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After the Move/PCS...What I Wish I Had Known Before

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): After the Move/PCS...What I Wish I Had Known Before

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.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

After the Move/PCS...What I Wish I Had Known Before

You know how the military does an After Action Review (AAR) after every operation? We civilians should do such things too. I'm always harping on learning from past experiences, in particular learning from the mistakes of others. Well, as you may already know, we moved kit and kaboodle, including two kids, a 100 lb dog, a cat and our belongings from Florida to Germany this past summer. As is typical with such things, I did stress about it. I also did an ungodly amount of planning...just because that's the kind of person I am. But even with all that, there are some lessons learned I can pass on to myself as well as others, so that when you move, it'll be about as smooth sailing as it can get.

As I dutifully unpack our stuff.....alone I might add, as husband has had to work these last few days and then surprisingly had knee surgery on top of that and can't lift a thing around here....these thoughts came to mind:

  • Almost immediately after arrival, identify where you and your family will get your health and dental care (especially if you are in a foreign country). We've been here two months and my youngest had a dental emergency, yesterday. Since space is limited at our on post facility (no, they wouldn't see him right away), I went online to the Tricare's dental site, found a host nation provider, called the closest one, and was able to get him taken care of in a two hour window. If I had investigated this ahead of time, I wouldn't have been driving through a driving rainstorm, totally relying on our GPS and trying to keep an eye out for parking garages, in getting to the place. Scope all locations, as well as local procedures for getting help well before you need it. As for medical emergencies, if it's not life, limb or eyesight, you have to call the Military Police # to get connected to a Tricare person who can authorize care on the economy (or you pay for the emergency visit out of pocket after your claim is denied). They also have a nurse hotline that you can call 24 hours, which can have a somewhat calming effect while you feel all alone in the middle of the night with a child who may be in distress. That happened to me the last time we lived over here (of course DH was deployed at the time, which is typical isn't it?).
  • Keep your shelf pegs in a baggie and tape them to the inside of your furniture. We have some shelves with no pegs. Thankfully, my husband has a big extra stash in our household goods somewhere...we'll eventually get to them...but, if they had been taped to the furniture, I could've put up the shelves and put more stuff away. Now we have more delays. Also have some of those extra glass pegs, that keep glass fronts in place in your furniture. Ours are well worn in our entertainment center, so we ended up taping the glass on the inside to keep those extra secure.
  • Keep all flicker flackers (ie remotes) in the electronic items' boxes or tape them close by. We have a TV that only has one channel right now, because you need the remote to cycle through and program all the local channels, including the German ones (it is a dual system TV), no Olympics for us.
  • When the movers pack your extension cords, cable TV cables and all that other hardware, label the box exactly as such. I spent half a day looking for an extension cord and a cable TV cord and couldn't find any of them...still haven't found them. Luckily, I knew that one of our six garage boxes in the basement had a bin with a myriad of old cables. I was able to quickly find what I was looking for in there.
  • Do realize, that if you are going overseas, you're not going to be able to "run to Walmart" to get whatever. Our AAFES PX has limited choices and worse, they always seem to be out of the exact thing you are looking for. I've been looking for doggie poop bag rolls (I like those on our doggie leash) and a two handset cordless phone, and they've been out of those two things for three weeks! Believe it or not, I also brought a huge stash of Sam's Club toilet paper, papertowels and napkins with us, just because I had them...I probably won't need to buy those things for a few years I now realize. It takes some getting used to...not a lot is sold in bulk over here at the commissary...for God's sakes, the toilet paper comes in a roll of four!
  • Much of the on post housing has 110 and 220 voltage. I would've brought my lighted Christmas stuff if I had known there would be multiple outlets in most rooms. We only brought a few appliances, our computers and our stereo equipment with us. We had planned on buying transformers, which you need on the economy, as you will ONLY find 220 voltage there. Research housing options and amenities before hand.
  • Be very careful unpacking dishpack bins. Good movers rightfully use lots and lots of paper. I had a delicate china cup wrapped in about seven layers of paper....I thought the paper was empty, threw it on the floor...and you can guess what happened next. Don't assume a wad of light-weighted paper is empty!
  • Have a system of staging the boxes in the correct spot and carefully check off each box as you eventually empty it. The military gives you about two months to report missing or damaged items, and now you also get replacement coverage, which is a big step up. So, no need to check off each box as it comes in the house if you don't have the people to do that. It was just me and the boys on moving day. The Romanian movers could not speak a lick of English and only spoke some broken German. After some initial confusion, I wrote a number on each room door, told my son what number was what room (I wrote it on his hand), gave him a Sharpie marker and told him to read what was on the box coming out of the truck, and write what room # the box is supposed to go in. It worked splendidly,which brings me to my next point.
  • When the movers pack up your stuff when you're getting packed out, have them write generally, what the contents are AND what room the items came from. When I was a greenhorn, many years ago, we had a set of movers that didn't do a good job of this, and we wasted so much time on the receiving end, just carrying boxes back and forth all over the house. If boxes are marked with the right room, it's just a matter of unpacking, putting each item away and trashing the packing materials.
Do you have any tips to share? Be sure to read my other moving articles and learn from my mistakes!



