Whenever my husband and I got married on March 12, 2011, he was already stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. We arrived there after our lovely honeymoon in Wicklow, Ireland, in early April. We left that beautiful country in May 2013 and oh, how I miss it!
But if you’re about to PSC there, I have a few tips on helping you decide to live off base or on base, what to do while you’re there, and any other tips you might not have considered. January is my month of talking about my European travels and Ramstein is one of them.
TIP 1: Live off base.
Why should you live off base? I will tell you some good reasons why you should. First, you get to experience the culture of Germany firsthand. You get to participate in German life, festivities, and what it’s like living in a genuine German house. You get to experience shopping off base at the local markets. You get to see little old ladies walking down the street with their basket on wheels to go grocery shopping. You will be able to buy milk $0.50 a liter, which doesn’t go bad for 3 weeks. Let’s not forget about the history.
I enjoyed my little village called Weilerbach. We lived upstairs above our landlords (who were awesome) on one of the streets outside of town. This is what I saw everyday as I woke up and went to bed. The view was incredible!
|Looking out our bedroom window|
|The view from our street|
Weilerbach was one of the bigger villages in our local area as it consisted of four grocery stores, a “mall” (a little one), a dollar store, hotels, and restaurants. It also had its own form of history as one of the house was over 1,000 years old and the family was restoring in.
We took advantage of the walk ways that literally connected each village to one another. You could travel on these walk ways and every German walked daily religiously. Although we did not get into that habit, it was fun when we did take those walks. Nathan and I lived basically next to one and all we had to do was walk down the street.
|The walk path behind our house|
|View outside of town going towards Eulenbis|
They have markets all the time and one of my favorite markets was the Christmas markets! I loved going to the markets and discovering new items to buy for my family for Christmas that could only come from Europe. I also enjoyed the food during that time!
Another time I loved was wine fests that happen from August – October! I LOVED the wine walks! There was one in the next village that I enjoyed both years I was there where you would buy your little wine glass at the beginning of the walk and purchase a wine sample at each booth for €1. I LOVED doing this!
**Note: My husband reminded me that when you are looking for a house or apartment off base, try finding one with the heating oil already included in rent. This can get expensive during the winter months. However, if you can’t find a rental where it includes the heating oil, remember, they provide a budget for the whole winter and if you don’t use all the oil, then you’ll be reimburse for it.
Tip 2: TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL!
While you’re over there, I suggest that you travel like it’s no one else’s business! Travel as much as you can! And when the money is tight, travel in your local area! Seriously, you’re living in Europe so take the time and money to travel! Nathan and I used to hop in the Jeep and just start driving. We found so many gems along the way that no one told us about and were able to experience Germany in a whole new way.
The beauty of Germany is that each village is vastly different from the last. We went to a village called Otterbach, which was 10 minutes way, and the town and history was so different from Weilerbach! It was almost like a different world compared to our little Weilerbach world. So remember, traveling doesn’t mean going to other countries all the time, it can mean going to the next village to see what they have.
We found gems like Otterback, Potzberg, Bad Soberheim, Bundenbach, Daun, and Gries Lake. And all of this was just hopping in the car and getting somewhat lost.
|Daun Wildlife Park|
|Daun Wildlife Park; A baby Llama and me|
|Barefoot Park - The only natural barefoot path in Europe|
|Potzburg Tower - the View|
|The Park at the bottom of the Potzburg Tower|
Yes, you can travel big like we did by going to far away destinations like Paris, Berlin, the Canary Islands, or on an awesome cruise to the Mediterranean! I am going to give you some tips on traveling because most people may not know about these.
Ryanair is an airline in Europe that you can buy tickets for dirt cheap. I will warn you though, the tickets which are dirt cheap have to be searched for. I found Nathan and I round trip tickets to Rome for €36 each (that’s $44 each)! I also included the bus ride from the airport to the station for an extra €12 each. So in total, airplane and transportation cost us €96 ($117)! Of course, this was in late January, so this might have something to do with the cheap tickets. I heard of people flying for less than €10 before!
Nathan and I LOVED traveling by train! It was so easy and simple and fun! We always had a great time traveling by train. I am going to share some secrets with riding the train that I discovered on my own while exploring the train website.
When wanting to plan your trip, big or small, I suggest to go to bahn.com, which is the main train system throughout Europe. You can type in your traveling destinations and it will tell you the day, time, what platform the train will be leaving from. And the cost of the trip, of course.
Germany, much like any American state, is divided into “counties”. If you’re traveling within your county (for example, going from Kaiserslautern to Heidelberg), the cost of the ticket is much cheaper if you take advantage of the train’s offers. When we traveled, we purchased the Unlimited Travel pass, which meant we could travel all day (from early morning to midnight that night) for €25. If you do not get the offer, you could be paying up to €50!
By clicking Offers on the website, you’ll be able to find current and on-going offers through the train. They have Saver Fares, Group Discounts, and EuRail Passes.
If you’re traveling from one country to the next within a matter of days or weeks, I highly advise purchasing a EuRail pass as I felt like it saved me and my sister a lot of money.
Visit http://www.eurail.com/eurail-passes to discover more. The cost varies; I remember paying close to $400 to visit Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris within a matter of 6 days. The price depend on how many countries you visit; the more countries, the more expensive it will be. The EuRail does included speed trains. I remember we traveled on New Year’s Eve, going from Amsterdam to Paris, and since all the speed trains were full, we had to travel on the regional train, which was slower. But I felt our EuRail pass saved us money for that reason alone. We probably would have spent over $150-$200 if we didn’t do that (and this was only for New Year Eve, I’m not including the Berlin train ride from the airport, Berlin to Amsterdam, or Paris back to Kaiserslautern)!
