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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Who told you about the lightbulbs?

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.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Who told you about the lightbulbs?

Don't you absolutely hate it when you move somewhere, and everyone else knows some simple little helpful thing, except you?  It's not something you talk about or even discuss...just expected to know.  Here's a tip to know before moving to Europe that can save you from buying new light fixtures and lamps.

Most people moving over here, get the information that electricity is different over here than in the US...not just the plugs but also the power with which that stuff shoots thru the walls.  Plug in your 110 volt US appliance and scare yourself as it literally blows smoke (and typically a spark) along with tripping the breakers.....and then kills your appliance....forever!  Even I fried a computer after we arrived....not because I didn't know, but because desktops have a SWITCH in the back that you must switch from 110 volt to 220 volt (unlike the laptops I had been using all summer that switch automatically between the two voltages....ooops).

Anyway, when you go into the PX or commissary over here, they will have TONS of light bulbs that are meant for 110 volts (they say 120 volt on them)....why?  I don't know....not every post in Europe has on post housing with dual voltages where you could actually use these bulbs...and as far as I know, none in Belgium do...go figure.  I never figured out why they would sell all these 110 volt appliances either, especially when I noticed my Chi dryer and straightening iron I bought in the US can be used in EITHER voltage....come on AAFES....sell something USEFUL!  There I go getting off on a tangent again...don't get me started on AAFES overseas..

If you are bringing your nice lamps from the US, all you have to do is purchase a 220 volt lightbulb (they do have some at AAFES and the commissary, just check that it says 240 volt on the box somewhere).  Then use a round European prong adapter so it'll connect in the wall, and you're done.  You are now using your US need to rewire or do anything else with it...and yes, you can buy those lamps at the PX, even if they say 120 volt.

Can you think of anything else like this, that everyone just expected you to know coming over here?

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Blogger family of 4 on the move! said...

Oh how about that most credit cards will charge you a foreign use fee for using them over here. I never even thought about it until the first time I used my debit card at a restaurant for dinner and ended up paying and extra fee just for that.

Also there is the rule of using US appliances with clocks over here with the different voltage/hertz. If you have a programmable coffee maker and you set the time on it even if you are plugging it into a 110v plug in you will lose time on it. That includes alarm clocks! Don't pull a late show at work because your clock lost 10 minutes every hour while you slept!
Great post!!

January 29, 2011 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

You are right! And some credit cards have higher fees than others....I know when I researched, USAA had the lowest foreign transaction fee at 1%...there was one that didn't have a fee, but there was a catch and it had something else going on...or maybe it wasn't a rewards card with cashback?

Yes, any appliance that cycles (those that heat up are okay) mixers, alarm clocks, drills, etc...those can be damaged as their cycling will be "off". If it's something not expensive, don't worry about, but if it's an expensive kitchen appliance, I would think twice about'll never be the same again and will not live its full life:-(

January 29, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger MooAtU2 said...

I've been told different things about appliances with motors. So I'm killing my 110v handmixer and food processor, even if I have them in plugged into a transformer?

Hmm, maybe I should wait on the fancy stand mixer until we move back to the states....

I got a Sentsy burner recently as a present, forgot about the lightbulb thing, and got quite a shock (pun intended)! Also, there are no 220v bulbs that fit in my sentsy burner that I know of.

January 29, 2011 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Moot, I don't have a standmixer myself, but I have had friends burn up theirs over what you feel is the right thing....but I definitely would not buy a new one costing hundreds of dollars...I just wouldn't want to risk it!

As for the Scentsy....I don't have one of those either, but I would just save it until I went back to the would probably be too awkward once you found a bulb AND a got a plug adapter in there?....but, if you are willing to try it, that would be all the changes you would need.

January 30, 2011 at 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know or have personal experience as to whether it works the other way around, as well? If you have a German lighted curio, can you just change to a 110V bulb & use an adapter plug to use the plug the light into American sockets after PCS'ing back to the US? I've been afraid to try it, so have just been using the curio without the light since we moved back.

January 30, 2011 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Theoretically, it should work, but for peace of mind, I would just stop by your nearest lamp shop to get advice of what kind of lightbulb you should use, and BTW explain what you are trying to do....they may offer to rewire it, which may not be that expensive, but at least you'll have a definitive answer from experts. I had a Belgian 1920s wooden chandelier that I had rewired when I went back to the US, and it was only like $50 to do that intricate design (it had a lot of bulbs). Let us know how it goes!

January 31, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so, for all this stuff we should leave behind before we move overseas, such as big stuff we don't want to take, kitchen aid, and stuff that will probably get ruined, does the military store this for us or not? I have heard different stuff about this. And of course we cannot get a confirmed answer.

And another thing. What about TVs? I assume those will be junk when we get back from germany? we have a 55" LED Samsung we bought last year. Pointless to store it for 3 years, but I also don't want it to fry either. Hmmm.....


February 13, 2011 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Thanks for your questions. Yes, you are authorized to store HHG at the government expense when you get shipped overseas. Ours are in a warehouse in our last stateside duty location city. We have an entire room's furniture in ours, as well as our garage and outdoor stuff....I don't know what the limits are from the top of my head, but I have friends who came over with not much more than their suitcases (and they were sorry they did, because now they are buying everything twice)....take what you think you need and leave the my moving articles. I think I cover this in there.

As for the TV....yes, that can be a problem. I know someone now who is trying to get rid of a large screen tv they bought at AAFES over here....too much potential for damage they told me.

Let me caution you, if it's a plasma, definitely sell it, because it WILL break. They are not meant for movement.

We've moved with 32" LCDs with no issues...

February 14, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! Its hard to get all this info when my husband is in korea still. We get different answers from the mpf in korea and here in minot.

My husband shipped his 32" LCD to korea via USPS!! And it made it there just fine. I thought for sure it would break, but he had no problem at all. And got there in 4 days!


February 15, 2011 at 4:15 AM  

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