PCSing to Germany
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
This time as the spouse of a US Federal Civilian Employee (no longer a milspouse!)
Although you may consider yourself “a pro” at PCS moves, this might be your first time PCS'ng to Germany. And for many, it might be your first time PCSing as a US Federal civilian employee rather than as part of a US military family (as was the case for us). So before I have some fun with future posts that relate to actually being here, I’m going to share some things we learned during our actual move.
“The cargo company provides instructions that are bogus; you may find yourself trekking back to the airport (probably on foot now) with pet and bags in tow!”
Shipping your four-legged friend: We wanted our dog to accompany us, but Patriot Express was already booked 90 days out which would have been past our report date. The SATO office suggested using a pet shipping service but the least expensive services charged $2400! After checking numerous options, we found the United/Lufthansa option was the most comfortable for our dog, as well as the most affordable. However (and this may vary depending upon your originating location), do NOT trust the communications you receive after you book your flight if you are coming from Fort Bragg, and probably flying out of Raleigh/Durham. United's cargo department handles the pet shipping and communicates all the instructions regarding your pet's travel, which (in our case) were totally jacked up! Since your car has already shipped and you are hauling luggage and your dog via Uber or a taxi, do not haul it all to the cargo company outside of the airport!! Those are bogus instructions and you will find yourself trekking back to the airport (probably on foot now that taxi/Uber are gone) with pet and bags in tow! What really happens is that United checks your pet in at the counter at the same time they check YOU in! They make sure you have met all the crate and signage requirements, and take a photo of your pet. The total cost via United/Lufthansa was $1500 (non-reimbursable). On a related topic, when we shipped our pet to Germany in 2008 we were allowed to give her a sedative for the flight. That’s not allowed/recommended any more, so this time (2019) a CBD dog treat worked great for travel anxiety!!!
POV shipping: When we were a military family living anywhere in Texas, our vehicle shipped from Dallas, and ALL expenses getting it there (including the rental car needed to get back home) were reimbursable. As RET military, GS employee, the two POV shipping options closest to Fort Bragg were Norfolk, VA and Charleston, SC! And the only reimbursable expense is a per diem for the travel time! Since we needed to visit family in Atlanta, and Atlanta IS a POV shipping location, we thought that would be perfect, until we were told it would cost $4,000 (non-reimbursable obviously!) to use a POV shipping point other than the two closes to Bragg. So watch out for the potential expenses you may incur relative to shipping your POV. Do your homework!
Shipping in advance: Unlike in 2008, we could now obtain our new on-base military mailing address ourselves without needing our sponsor to secure it. Our guidance indicated we would be reimbursed for all shipping we did in advance and since we had heard many horror stories about Unaccompanied baggage not arriving until after HHG arrive, we shipping A LOT! Be aware that both are untrue! We were not reimbursed for it, and UB arrives very soon after you do! If you do ship ahead………be sure to use Flat Rate boxes….absolutely the best bang for the buck!!
House hunting: Again, unlike our first time here, Realtors are no longer allowed on base, so be prepared to meet them at the checkpoint for all of your home viewing appointments. (I'm not sure if this is the case throughout Germany; it was definitely the case in the Bavaria region!) At many bases in Germany, that might be a non-issue if the checkpoint is close to base lodging. However, Germany and winter are not a good combination if you can’t get a taxi and have to walk a mile or more to get to the checkpoint. We saw several families with kids and baby strollers walking in inclement weather to get to those appointments. But unlike in the states, at least the realtors are happy to pick your family up at the checkpoint to show homes; they know you don’t have your vehicle yet! Also, be reminded that the realtor’s job is to match your needs with vacancies in your preferred area; their commission is not based on how trustworthy they are. After moving in we discovered 1) that pets are not allowed – thankfully the landlord made an exception and 2) the garage we filled with tool benches and storage shelves because we were told it belonged to our unit was actually shared by all three tenants – although it is designated specifically for our vehicle, we felt poorly about taking it over and then realizing others shared it. Don't forget you can find rental properties before you ever leave the U.S. on the Bookoo Yard Sales websites! Just pick your community and see what's available - or when it will be!
Communicating between US and Germany: Technology has improved so much since our first tour (2008-2012) when separation anxiety was a big factor. Now you can stay in touch with your family and friends for free! If you haven’t already installed WhatsApp, you’re going to want it, although you can also stay in touch via Facebook Messenger with both free calls and texts. The primary difference is that most residents and businesses throughout Europe use WhatsApp.
Registering your POV: Something we encountered that will not apply to you if this is your first time in Germany; when we went to register our POV, they said we still had a car registered here from 2012, which is impossible if everyone had done their job when we PCS'd out in 2012. Part of the required out-processing is turning in your German registration/license plates. Therefore we could not have left Germany in 2012 without rendering them back to the authorities. So in order to register our vehicle in 2019 we had to provide proof that the vehicle (which we no longer even own) had been registered in the states after we left Germany in 2012.
Now that we have those few things out of the way, I can move onto living in Germany and loving it!........So more now than the first time we were here!