Sunday, July 8, 2012
Military Monday - Things to Bring from the States
Availability of most items
Honestly, while living and shopping on-post most of the small things (hygiene products, household goods, food) that you need to purchase will be available. There are no guarantees but the PX and Commissary try to stock the most popular brands and so about 80-90% of the time, what you need will be available. But if you have a very specific taste or are very picky about brands, you may be turning to online shopping quite a bit during your stay.
Things may be "different" on the economy not necessarily better or worse
I talk a lot about things not being available at the PX and therefore you either need to purchase online or go out on the economy. If you are the type that would rather just head to a Real (German equivalent of Walmart) over ordering from Amazon, then I would just like to say that you are not out of luck. Products may look or function different than a similar product that you can purchase from the states, but it doesn't make it necessarily better or worse. Last Christmas was the first time Matthew and I celebrated the holiday on our own, meaning I had to do all the decorating. When we were looking for a Christmas tree we realized that we didn't have a stand for it and made a run to the Real. After Matthew pantomimed "tree stand" to the worker we were shown the only type that they carry. Every stand I had seen in the states just included a hole with screws that you tightened until they stuck into the base of the tree to hold it up. The one that we purchased had tightening system where you pumped a lever and it made the prongs on the side shift inward toward the base of the tree. You kept pumping the lever until all prongs were snug against the base and the tree was secure. Both products work well but are completely different in the way they function.
Amazon.com will still be your best friend
Even if the majority of your favorite products are available via the PX or the economy stores, I can almost guarantee that Amazon.com will remain a close and personal friend. If you become an Amazon Prime member you will be able to qualify for free shipping for most items and they are pretty good about getting it all to you within a week or two.
Difference between posts
Please keep in mind that my experiences may differ completely from your own. I live in a fairly small community which means we deal with a terribly small PX. You may move to a base that offers 100% of the products you love and will never have to set foot in a Real or visit Amazon.com. On the other hand, you may be like me and have anywhere from 1-6 orders per month through Amazon because nothing you need is available. Life Lessons of a Military Wife did a post on American products not found in her location. She is located in Belgium and I know for a fact that at least half of the items on her list are available here, at least at the commissary/PX. It can be completely different based on where you are.
Something I didn't know before I moved here was that there is a super sized PX located in Ramstein. I hate buying clothes online and the majority of clothes available at our PX is either designed for the middle school age group or women in middle age. It's great if I need to shop for work clothes (sometimes) but it can sometimes be difficult finding what I need. Ramstein offers many brands that we love including Victoria's Secret. If you're moving to a post that is within reasonable driving distance to Ramstein I would recommend setting a day aside to give it a visit. There is also a Chili's and Macaroni Grill located there.
So without further adieu, here is my list of items that you should defiitely consider purchasing before your move:
The one thing we didn't purchase that I wish we had before we left was a mattress. We've been sleeping on an old Full sized mattress for the past few years and I am beyond ready for an upgrade. I desperately want to upgrade to a King size and possibly a Tempurpedic because of the constant problems I have with my back. The problem... The furniture store has a very limited number of brands available and German stores do not offer King sized mattresses. We would either have to get a different type of mattress, size, or have to get it shipped from the states which would be ridiculous to buy one without testing it in store first.
2. New Furniture
Like mattresses, furniture in general would be better if purchased from the states. The furniture store on post is very limited with selection and as I'm learning from our newly acquired dining table, the quality isn't great even though the prices would make you expect high quality, or at least above average. Some things are easy to purchase from IKEA so buying before the move isn't essential. These items include, bookshelves, TV stands, enclosed cabinets, and desks (if you like the simple modern looking desks). Of course you can always go on the economy for your major furniture needs but when factoring the cost of the item be sure to consider the exchange rate whether the store accepts VAT forms or not.
3. Hardware for American Furniture (casters, bookshelf tabs, etc.)
There are hardware stores here. The most common store in my area is called Hornbach and is similar to Home Depot in the states. The problem with German hardware stores though is that many may not care the hardware required for your furniture that was purchased in the states. If any of your items require a specific set of screws, tabs, casters, etc. be sure to purchase extra before the move.
4. Extra Tires (snow or all-weather)
German law requires that your automobile uses the appropriate tires during cold weather. The general rule is that your tires should be switched to snow or all-weather tires for the months between October and Easter. If you have an American model car (like we do) that means purchasing tires online and paying to have them shipped. Additionally, you'll be risking an accident while you drive around with inappropriate tires. If you are involved in an accident and it is discovered that you have the wrong tires on your car, you will be put at fault even if it was the other person's doing. I will say though to those of you who are considering sticking with all-weather tires versus buying an extra set of winter tires, winter tires are far safer than the all-weather. This video shows the difference between the two.
5. Adapters (for before housing)
If you are moving into on-post housing then most likely your walls will have both 110v and 220v outlets. When you first arrive in Germany though, you'll be placed in a hotel and there are no guarantees that you will be provided with both. The lodge we stayed in, although it was brand spanking new and located on-post, did not have 110v outlets. Luckily we moved during a slow PCS time and the front desk still had a few on hand. Now, during the summer months though, people are expected to fend for themselves as all the rooms are maxed out. Adapters are cheap here, honestly about $1, so there's no need to do a major stock up before you come but do yourself a favor and purchase at least one before you come. It's no fun arriving and not being able to plug in your laptop, blow dry your hair, or charge your phone/kindle/iPad/etc.
There is no A/C in housing. None. There really isn't too much of a need for it since summers usually stay at below 85 degrees. Unfortunately, that means that on those really hot days you're left with a stuffy and hot house. The fans here, even purchased from the PX are ridiculously priced. A very basic standing fan is priced at nearly $35 dollars and they only carry the 220v so you can't even keep them when you move! Check for sales during these summer months and buy a few before you come.
7. Portable A/C
As with the fans, a portable A/C can be a great thing to have during summer months. Although, I didn't come across them often in the states, the times I did find them, they tended to be fairly cheap. The average cost for a portable A/C that is used is approximately $250. The new ones run at about $350-400. You can get by without an A/C, but if you are type that can't stand being hot, it's something you should keep an eye out for.
I purchased my new camera online only a few months ago but I wish I had it from the start. The second you get off the plane you're going to want to start exploring and taking pictures to share with family and friends. Having a camera that is of higher quality before you come will ensure that you don't have to retake photos later when you do decide to upgrade. Get it right the first time, is what I say.
9. Unlocked Cell Phone
A few lucky souls will be able to bring their unlocked cell phones here and still be able to use them. If you have a fancy smart phone that takes a SIM card, be sure to call your provider and ask them to unlock it before hand. If you do this you will be able to use your phone as a prepaid and many times with a contract as well. We had purchased DroidX's less than a year before our move. Unfortunately our phones do not take a SIM card so they were not transferable. Maybe you're one of the lucky few though.
I have no idea how many times I have told my husband that we need to buy a GPS. We have spent so many times in our adventures lost and with no back up plan. Of course our phones, being the non-smart phone, prepaid, type can't help us so we're stuck with our intuition which doesn't always work out. You can purchase a GPS from the PX here, which is what we'll end up doing, but if you're looking to start traveling the second you enter the country be sure you bring a GPS with European maps with you!
11. Special Electronics
You remember me saying that I bought my camera online while here? And a few posts back I mentioned something about an E-Reader? Well I would like to say that aside from having them when you get here for just pure convenience (being able to read on the plane or take pictures immediately), it really is much more of a hassle to order electronics while you're here. Most online vendors (amazon.com included) does not ship electronics to APO addresses. Therefore, we must order them and ship them to my mother who then takes her sweet time getting them to the post office to ship them to me. This means that we pay double the shipping cost and have to wait a really long time to get them. A lot of electronics can be purchased in stores but if you're looking at a specific camera or a specific E-reader, don't count on it being available.
Germany is a wet place and in the winter time it is very chilly. When we first moved here I only had "fashionable" boots that had 2-3 inch heels. After being here less than 3 days I knew my mistake and rushed out to buy a pair of boots that would keep my feet warm and dry. If you are heading here during the colder months, be sure to bring comfortable boots with you. I ended up purchasing the only pair that the PX had because I was left with so few options.