Here’s a little I’ve learned in these past two months living abroad:
1)Knowing where to shop for food and home goods is absolutely key. And I do believe there is a workaround to just about everything. Even if that solution means ordering something online. Ask around, use CLO (Community Liason Office) as a resource, but I am telling you, things I didn’t think I would find here after going to 6 or 7 stores I ended up finding. So ask around.
2)Things will be different to what you’re used to, and that’s OK. Another country’s version of Mexican seasoning might be different from what you are used to, people might park cars on sidewalks, KFC might not have biscuits or extra crispy chicken breasts, but just roll with it. There will be things that each country has that you will love (hello Georgian food), and some that you don’t. That’s part of the adventure of living abroad.
3)PCS (Permanent Change of Station), A.K.A., moving from one country to another is brutal. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. It is stressful. PCS weight gain is a fact and the packers will try to pack things that they shouldn’t. But the good news is that you realize you can survive on few items, and it doesn’t last forever. And when you get your HHE, it is like the best day ever.
4)Embassy folk truly are amazing, giving, and so welcoming. I could not believe how quickly that they have become friends, sounding boards, and a wonderful support system.
5)Take language lessons!!!! Trust me on this, it will help with everyday life. And Google Translate is a lifesaver.
6)Having Facilities Management come and fix things around the house and hang up artwork is kind of awesome. As is packers helping unpack your HHE.
7)Use every weekend that you can to explore!! Go to all the parks, malls, aquariums, festivals, and things that you can. Take trips around the country or to neighboring countries. Take advantage of the fact that you are living in a different country for what is in the grand scheme of things is a short time and make the most of it.
8)Missing important events back in America kinda sucks. In the past couple of months we have missed birthdays, a high school reunion, and a funeral. Do what you can to be included such as FaceTime and let people know that you really wish you could be there in person.
9)Do what you can to maintain a “normal” everyday life. Subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or YouTube TV to watch your favorite shows, make FaceTime dates with family and friends back in America, and for goodness sakes occasionally suck it up and pay the higher price in the commissary for some familiar foods.
10)Leave as many U.S. electronics at home as you can (sell or donate them) and buy local electronics with local plugs and voltage at post. Even though we are provided a few transformer boxes, you will want your transformer for other more important electronics such as computer or the living room T.V. You don’t want to risk ruining your hairdryer, flat iron, or precious kitchen standing mixer or the transformer provided at post from using said U.S. voltage electronics. Also, you might have to use your U.S. voltage appliances in interesting ways, such as this:
Yes, that’s a griddle on the floor of our kitchen. Ahhh glamorous overseas life…