Blogger Linda said...

Some things to mention/add/advise on your list:

Not only should you do the baggie/peg thing, but include special tools (such as allen wrenches or other things) in the bag. Include ALL hardware that has been removed. Don't leave screws or bolts in a piece of furniture because it is something that could be ripped/stripped/broken as they load the containers (remember, objects are subject to shifting, lol).

We keep all original packing boxes for electronics...and we pack them ourselves...we do not tape the boxes shut, so the movers can check to see that they do indeed have the item enclosed. These cartons will generally be marked CP (customer packed), but you can bet that your packing them in the original packing will prevent damage or missing items. We also include all cables that are required, power strips and extra cords (such as usb for computers). This way, when you unpack the TV, you have everything, from remote to cables.

The movers should always write on the outside of the box what room it came from and the general contents. If they are not doing this, you need to let the transportation office know this, so that they can be sure these guys are trained properly. A lot of times, moving companies use day laborers who may not be as well-versed in what to do for military moves.

A hint for "doggie poop rolls"...most German stores sell these great little baggies at the discount store (mine are labled Kosmetikeimer Müllbeutel) and are 10 ltr bags that are PERFECT for doggy poop (you might even be able to put them in the dispenser), and great to have in a diaper bag to wrap diapers!

Like you, we didn't know our housing would have 110 and hubby purchased an entire lot of 220 stuff from the outgoing commander. In the end, it was good since it had all we needed (blender, mixer, coffee maker, vacuum, etc). A lot of the housing, as it gets remodeled, goes to the dual voltage, but you need to remember that it is really only transformers in the you have to be careful what you plug into it. Not all transformers are rated high enough to operate a microwave or vacuum!

I totally agree with you about the dishbins...heck, be careful with EVERYTHING you unpack - we threw out the wire "harps" that held our lampshades on. They were apparently removed and packed in the same boxes...they're small and flat...hard to realize it. Go through ALL the paper in your boxes!!! (and if you have kids, save the larger, less wrinkled pieces for coloring, table protection, etc....)

August 14, 2008 at 6:34 PM  
OpenID viscioustart said...

Our movers labeled the boxes well... in Korean! I hope they issue a translator on this end! ha ha ha ha. I tried to go back through and put some sort of general label on boxes but I wasn't around the entire time!!! :-) Should be interesting.

When we moved to Korea, I too moved loads of TP and diapers--it was nice to have them on hand the first few months (ok, 6) so I wasn't running out for them!

August 14, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

I think you both should've written this article instead of me! Great tips!

August 15, 2008 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Having had the move from hell, I learned a lot, lol!

You and viscioustart are not the first I've heard say they've moved a ton of "dry goods" friend bought 5 cases of garbage bags with her! She said that the can they have (a beautiful wooden one made by her hubby) was just a bit too large to fit regular bags. They knew the bags from Costco (or sam's or one of the wholesale clubs) could be stretched a bit without tearing, so they stocked up! Spent several years in Germany AND brought some back too, lol!

August 15, 2008 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the info about the full replacement value. All claims are now made directly to the transportation company.

August 15, 2008 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger dyceedo said...

Well, one thing that you did especially well, was that you got a GPS within your first few months in Germany! We waited as we thought it was silly to have to rely on a GPS, then realized that if we didn't get one soon, we would end up in marriage counseling!!! The GPS is a lifesaver in crazy Europe!!!

August 16, 2008 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Although I must say, if you know your geography and where the big cities are located, you can't get lost on the autobahn...not only is there an autobahn #, but always the city in the direction you're going! I've only had to rely on the GPS once I'm in the city!

Linda, I'll check those would be great if they could fit in the little case.

Thanks for the link on the replacement value. I'll let you know how that far, very little has been broken and nothing is missing...this is a first for us!

I have to laugh at the Korean experience! That must've been something!

August 16, 2008 at 9:49 AM  
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