The Transition to German Life

A few months ago, there was a knock at my door. It was my neighbor, and apparently, my Mayor. A conversation ensued about Americans living in German neighborhoods. The purpose of his visit was to find out how well we were integrating into our village. Following a great chat, I unwittingly agreed to a follow-up interview to be determined later. Several weeks later, I received a call and an interview was scheduled…

I joked with my husband that by the end of the interview I would be given the “keys to the city”. A lovely German woman and a friendly young man came to my house on a very welcomed warm day in the early summer. We sat outside on our patio and talked about the things I enjoy about living in our village.

transition1© Cheryl Koller

Their concern was that Americans are not quite sure how to approach and befriend our German neighbors and that we might not know common local courtesies. We also talked about my knowledge of local businesses and whether or not we knew about the many events that happen (literally) in our own back yard.

wasgau© Cheryl Koller

During our meeting, I mentioned that upon arriving in Germany I took a class called “Ramstein Spouse Orientation” at the Airmen & Family Readiness Center. As I explained exactly what this meant, it occurred to me that many might not even know about these integration opportunities.

As our interview ended, I jokingly asked if I had passed the interview process and would now receive recognition by accepting that “key to the city”. Never missing a beat, my two lovely guests were willing to oblige.

transition3© Cheryl Koller

Considering that the summer is a high PCS season, I thought this was be a good time to meet with the readiness center and share with you the options available:

Hagen Volke is the Cultural Adaptation Liaison Officer at the Airmen & Family Readiness Center. Before taking this position, he taught German at the Community Center for 5 years. Hagen is a great resource! First, he is married to a woman from South Carolina so that makes him just southern enough to understand my Georgia accent. He also has a rich history of military experience here in Germany and he is one of the first German men I met once we moved into our home here. He has a great sense of humor and a welcoming personality and I have always found him willing to help me out whenever I can’t figure something out for myself.

transition4© Cheryl Koller

The Airmen & Family Readiness Center is in Building 2120 on Ramstein Air Base and is just across the street from the NCO Club. They share a building with the Education Center and Civilian Personnel. They offer a variety of classes for your transition assistance. The Ramstein Spouse Orientation Class was established in 2010 and helps spouses with in-processing challenges. In 2012, they were awarded the USAFE Best Practice. The FREE class is offered every Monday from 8:30 AM – 14:30 PM and covers everything from cultural differences and awareness, dos and don’ts, Passport requirements for travel, driving, and the intimidation of first time recycling. In addition, speakers are present from the Red Cross, Tricare, Ramstein Officer Spouses Club, Non-Commissioned Officer Spouses Club, and a variety of others.

A second class that is offered is “What is What”. This is a day trip to Globus. My daughter and I did this in our first month and it was tremendously helpful since we had never lived in Germany before. This FREE class allows for 20 participants and you must register in advance. It is offered on Thursdays, leaving the center at 9:00 AM for Globus and returning at 13:00 PM. It is basically a “how to shop” on the German economy class ~ teaching lots of handy tips about local products, saving money, VAT information, etc.

transition5© Cheryl Koller

The third class that I am familiar with is the Intro to German class. This is four German language classes that are held on Tuesdays from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM. You will need to register in advance for these classes. You are encouraged to bring your lunch. This is a very basic “need to know” German language class giving common situations in shopping, dining out, emergencies, and some basic conversation.

Even though these are the only three classes I have participated in, I know that there is a variety of programs offered. Please feel free to stop in and gather more information for the assistance that will make your transition to living in Germany a pleasurable experience.

Author’s Profile: Cheryl Koller is a native of Georgia. She is a DOD spouse, mom of 4 daughters (2 adults, 2 teens), thrill-seeker, avid traveler, and lover of food and wine. She is a self-proclaimed Freedom-Preneur and Blogger currently living in Ramstein with her family.

Featured Image Photo Credit: © Cheryl Koller

Categories: Family Life, Newbie Tips

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