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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): You Know You're Stationed in Germany When...

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Know You're Stationed in Germany When...

Raise your hand if you've been stationed overseas in Germany? Raise your hand again if you can relate to some of these "cultural differences" and just different ways of doing things. No, I did not think of these myself. This is a collection that has been floating around on the internet and recently discussed over at the Army Wives Forum. Be sure to stop by there and connect with other Army wives and girlfriends!

In no particular order:

  • you can never get ice in your drink
  • if you tell the waiter you want water to drink, you'll get the fizzy stuff
  • you see a van full of about eight men in overalls looking like they just finished painting or doing construction, go get ice cream or grocery shop together
  • you start blowing your electrical items
  • you can't figure out how to flush the toilet
  • you go into the men's restroom, thinking "Herren" means "women"
  • your neighbors threaten to call the Polizei on you because you're doing yard work on a Sunday
  • you get a ticket for washing your car on a Sunday
  • you're doing 100 mph on the autobahn, and there are still cars passing you by so fast your car shakes or worse you feel like you're standing still
  • you look out the window and the sun is shining so you throw on your shorts and favorite pair of sandals only to open the door and see that it's raining heavily, so you go put on pants, shoes, a jacket, and grab your umbrella and open the door again only to see the rain has stopped and the sun is shining again
  • you get used to two very distinctive smells. One being the cow manure the farmers use to fertilize the field in your backyard, and the other, well, you know
  • when you go to the grocery store and find that you yet again forgot your plastic bags and have to put things in your car trunk one by one (or pay a hefty amount for their shiny new shopping bag)
  • when you are at the checkout, you realize you have to bag your own groceries and wonder why the clerk doesn't give you back your change (they place it on a little tray or mat in front of you or the coins come flying down a little ramp)
  • you can't figure out how to leave a store if you aren't buying anything because of the Do Not Enter doors at the registers and entrances (We get trapped all the time!)
  • you have to buy six fans to keep cool
  • all life stops at 6 pm and doesn't start again until 9 or 10 pm
  • You can turn three times and still be on the priority road
  • you see men wearing capri pants accompanied by sandals with colored socks….oh my…
  • even though a store sells expensive furniture or appliances, they don't accept credit cards
  • you get stuck behind a "Fahrschule" (person in driving school, which costs thousands of dollars BTW) car and it takes you twice as long to get to wherever you were going
  • on a major road, you get stuck behind a tractor or some kind of moped that can go a maximum speed of about 10 kph. There is also a trail of like 50 cars behind you, also stuck!
  • the couple sitting next to you at a nice restaurant has their dog under the table
  • it costs more to telephone your neighbor than to call your family in the States
  • when 90% of the female German population has red or pink or orange hair in the front, and jet black in the back. (hello?! ambush makeover!)
  • when you try to go shopping at your favorite German store at 1 pm, only to find out they're closed for the afternoon
  • Germany is a ghost town on Sundays, and you wonder where everyone went
  • when people cut in front of you in line like they don't see you (I HATE that!)
  • when you first move into your home and you think the window is going to fall in on you when you crack it open
  • you never are quite sure whether you have the right-of-way at one of those crazy intersections
  • your kitchen appliances all look like they should be in a house for midgets (if you live off-post!)
  • you find a sex-shop adjacent to a children's toy store
  • a value meal at McDonald's costs about 5 euro (7 dollars?!?)
  • you can spot the Americans because they are the only ones wearing tennis shoes
  • you see German kids wandering the streets at 1 pm on a weekday since they only go to school half a day
  • they serve alcohol at all McDonald's
  • It's legal to drive your four wheeler on the autobahn
  • You must clean up after your dog but not your horse
  • You have to pay to use a public restroom
  • you miss your exit on the autobahn and have to drive for another 10 miles to get to the next one so you can turn around
  • you drive 50 miles in the wrong direction because there are no north/south, east/west signs on the autobahn
  • when using a public toilet you jump out of your skin because the toilet seat lifts up and rotates to clean itself after you've flushed
  • your off-post housing doesn't have any closets; you have to buy/borrow wardrobes
  • you've gotten several speeding tickets but have never been pulled over by a cop
  • you go to the local Schwimmbad (or local swimming hole) and see naked old men
  • your big American car or truck doesn't fit into any of the parking spaces
  • you see men carrying "man purses"; I think Germany is the origin of the fanny pack
  • you see that dogs and children are better trained than ours
  • you have to pay to use a shopping cart (and you get the money back after you take the cart back to the store)
  • you see most cars are stick shift and many don't have AC
  • you realize most houses don't have AC but the stores do

Do you have any to add? Any one have any good German memories to share?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad to read such negative comments.

Other than the unfortunate reminder about having to pay to use a public restroom (and the time I didn't have the right money and really needed it!) I saw all of those differences as delightful, charming, and part&parcel of the whole overseas experience.

"having to buy/borrow closets because your home has none"? How about "the base *loans* you furniture-how cool is that? more room in your household goods on the way back to the US for all the cool stuff you bought at antique fairs!"

those crazy German window shades? great for people working night shift to sleep during the day!

