Tag Archives: United States


Sorry Military Families, You’re Not Expats

I realize that this is a bold statement. I realize this might offend some people who I have formed friendships or acquaintances with, however, having lived both lifestyles, I feel I can voice my opinion confidently (although it is based solely on experiences in Germany as shown below).

I truly mean no harm to anyone’s feelings. This is in no way some example of a lack of patriotism. And by no means is it meant to show ANY disrespect to the military,their families and the difficult roles they endure.

It’s a clarification on the use of a word.

It’s the truth.

Physical location is the only way in which this definition would loosely apply to you.

Let’s take a look…..

Military Families

  • You do not have a foreign bank account and still receive your income in U.S. dollars. You bank at American banks, on base, that are set up to utilize that particular country’s banking system.
  • You receive a USAREUR license, not a foreign driver’s license. While the test you take is similar, it is not as extensive as the one you’d take without your military umbrella. You are not required to attend any sort of driving school (aside from the short safety briefing) or have your license translated. The fee you pay is minimal in comparison. (last known, $10)
  • When you shop off-base you refer to shopping in the “economy”.
  • You have VAT forms making you exempt from paying local sales taxes.
  • When you file your federal taxes, typically your stateside residence is what is used thereby excluding you from sometimes providing information related to foreign income and savings.
  • Your medical insurance is still covered by the U.S. government and in most instances, you do not have to use foreign hospitals or treatment facilities.
  • You have a special SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) passport as well as your tourist passport. Your SOFA passport grants you residency in another country for the length of your tour.
  • You are exempt from paying international postage fees when mailing anything to and from the U.S. Along those same lines, you can receive mail from any company that ships to APO addresses from the states.
  • You are exempt from paying the local gas prices both on and off-base. (last known, $3.55/gallon)
  • You are provided COLA (cost of living allowance) with your housing and utilities paid for whether you live on or off base.
  • You are exempt from paying annual vehicle taxes that are required in Germany. Furthermore, you don’t have to pay for your car inspection.


  • We have foreign bank accounts, no access to U.S. dollars and pay bills through the foreign banking system.
  • Depending on what state you are from, in Germany you must either take the written and practical test, only the written test or you’re lucky and your stateside license transfers over completely. Based on those first two scenarios, you have to enroll in driving school. Furthermore, you must have your stateside license translated and pay all appropriate fees. We also must acquire our own study guides which are not always provided for free. (In my case, it’s a total of  €250)
  • The “economy” is my home, no differently than the U.S. is your home when you are there. Expats don’t use such terms as there is no other shopping option such as the commissary or BX.
  • We pay the sales taxes with no exemptions. (19% here)
  • We file taxes using our foreign address and in some cases are required to submit documentation from foreign accounts.
  • We are covered through insurance provided in our country of residence. We only utilize healthcare options available in our country.
  • We only have our tourist passports and must go through the visa/immigration process rendering us our residence permits.
  • We only have access to our postal system, thus paying high international shipping rates and no access to stateside companies unless they ship internationally (again high fees) or they have an international store.
  • Obviously, we must pay the local gas price which as of now is around $8.55/gallon in Germany.
  • We don’t receive any kind of financial assistance or benefits for being an American living in another country.
  • We pay, on average, €100 per year in taxes for our vehicle and the inspection costs €90 every two years.

Bottom Line

Expats live according to the laws and governing systems in the countries in which they have chosen to reside. Military families receive benefits for their service and maintain as close to an American lifestyle as possible while living in another country. Both choices are voluntary, but very different lifestyles.

I absolutely agree that military members and their families should receive these benefits.

I completely disagree that you should call yourselves expatriates.

While you may live here in the physical sense, you don’t live here. Take away access to your American life, fully divulge yourself into the lifestyle and culture of another country, follow their rules and systems and only then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Yes, I once lived overseas as a dependent of a military member.

No, I never, not once, called myself an expat.

But I do now.

I have no ties to my “American” life aside from family and friends in the U.S. I fully embrace Germany as my home and do my best to live here just as any German would; no exemptions.

I live my life solely as an American expatriate in Germany.

I am an Expat. 


I’ve Never Liked Roller Coasters

I didn’t know it would happen, but moving to Germany the first time back in 2008 changed me. It changed me in a way I suppose I can never get back. I’m not sure I want to, but I know this new person has always felt a constant longing ever since. There is always a piece of my heart missing and I suppose there always will be.


I moved back to the states in 2010. When M joined me in 2011, I truly thought we would be there for several years. However, we hated it which was completely unexpected. Sure, we moved to the Midwest, which looking back I know was a mistake. I’m a West Coast girl and I longed for that kind of lifestyle. We did our best to make it work, but as you know the pieces of the puzzle just never fit.

We moved back to Germany.

