in Sindelfingen and not far from two of the Army post.
Learn the Language
Duolingo is a valuable APP to help you learn German, but there are Beginner Classes offered through the SKIES program at CYS. There are other opportunities to learn German by attending the Volkshochsule in Stuttgart or in your local village/city.
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It may not be a big deal for you, but when we arrived late on a Saturday night, we were hungry. We wanted to eat ~ much to our surprise we were not surrounded by Fast Food as we know it in the US. After living here for eight years, they now have a Five Guys downtown Stuttgart which brings back memories of American Food.
Germany has amazing food to enjoy! I love food and have experienced some of the most amazing delicacies from around the world. Don’t be afraid to try new foods. There are also fresh markets, metegzeri, and specialty shops. I wasn’t prepared to have a small refrigerator and shop every couple of days, but now I prefer this healthier lifestyle.
We were able to get an “American Size” refrigerator to accommodate our family which has been awesome, but as I look back it was absolutely necessary unless at holiday time with all the leftovers.
Document, Document and Document
Keep copies of your orders and passport with you. In the US, we are accustomed to carrying our license as a form of identification, but here in Germany, it’s your Passport. Have a safe place to keep copies of your medical records, transcripts, orders, moving papers, immunizations. Trust me, I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve had to have one of these documents either on-post or off-post.
In fact, I keep a screenshot of many of them on my phone.
I hope these tips have been valuable to you. These were things that I wish I had known when we PCS’d to Stuttgart, Germany.
Be sure to get your copy of German Stores vs American Stores. You will want to know which store is “equivalent” to Walmart, Target or Home Depot.
Do you have specific questions or how can I help you with your transition, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’d be honored to help you and make your transition smoother.