By Rebecca Alwine, PCSgrades Blogger Affiliate
Moving overseas is exciting. Doing it on the government’s dime is even better. The trips you can take, the adventures that await, and the close community are some of the top reasons military families love overseas assignments. But every overseas tour comes to an end. Usually, that end date is known before you even arrive. Status of Forces Agreements dictate how long your family will stay. And from the moment the plane lands, you have a long list of sights to see and a predetermined amount of time to do it. You hit the ground running!
Moving back stateside after two to four years overseas can also be exciting, as well as exhausting and stressful. As military families move and live in new places, they quickly realize no matter how much they want to go back to the way things were, it is never the same. It’s very much not the same United States that you left behind to live in Korea, Turkey, or Germany. The people aren’t the same, the culture isn’t the same, and most importantly, you are not the same.
5 Things to Know When Moving Back from Overseas
Remember the long wait for your car to arrive at your next duty station? When you get to the States where the walking culture is almost non-existent, waiting for your car seems even longer. You’ll almost certainly need to rent a car for probably a month, and that gets really pricey. And if you bought another car overseas, the cost to ship the second back usually falls directly on your family as well. Also, keep in mind that your car doesn’t arrive at your new doorstep. You’ll need to arrange for transportation to the port, possibly a night’s stay, and then transportation back home with the newly arrived car. All things to plan for.
Military kids are adaptable, we say it a million times a day, and it’s true, but they may still need time to adjust. “Department of Defense schools are very laid back,” says Christine Johnson, “There is not as much pressure on tests as in stateside schools.”
While kids stationed overseas have the opportunity to travel once a month, they find the kids back in the States often lacking in culture. “After living overseas for 11 years, my kids struggle to relate with other kids,” says Christine. For high school students, adjusting to a new school, teachers, and guidance counselors is challenging when also applying for colleges. It’s like starting over again, with a very tight timeline.
Culture shock is expected when moving to a new country. “When you live in another country you are in constant learning mode,” says Christine. When you’re moving back stateside, you’ll probably find yourself missing some of the things you learned to love about your old home. Lori Rice-Fenn admits it is harder to meet people at a stateside installation, “People are so busy, going 100 different directions, and they don’t have time. And if they do have time, they go visit their families. Overseas families are far away, and friends do more traveling and socializing on a regular basis.”
When arriving overseas, there is government issued loaner furniture to help in your transition. Lucky families get their household goods within the window of 60 days. The biggest thing to remember is that upon your return to the United States, there is no such arrangement. Christine remembers her local Army Community Services lending closet only having kitchen stuff, “So air mattresses, bedding, and towels are necessary as you live in an empty house until your stuff arrives back to the States. Shipping those in your unaccompanied baggage early would be a good idea.” Lori adds, “Shipping early and then planning to stay in a furnished apartment or long-term hotel would eliminate the need to buy new things when moving to a new place.” I’ve also loaned folding chairs and air mattresses to friends on either side of the move to help get through those last few days.
Morale is important, and not just the general “ugh” about moving either. But overseas, training holidays occur once a month, despite a lack of federal holidays in March or August. It was a huge adjustment to come back to the world of no long weekends between President’s Day and Memorial Day. It’s also harder to explore your stateside duty station on those longer weekends. Almost as though there is a mental block. We’ve been in Arizona for 3.5 years now, and I still haven’t gone to the Grand Canyon or Tombstone!
Things are going to be different when you move “home” to America. We were in Europe when the smart phone phase erupted here. We went from super cheap German phones to fancy pocket-sized computers and a country that spent too much time on them. While we were used to stores closing early on Sundays and relaxing meals eaten out. Everything seemed so rushed back here in the States. There is a physical adjustment as well as a cultural adjustment. But no way would we turn down another opportunity to live overseas, despite the transition.
How PCSgrades Can Help
As with any upcoming move, military families turn to their friends and acquaintances who have done it before. The more people you know, the better chance they know someone at your new duty station that can give you information. PCSgrades.com is a fantastic resource that takes the constant searching out of the equation. The website provides trusted reviews by and for military families just like yours, which always reassures.
Similar to Angie’s List, this free platform takes the word of the most trusted source when it comes to military moves: Military Families. The focus is on all the things people want to know when they are moving to a new place: the right off-base neighborhood to live in, details regarding on-base housing, local lenders, and Realtors, as well as information on the local schools.
When moving to a new location, families can learn through the experiences of others. It’s a wonderful way to start connecting with other military families by reading their opinions and by leaving your own. I love when military spouses come together and make this life easier for each other. PCSgrades is a prime example of the wonderful things that can be done when we all work together.