American car too big? leave it in America-get a used German car and sell it to another GI when you leave.

I fondly miss Christmas markets, bringing my dog to restaurants, all the touring and shopping and hiking and biking and eating and drinking and fun times I had with my friends in Germany. I still keep a carton of egg beaters in my freezer since I always ran out of eggs at 5 pm on Saturday night.

I'd be delighted to take the place of all the Negative Nellies who came up with this list and go back.

April 23, 2008 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

You quickly learn the German phrases that you will need to survive eating at a my case: Ohne zweibel (no onions - I'm allergic and Germans BATHE in onions, I think), and "Mein Deutsche is nicht gut, Sprechen zie English?"

LOVED that phrase.

But I have to say, having only spent a year of three (we were returned with our entire division, two years earlier than expected), I think I did well...and I loved it

And this list? PRICELESS!!!!

April 23, 2008 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Funny...I didn't think any of these comments were negative..just general observations...I LOVE Germany, and love being stationed there...we have spent the last six years, trying to get back and now we finally get the chance.

I think these are just general thoughts from Americans in an unfamiliar environment. I bet if you ask any of these ladies about their time over there, they all will say they had a wonderful time and wouldn't hesitate to go back!

Thanks for the additions....Christmas markets in Germany are something that stand out for me too.

April 23, 2008 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

huh...I didn't think those were negative either.

I had to laugh at how she tried to turn around the "the base LENDS you furniture"...ugh. That stuff is disgusting, unclean, uncomfortable, beat up, battered, unmatched. I spent 6 out of 12 months on gov't loaned furniture, and I hope I never see it again!

What I saw, when I read this list, was a bunch of funny things that really were positive...because, having lived them, you realize afterwards that they truly ARE positive (even if they weren't when you were experiencing them). My hubby and I would give ANYTHING to spend time there again, but due to his MOS, it won't be happening....sigh.

April 25, 2008 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Megan @ Disorder2Order said...

LOVE IT! This is hilarious! If you have been other places.. do it again, do it again.. do it again...

I especially love that they HAVE public restrooms... I would pay to have that here... beats the stinky parts of town... The horse poop one is funny too!

Thanks so much for sharing, you made me giggle!

April 25, 2008 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You see bedding/comforters/ pillows hanging out of bedroom windows, apparently to "freshen" them up when actually they are just getting dirty from windowsills and roofs! I am guessing because they have such teeny tiny washers they are unable to truly wash them properly...

June 6, 2008 at 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go to dinner and are shocked to see a 9 year old boy serving everyone their beers at the table!

June 14, 2008 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the comments and the list was so true it made me smile. Dont forget you have to pay for condements..sugar, catchup, salt, ect...I will never forget that.

July 18, 2008 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Little Lollo said...

I love this!! I spent a considerable amount of time in Germany and fell in love with the place. These brought back some very fun memories! :)

July 23, 2008 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger Ashley~Meow said...

I love living in Germany and found this list to be hilarious, because it is so true! My favorite is the comment about the weather. It is sunny right now but I am expecting rain at any moment :)

July 26, 2008 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Kosmonaut said...

I'm a German and I loved your list. The items doesn't sound negative to me but funny.
I should do such a list with such things in the US (e.g. why do all toilet flushes look so big and why are all light switches so damn ugly?).

Great job!

August 5, 2008 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger dyceedo said...

I was actually a part of the ArmyWives forum that came up with these a while back. We loved our time in Germany and these funny cultural differences were just that: funny! We hope that someday we again will be stationed in another part of the world and begin to make our new list of challenges as we learn about a new culture.

August 6, 2008 at 3:31 AM  
Blogger Army Wife said...

Two pennies worth from a Brit Army wife currently living in Germany (and loving it!)

* You go for breakfast, ask for coffee and only then notice that everyone else is having a beer

* When the time is half past 5, you pronounce it as half 6

* The trains actually run on time

* The Germans go to the Netherlands to shop on a Sunday

* You buy new sheets and they don't fit your bed

* The only flavour of chips readily available is paprika (and they are yummy!)

August 25, 2008 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous ArmamentWife said...

It's completely normal to see a 14 year old kid walking around with a beer stein bigger than his head.

It's completely normal to look out your window and see the townspeople throwing a parade for a mysterious tree they cut down.

You can't get over the fact that they dip french fries in mayo. "This isn't bad enough for me yet... lets throw some more fat on there!"

When you think fast food, doner comes to mind faster than burger.

When you say "Sprechen zie English" and every single person replies "a little" but then carries on the conversation fluently.

You get used to getting searched and id'd at least 5 times a day.

You NEVER forget your ration card at the shopette.

You understand that you may only retrieve your mail in a two hour window between 3 and 5pm, 5 days a week.

On holidays, everything is closed.

You see guard rails in front of houses, but not on the edge of a cliff.

The beer tent becomes your second home.

You drink slower because the bars don't close until 5am.

You dance the electric slide to everything.