And now, I still long for the West Coast. I miss my friends. I miss my family. We both love Las Vegas and we have the kind of friendships there that sometimes feels like only come around once in a lifetime.

But, I love Germany and the type of life my family and I can have here. There is so much security to be offered in a socialized government system. Life is more simple. Life is less stressful. Traditions are honored and maintained, such as Christmas. To experience Christmas here is like walking through a magic wonderland!

the-roller-coaster-largeAnd so, the roller coaster of life goes on. You expect ups and downs in life. That’s the nature of the beast. But for those of us who have two homes in two separate countries, our hearts are always divided. If we chose to live in Las Vegas, we would miss the best parts of Germany. By choosing to live here, we miss the best parts of Las Vegas. It feels like a no-win situation.

But in the end, you make a choice; the choice that you think is the best for your future and your family. It’s not necessarily the one that’s best for your heart.

For all of our family and friends back home, we chose this, but know it wasn’t easy. We miss you being a part of our lives. We think of you always. We love you all .

Advice To My Pre-Expat Self

You know, I realize that I don’t write that much about being an expat. You don’t see envious travel pictures from me weekly. I don’t write that often about all of the great things here in Germany or complain too much (except for this time). If I had to give a reason as to why, I could sum it up in just a few words: being an expat is hard. expat advice

As most of you know, I only moved to Germany in May, so we are coming up on my 6 month anniversary this week. We moved overseas in a pretty unconventional manner; no jobs, very little belongings and a one year old. We have family here and we did have a place to live, but we started over. ALL OVER. On top of the stress of that, I was learning an entirely new cultural system. I had lived here before so the culture was familiar, but the system (insurance, housing, day-to-day stuff) was all new. I had no ties to the American military base (aside from some friends I still have here). So this was the real deal.

That being said, it’s hard to write about some of my experiences right now. Many of my days are spent just on every day life and trying to get settled. We are still climbing up that big hill rebuilding our life.

So, when I saw this month’s Expat Q&A from Belinda and Bailie, I thought it so appropriate! I have joined in before, but haven’t in a while as the prompts didn’t necessarily fit into my life. Boy, do these questions fit! M and I actually had a conversation about these things last night!

Be Patient. Be Kind. I am an impatient person by nature and looking back, I would have told myself to be patient and kind. I was (and still am) very hard on myself and just expect so much to happen so quickly. I knew it would be different this time, but I didn’t realize it would be THIS different. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my decision and I still know it was the best decision for our family. I just had no clue how overwhelming it would all be, especially having a toddler. So many other things to worry about and take into consideration when you have a little one in tow. Plus, when you have children as part of this expat equation, there is very little time to decompress from the brain overload you experience when suddenly being immersed into another culture. So, I would be kind….kinder to myself. I can look back and see that girl struggling so much  to get everything right the first time and then beating herself up when she didn’t. It’s not necessary. It’s not needed. You don’t have to learn everything at once and it is just not possible anyway. The language barrier will be a struggle and it is hard to learn, but you will get there. You won’t know what to buy at the grocery store, what to buy at the drugstore, where to find the things you need, but eventually, you will. So, be kind to yourself. It’s going to be hard, don’t make it harder. 

This is such a great question and one that I think makes most of us expats feel better knowing that everyone else is just living life also! When you dream about moving to another country, it’s only natural to romanticize it. I dreamt of walking along the river, going to the bakery daily for fresh bread and pastry and having more time with M. It’s close to that, but as I mentioned, we are so busy trying to rebuild that it takes precedence over other things. It has to and that’s just life.

We have to rebuild our home so we have clothes, furniture, appliances. We have to buy vehicles to get around. We have to make doctor appointments and buy clothes for our ever-growing little boy. Rebuilding our life and taking care of our son come first. If there is any time or energy (or opportunity) left, then it is for us. And honestly, that is how I reconcile it. I have moments of disappointment where I wish there was more fun and excitement, but then I remind myself we did this. This was a choice and no one made us start our lives over. It will take time and this is only temporary. As the saying goes, “Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle”. We just aren’t there yet and that’s okay. Someday, we will be in our middle and someone else will be just starting, looking at us and feeling how we do now.

Found Love.  Now What?

A Reverse Bucket List

Well, this has been one busy week and I for one, am happy it’s Friday! I had the most lovely day yesterday at our dear friend’s wedding to which there may be a couple of pictures of my boys shared later because I just can’t help it. I think they are the most handsome boys in the world! {gush over}

So for something fun to end the week, I thought I would share a reverse bucket list. I just recently heard of the idea from Erika and I loved reading hers! As you know, I’m a big fan of her blog and thinks she has some great ideas, so when I read this of course I was all in! I’m not sure if I can hit 100 like she did, but we will see.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, a reverse bucket list is just what it sounds like; a list of what you HAVE done instead of what you hope to do. I think it’s a great way to realize just how much we actually have accomplished in our lives. For someone who is goal oriented and always looking towards the next accomplishment, this is a great exercise for me!

