Our moving to Stuttgart Germany experience and things we wished we knew before we got here. Tips for a military move to Stuttgart.
(The view from our hotel room. It’s a great place to make timelapses.)
Edited May 2019 // I added some tips to the bottom of this post and answered some frequently asked questions. Updates are bold and in italics.
We made it to Stuttgart, Germany in one piece. We are so happy to be here. The months leading up to the move were a whirlwind. We moved out of our house on May 21st and have been living out of our suitcases since then.
We didn’t leave the Cape until June 9th, but because it takes so long to get our things moved over here, we packed out early and moved into temp housing on base.
Our last days were filled with friends, take out, and travel. My best friend had a baby, so I took a quick trip to Cleveland to say goodbye and meet the newest Coastie cousin. (He is DELICIOUS.)
(All of our stuff for the next few months. 2 suitcases, 5 carry-ons, a camera bag, and a booster seat.)
We said goodbye to our friends on the Cape and drove to New Jersey to say goodbye to my family. We had a perfect beach day and ate allllllll of the things that we are going to miss. I ordered all of our favorite things from our favorite restaurants and had it delivered, it was like a favorite things party. A buffet of the best of South Jersey.
We said our goodbyes and headed to Annapolis to say goodbye to the rest of my family. We spent a beautiful day at the Gibson Island Club where my brother is the pro. We drove to Baltimore and checked into the hotel for our last night in the US.
Early the next morning, Wes went to the terminal to ship our car. This took hours longer than we had anticipated. If you are shipping a car internationally, have it detailed right before you do this, it would have saved a lot of time.
Pro tip // The car shippers are very serious about 1/4 tank and below. Wes had to drive for ages to get the tank under 1/4, our Pilot has NEVER been that fuel efficient before.
He came back, we killed some time, and our last meal was at The Cheesecake Factory. Random – but that is one place where everyone can get something that they really like. Not always easy with my picky eaters.
We boarded the plane around 9 pm and flew through the night and landed to Heathrow. None of us slept on the plane, I think that we were too excited/nervous/overwhelmed. We had a 6-hour layover and got into Stuttgart early evening. Needless to say, we were exhausted. We were up for 36 hours and desperately needed a shower.
(The Saturday flower market downtown.)
We checked into the hotel, ate some dinner and crashed. I woke up the next day at noon in a panic when I realized that we slept through check out. We showered, dressed, and then moved to a different hotel (poor planning on my part). It was a German holiday, so most things were closed. We were so tired, it was actually a nice thing. We didn’t feel obligated to get out and explore at all.
Jet lag is real. It took about a week to feel human again. My theory is that it takes a day for each hour. The kids did better than we did.
The next morning we flew to Rome and started on a 2-week vacation to Italy and Greek Island cruise. We had gone back and forth about taking this trip after we checked in and I am so grateful that we took it before.
Last night over a Hefe at the hotel bar, my husband asked me if I like it here. Without hesitation, my answer was yes.
(Hotel living at its finest. Crisp sheets and slippers.)
We’ve been living in a hotel for three weeks, 24 days as of today. While being Eloise for a bit is fun, I miss having a home and I really miss cooking. I am ready to unpack, never see the clothes that I brought with me again, and start our life here. I feel very unsettled and am craving some stability.
Edited – We ended up being in the hotel for 58 days. Thankfully, we were there so long that our household goods were delivered the day after we got our house, which was the day before school started.
As far as moving goes, this was a pleasant move, dare I say pretty easy. Sure, there are a lot of moving pieces, but at the end of the day, it means that we get to live in Europe for a few years. How amazing it that?
Our sponsor family went above and beyond for us. I can’t even begin to thank them adequately for how amazing they have been. I did take notes for when it is our turn to do it for the next family that moves in.
(Our first German meal. Schnitzel the size of Clay’s actual head.)
I feel like we were very prepared for this move. We did as much as we could before we left, and the rest was taken care of during in-processing. Moving onto an Army base is a completely different beast than a Coast Guard base, and they hand hold you through a lot of the transition.
