You just got orders overseas.
The to-do list is overwhelming.
You can’t bring all your belongings with you, and moving overseas has so many more steps involved than a traditional permanent change of station.
I get it.
I’ve been there.
There are so many perks to living overseas. While amongst the packing, arranging of unaccompanied baggage, and medical screening, take a break to reflect on the positive sides of moving overseas, and keep on keeping on!
- You can’t worry about housing until you get there. This is seriously one of the biggest stress reliefs of an overseas move. Why? Okay, yes, so you can’t plan ahead for your house or show your kids pictures of your new yard. But no one else can either. Everyone is in the same boat as far as housing goes. You have to wait until you check-in. Once you check in the options are on or off base/post. If the quota for on-base is full, you get to look off base, and then the choice is yours for location, housing size, cost, etc. If you are moving off the post, your housing allowance is called Overseas Housing Allowance and is a bit different than traditional BAH. Don’t forget to calculate in exchange rates into your housing budget.
- Embrace a new culture. While most families move frequently enough to explore new locations, they are usually within the United States. Living overseas allows for exploration in a totally new place. The culture, the language, and the food are different. You can try authentic cuisine to that country that typically cannot be replicated in an American restaurant. Learn a few phrases of the local language and show the cashier at the local grocery store that you are trying and learning.
- You’re all in this together. Americans living overseas are often referred to as ex-pats, or ex-patriots. It isn’t that you are giving up your American heritage, but the ex-pat community is a close-knit group. Because of the common thread of being Americans that are living in a foreign community, the village mentality is strong. Holidays are celebrated with your ‘framily’ (friends who become family) because you aren’t traveling back to your home.
- Get involved. The military and government service community overseas have many clubs and organizations to get involved in. Oftentimes each branch of service has a Gift Shop sharing local and international items for sale that the profits benefit the local community. There are jobs and volunteer opportunities here. There are clubs of special interest to bring people together. Through the Armed Forces and USO community overseas, many groups form with the opportunity to build their own. Like a certain video game and don’t see it represented, start a club! The community is great.
- Travel. Maybe not all the time, but when living overseas the ability to travel to new places at more affordable prices opens up. Living in Germany? Take a train to explore France – this is much cheaper than an airplane ride from California. Now a resident of Okinawa? Head to Thailand, the Philippines, or mainland Japan for flight prices that compare to flying from Virginia to Florida. This is the time to learn more about the world beyond where you live and see the world.
- Less pressure to travel to see family. Because travel isn’t always easily done for military families due to budget, work schedule, and just travel constraints, it is common that the holiday time is when families travel home to see one or multiple families and that “vacation” isn’t a vacation at all. When living overseas, the financial burden of travel to the states coupled with the busy operation tempo means that time off is short-lived, and a couple of weeks off to the states to visit family often doesn’t happen. The pressure is off to make the sojourn home, and that allows for the nuclear family and “framily” you build to grow closer together.
- The food. While this was mentioned in the culture category, it deserves its own category. Authentic schnitzel in Germany. Fresh and amazing sushi in Japan. Genuine fish and chips in Britain. All for affordable prices because it didn’t require special storage or a long boat ride to get there. Check out the local grocery stores to get a real taste of the local food and products, you might just find a favorite. And plan to barter sending Chik-Fil-A sauce for your new favorite treat from said country with a friend who is now there.
Don’t get me wrong, moving overseas is stressful. And there were more than one night of worry and eating chocolate as a way to self-care, but it is worth the move and worth the investment in exploring your new country and getting involved. There are a lot of perks of living overseas.