AFN has taught you that you can tell your bread is "whole grain" because it says "Whole Grain" on the packaging. Thank you for that VITAL tip.

The only commercials on MTV are for ringtones and wallpapers for your "handy"

You no longer text... you sms.

Man I could go on forever lol.

December 14, 2008 at 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this supposed to be funny or informational? Just lame.

June 22, 2009 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

A bit of both actually.

June 22, 2009 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Loved the list! My husband (Army), myself and our three kids are excited about PCSing to Germany in December. All the items on the list were great tips and will keep me from being so lost when we get there. I think the hardest thing for me will be seeing dogs everywhere. We're not really dog people, but hopefully, like it was mentioned on the list, the dogs will be well trained and won't lick us!

July 6, 2009 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH how this brings back some great memories! Everytime it gets cold in the states, I think of the Christmas markets that come out. The smells of nutella crepes and the wonderful teas they sold. I loved buying the ornaments and toys to send back home. One of these days, I'll go back. I want my son to see the land where he was born.

I want my second husband to see where I lived and how you could see Frankenstein castle from our house. *sigh* Thank you so much for this list!!!

I sometimes wish I could find myself out of place like this in the states. I miss it so much.

August 1, 2009 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

truely unique experience. I'm here in Germany now with my husband and two kids. It is absolutely beautiful and exciting here, although the weather is definately unpredictable. The list made me laugh...especially the part about the Doner for fast food. I love those things, and they are cheaper than a burger.

August 27, 2009 at 8:16 PM  
Anonymous One Proud Soldier said...

Where can I go to get more info on being stationed in Germany? I'm currently serving in Illinois, I am in the Army reserve, I've talked to a few sergeants and recruiters but I want info from ones who've done it all,I'm hoping to go within the year, my fiancé and I are extremely excited to spend a few years of our lives there. I need info on things like; - Best ways to get stationed there, MOS wise or other. -What to do once we arrive. Etc... Just basic info. Please help me. Sincerely, One Proud Soldier

January 30, 2010 at 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been here for 5 years and i am not military just an American living here and that list was great you could have been my long lost brother or sister.
Makes me think how good we have it in in the States. here some to add to the list.

you need to buy and install your own lighting fixtures and kitchen when you move in to your German house.

no such thing as a king size bed in a german fruniture store.

a beer is cheaper than a bottel of water.

February 16, 2010 at 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well i really like all of this :) its interessting to see the opinion of a stranger on my country :) gotta add something, tho: we are havin our bed stuff hangin out of the window bc of the feathers.. if you dont, they become like one big ball and then you cant really sleep under them anymore :) ; i was like omg when someone mentioned that they could see the frankenstein castle from their house.. cause i do too :) great town! oh and its cool that your son was born here :) ; anyways, great list :) i hope more people from overseas are experience germany as it is and not as just a beer country :) i also was on bases cause my bf is an american soldier :) its hard to deal the american attitude lol but i guess ppl are just differnet.. in a good way :)

June 11, 2010 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Isn't it interesting how you can probably come up with a list for every country I'm sure:-)) I consider myself half German, and this list is meant in good fun:-))

June 11, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

Absolutely LOVE this list. I lived in Germany when my dad was stationed there and just adored it. Now my soon to be hubby is getting stationed a few hours from where I lived before and I can't wait for him to experience how wonderful Germany is! I also can't wait to chow down on a doner and spaghetti ice! God I've been craving them for YEARS.

June 21, 2010 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

YES, the Donar Kebap stands are still everywhere (did you know they were invented in Berlin?) spaghetti eis is still a big favorite! We love both too!

June 21, 2010 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger cameron lafreniere said...

-- Nice to the starting post of this entire blog. i lived in Germany as an American as a student, so as a civilian for over 3 years. I agree on 95% of those accounts. You left out although the aspect of being a foreigner for once. You have to watch out for cars(Autos), drunks(Betrunkers), trams(S-Bahn). And watch out for getting lost while jogging at night. And always, DO not lost track of time.

November 28, 2010 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Mary R. said...

No, these were not negative comments -- just observations, ones like a German would make if they came to our country. I'd love to go back, too! It was a wonderful time in our lives. BTW, we were stationed there 40 years ago, and it's obviously still the same!!!

March 18, 2011 at 2:45 AM  
Blogger Tu said...

do you get to have a career or work there?

June 7, 2011 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

As a milspouse, it is difficult but not impossible to have a career. The most successful are those who work for the government...just work their way up the ladder. Stateside, I've seen others in the fields of nursing make it happen...entrepreneurs and internet businesses...otherwise, a job is just a do it for a few years, then uproot and start all over again unfortunately!

June 8, 2011 at 7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

90 year olds riding bicycles.

being a few hours away from every other country in europe.

people jumping in front of you while you stand in line was a big nogo for my stay. i'm still here actually

ordering a schnitzel and realize it's half the size of the table.

world cup celebrations. riots if the germans lose.

buying german furniture and realizing you gotta drill holes and put everything together yourself with instructions that aren't even in german.

80's music is just a relevant today as it was 25 years ago.

July 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM  

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