Housing here is complicated. We were fortunate to get a house where we were hoping to live and we should move in the next few weeks.
Base housing is mandatory (for everyone, regardless of service and rank) and how long you wait for a home depends on when you checked out of your last unit, how many dependents you have, and what is available. If it weren’t for the kids, we wouldn’t want to live on base, but it makes life so much easier when we do.
We did end up getting what we wanted, so it’s a nice balance. We want to live in Europe, and to live on the economy as much as we can while we are here. The base we will live on is the closest to the city, but furthest away from the other bases. People think we are nuts, but the commute is worth it to us to have some space, quiet, and to be close to the center of town. I drove there last week to register Clay for school and the view is breathtaking.
If you found this post because you are looking for some info on moving to Stuttgart, welcome! You are probably a little freaked out and excited. I understand that is how I felt too.
What I wish that I knew before moving to Stuttgart, Germany //
1. As soon as you start in-processing, you will be given a book/pamphlet that will answer every question you have. Cars registration, drivers license, cell phones, school, housing, all of it. I read it the night we got in and after an hour, I knew where to go, what to do, and what needed to be taken care of right away. (The Facebook groups are really helpful. There are a lot of different personalities, opinions, and while everyone is well-intentioned, it can be very overwhelming.)
Edit // There are a lot of Facebook groups, but there are also a lot of trolls on them. If you are going to ask a question, be sure to do a thorough search for the answer before you ask, otherwise, you might get torched. I would also put any amount of money that the question has already been asked and answered, so let the search bar be your best friend.
Google is your best friend. You can figure out just about anything with a quick Google search. There is also an excellent USAG Stuttgart app that will answer 99% of your questions and you can make all of your appointments and find any number or email address on the garrison.
2. You only spend a few days where you in-process (Panzer), and there are buses that take you from base to base, so find something that is in a good location with public transportation if you aren’t going to have a car when you first get here. We are in Vaihingen. There is a train station and a bus stop right outside the door. Wes can walk to work and we have a lot of amenities in our neighborhood.
I really like being in town because it has forced us to get out and explore. We take the train all over the place, have found the amazing public pools, parks, shopped in the grocery stores, and tried lots of restaurants. (Hindsight, I would have booked something with at the very least a kitchenette. I would like to make my own breakfast or at least be able to have some food in our room. The service in the hotel is amazing, but a month is a long time without cooking anything.)
3. Get your APO box before you come. (Our sponsor did this for us months before we got here.) You need that address for most things when you are checking in. It’s easy to get and it’s nice to have an American address. And yes – Amazon ships here.
You can get most things shipped to your APO. Occasionally, you will find something that can’t, but I’d say 98% of what I’ve needed to order I had shipped with no issue.
4. Be open-minded. Base housing is mandatory. There are 4 bases, and they are spread out across the city. We live on one, Wes works on another, and right now the kids go to school on both of those bases. But next year, William will go to school on a different base. So we will be spread over 3 bases.
There isn’t a perfect housing situation here. Be nice to the housing people, they are just doing their job and using what they have available. If you are looking off base, a friend gave me a tip. She said that a lot of the houses they looked at were advertised as 3 bedrooms, but really were 5 or 6. Her “3-bedroom” house is HUGE and has plenty of room.
5. It seems like it is a huge deal, but it really isn’t much different than any of our other moves. Take a deep breath and relax. Everything worked out just fine (and in some cases better than I thought it would) and people have been incredibly helpful. Enjoy the process, it’s a really amazing opportunity.
(The Black Forest on the way to an alpine coaster. There are a lot of places to pull over and take in the view.)
Edited May 2019 //
I am typing this from my temp furniture dining table about to PCS back to the states. I wanted to come back and update a few things.
I get a lot of emails from people asking me if they really have to live on base. Yes, if there is space available, you will be assigned to a home on base. This is the most top-heavy base I’ve ever been on, and the rules apply to everyone regardless of service, rank, and situation. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to how they assign housing. You get what you get, and in most cases, sight unseen.