I hope you enjoy reading my list and if you decide to do one of your own, definitely come back and share the link with me so I can read it!

  1. Own my own home. It was brief, but I did.
  2. Get a college degree. I got three of them: my Associates, Bachelors and Masters.
  3. Go to the Bahamas.
  4. Parasail in the Bahamas.
  5. Go to Europe. (I’ve been to Germany, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy)
  6. Go to Portugal. (I’ve been to Lisbon, Sintra and Porto)
  7. Go to Washington, D.C. and tour the Capitol, see the Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
  8. Go to Berlin. I’m in love with the history of this city. I’ve been twice.
  9. See Alanis Morrisette in concert. Don’t judge me. I love her.
  10. See Incubus in concert. They are one of my favorites and I’ve seen them 5 times.
  11. See Fleetwood Mac in concert. Here’s one of the classics and I still have so many more to go.
  12. Go 4-wheeling through the sand dunes. (Nevada)
  13. Go 4-wheeling starting off in one city, along a mountain, through a forbidden area and ending up in a totally different city all the while in a Toyota 4-Runner, not an ATV. Awesome. (Nevada)
  14. Stand on the four corners in the US basically being in 4 states at once. (Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico)
  15. Go to Mardi Gras.
  16. Sing for the Pope.
  17. Stay the night in a convent.
  18. Find my soul mate.
  19. See a Cirque Du Soleil show. I’ve seen 4 so far.
  20. Take a fun weekend party cruise to Mexico.
  21. Go to Napa Valley and tour the vineyards with many wine samples.
  22. Go to a professional sports game. M and I saw the St. Louis Cardinals on his first trip to the states.
  23.  Take a boat cruise alone The Seine River, France.
  24. Tour The Louvre.
  25. Tour The Vatican.
  26. Go to Cape Cod and put my feet in the Atlantic.
  27. Go to San Diego and put my feet in the Pacific.
  28. Try to snowboard; take lessons.
  29. Be on a bowling league.
  30. Be a Big Sister for  Big Brothers &  Big Sisters.
  31. Be a wish grantor for the Make A Wish Foundation.
  32. Work with terminally ill children. Best thing I have ever done.
  33. Take last-minute, spontaneous road trips.
  34. Be a bridesmaid.
  35. Have a child and become a mother. 
  36. Ride a ferris wheel - this is huge for me because I’m terrified of them!
  37. Go to a zoo - my first was in Germany at age 32!
  38. See a wild horse while hiking to the top of First Creek in Nevada.
  39. Travel the Mediterranean Sea by jet boat from Naples to Capri.
  40. See the Blue Grotto while in Capri.
  41. Eat spaghetti in Rome.
  42. See the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 
  43. Drink Belgian beer in the Grand Place marketplace in Brussels. 
  44. Get a tattoo. I have 3 now.
  45. Piercings….well I have had 9 including the 2 “normal” ones on your ear lobes. I now only have 4, all on my ears but my not my ear lobes.
  46. Fly in a private plane. Definitely will never do that again. (Texas)
  47. Go jet skiing. (Nevada)
  48. Camp in the mountains. (Utah & Nevada)
  49. Camp in the sand dunes. (Nevada)
  50. Camp at the lake. (Nevada)
  51. Hike through Red Rock Canyon. (Nevada)
  52. Tube the Virgin River through Zion National Park. (Utah)
  53. Throw a massive Halloween party, turning your house into a scary, haunted scene, complete with “blood” spattered walls.
  54. Take the Rhein River cruise. (Germany)
  55. Meet my half-brother for the first time.
  56. Take a road trip by myself.
  57. Go to a movie by myself.
  58. Obtain legal residence in another country.
  59. See Hoover Dam.
  60. Ride in a limo….I’ve done this many, many times living in Vegas.
  61. Be a passenger in a VW 4×4 Beetle as it races through the desert and jumps over 6 feet in the air.
  62. Go to Disneyland.
  63. Go to Shedd Aquarium & Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.
  64. Go inside the top of the St. Louis Arch and ride the crazy contraption to get up there! 
  65. Learn how to change my own oil, tires and brakes.
  66. I have shot a gun at the range several times and used to own one.
  67. Go the NHRA drag races in the states and Hockenheimring in Germany.
  68. I’ve done my share of clubbing in Vegas, had VIP and table service, danced on the rooftops, bartops and after-hours parties.
  69. Spend the night in a log cabin.
  70. Ride the U-bahn in Germany, Paris Metro.
  71. Took my first real train ride when I went from Rome to Naples.
  72. Go to fasching among other German festivals. This is just my favorite.
  73. Go on a Port Wine tour and tasting in Porto, Portugal. 
  74. Ride an ATV through the mountains.
  75. Toast in the worldwide Guinness toast.
  76. Try on some shackles while visiting a German castle. 
  77. Be in a marching band.
  78. Go to the Notre Dame in Paris. 
  79. Watch a scary movie by myself, alone.
  80. Be trained and certified in crisis intervention.
  81. Be a medical social worker in a children’s hospital.
  82. Try sushi. I did and I love it!
  83. Create and implement a whole new program into an organization.
  84. Make the Dean’s list in college.
  85. Go to the Detroit Auto Show.
  86. Learn to drive a stick. My first car was a standard, I’m proud to say.
  87. Go snorkeling in the Bahamas.
  88. Cook a Thanksgiving dinner on my own.
  89. Give food to the homeless.
  90. Go to a German football (soccer) game. I even wore the gear that M bought for me! So fun!
  91. Paint a room in my house on my own.
  92. Get Lasik eye surgery.
  93. Put blue streaks in my hair.
  94. Change my hair color.
  95. Pet a snake.
  96. Marry my soul mate.
  97. Own my dream car which was a Toyota Tacoma quad cab 4×4.
  98. Walk, dance and play in the rain.
  99. Stand in a church older than my home country.
  100. Choose to be a survivor, not a victim.

