January 13, 2015

10 Things I learned from my first overseas PCS

No matter how much you read about PCSing overseas you are never really prepared until...well....you are never really prepared. Chances are you will forget something, panic, under pack, over pack and over all just stress yourself out about it. Moving to a new country is in fact difficult and nerve wrecking and full of unknowns but there are a few things I learned from my first overseas PCS that can maybe help you!

  1.  Social Media is your friend before, during and after your move
    • As soon as you find out where you are moving join the facebook groups for that base. There are always spouses groups (both official like the Enlisted or Officer spouses clubs and unofficial like "Yokota wives" or "Yokota moms and families"). You will likely meet many people who are arriving the same time as you are and you can learn a lot from the spouses that are already there, such as the best place to buy a car and cell phone/internet from personal experiences and not nice internet reviews that may not be true
  2. The earlier you send your things the better
    • I made a huge mistake here and waited until 2 days before we left to send our things because I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. I repeat HUGE MISTAKE! I recommend you send your HHG AT LEAST 2-3 weeks before. The longer you wait to send them the longer you are at your new base in your new home with no furniture or loaner furniture. Either way you can't really make it feel like home until you get your own things. Send them early and chances are if you have to wait for a home like we do your things will arrive before you get your things and then you can move in and have your things delivered within the same week
  3. Research the weather
    • Since you can only bring two 70 pound bags and a carry on per person it is a little difficult to bring all of your clothes so reach out on social media to people who are actually there and find out what the weather is like during the time you will be there. You don't want to be moving from California or Florida and not have winter clothes but be moving to Japan during winter (like me haha Shopping excuse anyone?)
  4. Don't solely rely on your sponsor....have a backup plan
    • A lot of the time you have this amazing sponsor who picks you up from the airport, arranges your lodging, has food and snacks for you and has all the information you need to be ready to start work on Monday. However for the other times when you have a really crappy sponsor who doesn't even show up to the airport (once again, yes, like ours) have a backup plan. Find out if there are shuttles that take you where you need to go, make sure your member finds out what to do the next morning if he cant contact anyone before you leave, get a base map from the hotel front desk so you know where you can eat. Just take care of yourself when you get there just in case someone else doesn't take care of you
  5. Research the customs of your host country
    • Every country has different things that are considered appropriate in public. For example in Japan PDA, eating or drinking and walking and being loud and boisterous in public are all cultural no-no's. Although they tell your spouse (and maybe you if you attend with them) during in processing there is a chance you will attempt to explore off base before you get to in process. Don't want o offend your host nation.
  6. Talk to the other people PCSing in the terminal while you wait
    • Chances are you will see them again during in processing and around the base. Don't want to miss an opportunity to make a new friend
  7. Everything will not go as planned
    • You get to your base, check into lodging, get your license and a car that week and a house the next. Perfect scenario and will happen just like that....until it doesn't! Just know that things can change, commands handle things differently (and at different speeds), wait lists may be longer, there may be an exercise and places are closed. There are many things that can go wrong and you've just got to roll with the punches...and that's okay
  8. Every kid travels differently
    • The advice that you read about how to help your little through that 10+ hour flight and multiple travel days, and this advice, is just that...advice filled with good intentions from their experience. Relax mama! You know your little! You know that after 2 hours he gets restless and needs to walk a little, you know that she will cry on landing and takeoff and no binky or lollipop will help. It's okay! people will survive if there is a baby crying or a toddler throwing a tantrum. No one will look down on you or judge you if you let them watch bubble guppies for 10 hours straight and eat goldfish so they don't freak out. You know what will get you through your flight sane. SO DO THAT!
  9. Learn the language
    • I'm not saying become fluent in German but learn to say common phrases such as Hello, Goodbye, Excuse me, Thank You, I'm Sorry (I say that a lot haha) They try to speak English and help you as much as possible but they really appreciate it when you try as well
    • This is the most important one! You are about to live somewhere and experience things that most people only dream of. That's awesome!! Scary..yes but still so so so awesome. SO embrace it, get out and experience the culture, meet the people, explore, take picture, make friends and make the best of your time there. 3 years goes by so quickly!
So that is what I have learned from moving from the states to Japan. What tips or lessons do you have from your overseas PCS journey?






  1. We're not military, but we moved to China in August--knowing as much as possible about the local culture ahead of time, knowing the language, and being flexible and willing to learn helped our adjustment a lot! Also, the fact that we started getting rid our our houseful of stuff about 8 months before we moved so there was no last minute rush to get rid of everything!

    1. You are so right! We started getting rid of things in our home way ahead of time and It is not only therapeutic but it helps you to have a fresh start when you get there and makes you be able to fit into the much smaller spaces! I never thought about the fact that it translates to Ex-pats living abroad as well! Thanks for reading Rachel!

  2. Great tips!! I will keep this in mind for our move to Germany!! 😃

    1. Thanks Lynsey! Can't wait to read your blog about Germany! Thanks for reading!

  3. This is definitely a great list of tips. I only moved to live abroad once and it was nowhere near to moving a whole house as I knew I was coming back. Great addition to the #BestOfTheBlogosphere linky!

    1. Thank you so much for reading!! I can't imagine how different the planning is trying to decide what to take with and what to leave since you were coming back. I'm sure that it made the move so much more difficult.

  4. What a great list! I cannot believe your sponsor didn't show up at the airport. That is insanely rude!

    1. Yes we were not happy! He called that night and said he forgot but later we found out that he didn't have a car so instead of arranging for someone else to meet us he just left us. Luckily we had an awesome friend that already lived here that met us just in case he didn't show since he had been flaky the entire process. Thanks for reading!

  5. Great tips! I definitely agree with you about reaching out through social media ahead of time. It's really great to be someplace new and feel like you already know someone there. Being new is hard, even as an adult!
    And as a regular traveler, I second you in saying that you need to do what you know is best for you and your kids when you travel. I have to remind myself that I'll probably never see anyone on the plane again besides my family, so I need to worry about them and not what other people think of my parenting. That being said, I do my best to make sure that my kids aren't the annoying ones, whining and kicking seats :)
    Amber at OurCharmedLife.net

    1. Being new is def one of the hardest parts to me! Also I agree with you 100% I don't let me son kick the sits or be overly annoying for no reason but I will never see them again so I don't care if they judge me for letting him snack the whole time or walk around the aisle a time or two