The housing situation is not great. Our house is really nice, I mean the process to get you assigned and in one. We lived in the hotel for 58 days before we were able to get into our house. The housing office has 60 days to find you a place to live before they can send you off post. It’s nuts. Once you get through housing, it’s a walk in the park.
Our house has recently been updated, it’s really clean and well taken care of. Zero complaints about the actual house. They are all stairwell apartments. The only single family homes are for FLAG officers. We live on the first floor and I rarely, if ever, hear my neighbors above us.
We lived on Robinson Barracks and it’s a 25-30 minute drive to Patch on back roads. It’s the closest to the city (there is a bus stop right outside the gate and a U-Bahn stop about 1 mile down the hill) and I feel like we really had the best of both worlds. We have the ease and security of base living and are able to really get a feel for living in a German neighborhood.
A benefit of base housing is you have both 110 and 220 outlets, so all of our appliances work. We also have some American channels and can get American Apple TV, Hulu, Netflix, etc.
The duty bus saves us. The five of us are spread out all over Stuttgart. The high school is on Panzer, the middle school on Patch, Wes works on Patch, Clay goes to RB Elementary. Sports and afterschool activities are on other bases, so the bus really helps us, and we have two cars. Will also took the U-Bahn to lacrosse by himself. Public transportation here is safe, clean, and the easiest way to get around.
Speaking of, we thought that we could make it with one car. It lasted for about two weeks. We could have done it, but Wes works weird hours and the bus didn’t always work.
What I wish I would have done before I left was figure out where I wanted to travel and made some arrangements. At the very least figured out what weekends and breaks we had to work with. We ran out of time to see everything that we wanted to. We put a big dent in our list, but there were a few we wish we had more time for. There is only so much time and so much money, use it wisely.
Our tour is just at 23 months. We spent the first 4 months living in temp housing and we are spending another 1.5 months in a temp living situation on the way out. You have to decide where you want your pain point to be. It’s easier to live on this side with less stuff so we had our pack out early. It takes about two months to get your HHG so it’s going to hurt on one side, you just have to decide which side you want it to hurt the least. Our car left a month ago and it surprisingly made it in less than a month so we can pick it up right away.
Living in Germany is pretty easy. A lot of the comforts of home are available to you here. More often than not, I prefer the European versions of things I was looking for.
Some things I wish I brought with me – Sprinkles and cake decorating stuff. (Super weird, but it’s something I use all the time.) Gift wrap and gift bags. Stock up on makeup. High-end makeup is really expensive here and while there is a Sephora, it’s not the same as the US one. When you see seasonal things in the commissary or PX, grab it. It goes really fast and unlike at home, it does not get restocked. For example, a few days before Valentine’s Day, the shelves are bare.
Some things to stock up on before you head back to the states – Winter gear. Decathlon is like a Dicks Sporting Goods but has really inexpensive, high-quality coats and gear, especially underthings for ski season. Christmas pyramids and ornaments. Do a French pharmacy run and stock up on all of the amazing lotions and soaps and balms. They are the BEST. I went to the grocery store in Colmar before our pack out and bought a lot of fun non-perishable things to open when we get settled and for next Christmas.
Overall, this is an easy place to live. I struggled a bit with the lack of choice. I felt like I had little agency over my life. I’ve never experienced being told where to live, where to go to the doctor, where to send my kids to school. I felt like I had little control. I resented being called a dependant and truly missed working. It took me a bit to wrap my head around it, and while I still am not thrilled with my lack of choice, I came to appreciate my situation. I couldn’t really work, so I used my time in other ways. I took classes, volunteered, traveled alone, and created a lot of work for myself. I had the space to think about what I want next. In a weird way, it was a gift. I still don’t like being called a dependant though. 🙂
There is so much available to you, take advantage of it and embrace the chance to live somewhere completely new and different. There have been lots of ups and downs, but I have zero regrets about coming here. We have had experiences as a family that will stay with us forever.
If you are headed this way and have a question, I am happy to answer you if I can. Send me a message through my contact page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.