Note: You may have to pay extra on speed trains. My sister and I only paid extra once and that was because the train was full and we were in desperate need of getting to Kaiserslautern (or rather I was. I haven’t been home in two months and I was ready to sleep in my bed!). We paid €23 extra to be on board the train in the loading section (where everyone boarded).
I had a friend of mine who had to pay extra as well when she rode the speed train from Kaiserslautern to Paris. I do not know why because all the stewardess could say was because it was a speed train (not much of an explanation). I highly recommend talking to the employees behind the counters or researching it before purchase.
We never traveled very far when we traveled by road because the gas prices off base was super expensive and we usually drove the Jeep. I would highly suggest on purchasing a GPS as we always got lost, especially from the airport back to Weilerbach.
Tip 3: Learning the Culture.
Europe is very free in how they express themselves. I am sure you know that, I mean, just think of Amsterdam. They may be very “free” in their thinking, but their culture is something entirely different than American culture. While some of it is fascinating, some parts are harder to grasp or take time to learn. I’ll try to give you some points on my learnings and observations while I was living there.
Germans are very cold. It’s not because they are deliberately being mean or wanting to be cold. But they are very matter of fact and have no sense of tact. The older generation is this way from what I observed. I had to learn that when a German was very untactful or what I perceived as rude, they were just being who they were – German.
I remembered when Nathan was deployed, I decided to dye my hair blue. This had always been a dream of mine and I was dying to do it because I had no parents or husband stopping me. So I did.
My landlord’s wife saw my hair and I asked her if she liked it and her immediate response was, “No!” While Americans might have put it in a nicer way, Germans are matter of fact and apparently unashamed of being blunt.
When running into Germans who are very blunt or what we may perceive as being rude, most likely it’s because their culture has taught them that.
Now the younger generations are not this bad like I said. I had plenty of German friends who were no where near that level of bluntness (of course these friends has spent some time in the United States and had developed our way of thinking).
There are different aspects of their culture and I’ve already mentioned one of them, but I’ll discuss some aspects of this to clarify my point of view more, both positive and negative.
· #1: Family life. Family life for Germans is very central to who they are. When we used to go out on walks, you’ll see young couples with their baby strollers walking together. What I saw was the husbands or guys pushing the strollers. Being parents was serious business and it seemed to be built in their culture. **NOTE** This not always the case. You’ll always have single mothers where the fathers of the baby is no where to be seen. Going on, families would sit down and eat dinner together on a regular basis. When children got older, instead of moving far away (like I did even though it wasn’t entirely my fault lol), they stayed in or near their local villages where their parents were. Many of the houses in the villages were passed down generation to generation. Not all families were like this, but the majority was.
· #2: Prostitution. Yes, prostitution is totally legal in Europe. From what I understand, they get really good benefits and get monthly tests. But I never saw prostitution because I never deliberately went into the Red Light District. I didn’t even know where they were in our local towns. Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl were the bigger towns near the base and they both had Red Light Districts. But if you have no interests, then you will not be looking for it. I only saw it in Amsterdam because we accidently found the Red Light District (I am being 100% honest here! We even had a guy who lived outside of Amsterdam guiding us through the city and he was trying to help avoid it for we were all Christians. I’m going to be blunt and honest: the Red Light District made me sick and I pity those who fall into that trap or who deliberately seek out the streets).
· #3: Beach Life. Nathan and I decided we wanted to go to the Canary Islands because I knew a guy who lived at the main island. I heard it was the Hawaii for Europe. They lied by the way; it’s just one big rock. Anyways, all the beaches were topless. As you can imagine, Nathan and I were a bit shocked at first and it was seriously awkward. But by day 3, we were used to it. I think this is why: it was their culture. It’s wasn’t a sin according to their culture – it was how they were raised. I couldn’t sit there and judge them because they were raised to go topless on beaches and it was okay. I’m not saying I agree with it, but this is what I observed and it was how I dealt with it. You don’t have to go to the Canary Islands to see this however for you can easily find it minutes away from your village. In Rodenbach, a village a few minutes away, they had a water park and the women went topless. I went to a lake to lay out in the field during the summer months and there was a topless woman there. I also saw a naked man laying out, but thankfully I am near-sighted and I couldn’t make out any details beside it was an old man. So be prepared to see some naked old men or topless women. But be careful not to judge so quickly for how can they know any better if they were raised that way?
· #4: Food. Europe has a strict law on what goes into their food so their food is minimally processed. They do not allow GMOs and Mountain Dew for sure (many of the ingredients in Mountain Dew is banned in Europe). Their food is fresher and better for you by a long shot. In Coke, they put real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup in it. You can literally tell the difference and it’s an amazing difference! Their chocolate is the best as its mostly dark chocolate, but it’s amazing. I LOVE dark chocolate now. I highly suggest to try their food as it usually lasts longer because it is fresher (milk for instance; it lasts up to 3 weeks). Bring your German to English dictionary with you and go shopping!
· #5: Fashion. I have to talk about this one real quick for Europeans make Americans look disgusting when it comes time to dress. Europeans have a stylist’s sense of fashion and they showcase it everywhere. One of the many things I loved about Europe was this! I never got into fashion until I moved over there. They know how to dress and make anything cute! When you move over there, notice the way they dress and what kind of fashion they have. Lucky for you, shoes are incredibly cheap (€3-€10 a pair) and when the sales hit, you can buy €60 worth of clothes and have several outfits. Trust me, their fashion style is better than ours and we can learn several, if not tons, of lessons on dressing ourselves.
If you have any questions about Ramstein AFB or moving there, please ask me. I did not cover all the things I wanted to, but I felt like I was writing a novel. I hope you enjoyed finding new information about your new home or on Germany in general. I hope to hear from you soon and am looking forward to any questions or responses!