Phew! There you have it. They are in no particular order and I tried to share some photos along the way. I also kept it positive and left some of the “darker” accomplishments out by summing them all up in the last one. I also could’ve gone on about my travels, but I wanted it to be more than just the places I’ve been.

Let me just say, it was amazing to take this mental tour of my life. I know I am blessed to love the life I have lived, but to see it on paper makes it all the more real and all the more amazing. I hope you’ll share yours with me.

Five Simple Things #6 {American Expat Style}

Happy Wednesday friends! I hope you are all enjoying your week. If you’re having my kind of week, you’re on your way to finishing a case bottle of wine so far this week. That being said let’s take a look at last week….hmm….that one is not much better.

  • The United States begins a government shutdown resulting in closures of federal and public facilities which results in furloughs which results in a continued spiraling domino effect.
  • The company I used to work for (Indiana University Health) completed a planned lay off of 933 employees most of which came from the downtown Indianapolis area. I knew many of these people and several were colleagues.
  • A close friend of mine had a tragic incident with a family member.

That’s just naming a few things which I think are significant enough without going on any further. My point is that last week sucked for many, many people. While these things did not necessarily impact me directly, it doesn’t negate the fact that they affected me.

In lieu of all that seriousness, sometimes gratitude isn’t enough. Sometimes you need humor. You need to find something to laugh at to relieve the stress or sadness. You need to remind yourself of the little things even more which brings me to this week’s showcase of my five simple things.

For last week, I could sum up being thankful for one thing: military families. I am lucky enough to be acquainted with (hopefully becoming better friends with) some Americans who are stationed here with the military. They were kind enough to share with me a few items I can’t get in Germany.

cheerios1. Cheerios. The monster loves these and I have to say, I do too. They sell some similar things here in Germany, but they are just not the same.

cereal bars2. Cereal Bars. They have nothing like this in Germany. You can buy fruit bars or granola bars but not what we know as cereal bars. The monster loves these as well. Are you noticing a pattern yet?

turkey bacon

3. Turkey Bacon. Ok please forgive the horrible picture, but I thought while sharing that I have 5 packs of turkey bacon in my freezer, I could also show a typical German freezer. And how do you take a good photo of the inside of a freezer?? Yes, you can buy larger ones, but most are this size and many only have chest freezers in their basement. Anyway, back to bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon? Yes, they also sell it here (speck) but it is very different. Plus, I like the lean version that turkey bacon has to offer. My favorite sandwich is a BLT. I could live off of these and I’m not kidding about that. I’m so happy there is bacon in my freezer that I almost can’t eat it. ALMOST.

tortilla chips

4. Tortilla Chips. Oh for the love of all that is holy, tortilla chips. I have missed you. Again, they sell these here too, but they taste like the fat-free baked version; a little like salted cardboard in my opinion. For the life of me I can’t figure why they would taste different. I’ve heard it’s the oil they use, but for whatever reason they do and it’s another thing that just can’t be substituted.

pop tarts

5. Pop Tarts. Well you know, what kind of American would I be if I didn’t get some? Haha. Only kidding. I honestly wanted these for a “special” treat for the monster to give him to help ease the tantrums he has been throwing while out shopping. I do like them too, but it’s something I could live without and they definitely aren’t healthy in any way.

Those are just a few of the food items I miss from home. I am so thankful for being able to receive these. It is a wonderful treat and like I said, we are so excited that we are hoarding everything and almost afraid to eat it!

What are some food items or products you miss from home? What are you thankful for?

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal