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So You’re Moving Overseas…

If you’ve received overseas orders, your mind is probably going in about five different directions.

You’re realizing you’re moving far away. Across an ocean.

You’re realizing it’s an unfamiliar place. Like, really unfamiliar.

You’re thinking of all the steps it takes to get moving. So. Many. Steps. 

And you’re likely afraid of the unknown. Because, who isn’t?

But I’m here to tell you one simple thing: Don’t be afraid.

I’m coming down to my final few months in Germany, prepping to PCS back to the states this summer. I’ve been here almost three years, so I know a thing or two about heading overseas. If you’ve received overseas orders, relax. I’m not going to bombard you with step-by-step PCS guides, but instead, I want to offer a few suggestions to help you get the most out of your new location.

First, take a deep breath.

I know—the idea of going to an unfamiliar place where you don’t speak the language is scary.

Really scary.

But, instead of focusing on all the things that frighten you, consider all the adventures that lie ahead for you! You get to live in a country to where numerous Americans pay big bucks to travel. And it’s going to be your new home. Start your bucket list now and buy a few travel books! Circle what you don’t want to miss.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

An OCONUS PCS comes with a lot of additional steps compared to a stateside PCS. You’ll need health screenings for all family members, command sponsorship, SOFA passports, travel passports, your host nation driver’s license, special paperwork for your pets, and you’ll have to prep a vehicle for shipping, possibly ship a second vehicle privately, and arrange your unaccompanied baggage shipment in addition to your regular household goods.

But again, take a deep breath. Call who you need to in order to understand what’s happening. Call the same person three times if it means you’ll get a clearer picture. And always choose to ship your things as early as you can bear it.

Download a language-learning app.

While there’s no need to become fluent in your host nation’s language, it always helps to know some basics. You’ll also need to know some of the street signs, which will appear on your driver’s test. There are plenty of free apps out there, but one of my favorites is Duolingo. You can work on a computer or a smartphone and the app measures your translation into English, from English to your host nation language, and will even measure your pronunciation.

That said, learning a new language is hard, so don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you hear around you. Learn basics like hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, and I would like. Never underestimate a good pantomime, either.

Get out and do things!

Like I said before, moving overseas can be daunting, but please don’t shut yourself inside. Start small by visiting your local grocery store (not your commissary). My village has a bakery, and my family used to go every Saturday. We’d ease our way into the German community, but nothing that would overwhelm us. As you grow more and more comfortable, venture out a little more. Visit your local Gasthaus for a German brew or a biergarten for a tasty meal (or your host nation equivalent).

Take advantage of all that’s at your fingertips.

If you’re in Europe, you’re bombarded with tons of travel opportunities, many of which are in driving distance. From my home in Germany, I can be in Prague in three hours, in Vienna in four hours, in Berlin in four hours, in Venice in six hours, in Paris in eight hours, and in Bastogne in five hours.

And the language differences? Download the Google translate app and try your best. You certainly won’t be the first American tourists the locals meet.

Don’t just visit other countries—explore your own, both the big and small cities and towns. It gives you a wonderful appreciation for the culture around you.

Celebrate with the locals.

Countries all over the world have celebrations that are special to them. In Germany, you’ll find Fasching, Frulingsfest, Oktoberfest, and the entire Fest season. In Italy, you have Carnevale. In European countries all over, you’ll find Christmas and Easter markets. In Asian countries, you have special new year’s celebrations. Visit these things and enjoy them!

Soak it up.

In the almost three years I’ve lived in my small German village, my head is still on a swivel as the seasons change—the buds on the trees, the changing colors of the farmer’s fields, the simple beauty of the area. Three years sounds long, but with so much traveling and exploring, it will go by fast.

I’ll admit I was terrified when we first got to Germany. I couldn’t communicate. I didn’t understand how check-out at the grocery store worked. I didn’t know how to use public transportation. But over time, I took myself just a bit out of my comfort zone, which resulted in growth and confidence I didn’t know I had. Driving on the autobahn no longer phases me. I never forget a reusable bag for use in the German stores. Hearing conversations around me that I can’t understand doesn’t bother me.

The same will happen for you, even when you don’t think it will. 

It’s okay to be nervous. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to have so much anxiety from the unexpected. Plenty of people are afraid of the unfamiliar, but if you force yourself to experience your host nation (and more), you’ll find it isn’t so bad.

Eventually, it all becomes second nature.

Happy exploring!


  • Sarah Peachey

    Sarah Peachey is a journalist from southern Pennsylvania currently living in the Southeast. Previous adventures sent her to Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Meade, Maryland; Hohenfels, Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Stewart, Georgia. She lives with her husband of more than 10 years, three children, one very spoiled Dachshund, and a cat who leaves a dusting of white fur on just about everything. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an Army installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work. Her work has appeared on MilSpouseFest, The Homefront United Network,, SpouseBUZZ, and Army News Service. She consulted for MilitaryOneClick (now known as MilSpouseFest), and helped launch the site #MilitaryVotesMatter, providing up-to-date information important to service members, veterans, and their families in the 2016 election. When not writing for military spouse support sites, she is currently working on her first novel while also volunteering as AWN's Blog Editor. When she can carve the time into her schedule, she writes about parenting, travel, books, and politics on her website, Keep It Peachey. You can find her on Instagram @keepitpeachey. She has a passion for reading, writing, politics, and political discussions. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast, and crossword addict.


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