Culture College welcomes newcomers to overseas duty station
September 27, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - Sgt. Walter Stanley knew enough about living in Germany from his first tour of duty that he knew he needed to learn more when he came back for a second tour.
As a result, Stanley spent three days during the week of Sept. 12 taking Army Community Service's Culture College, which orients Wiesbaden's newcomers to the city and Germany.
"I highly recommend it, because everything here is different," said Stanley.
Stanley said he wanted to attend the college because it had been five years since he left his previous duty station in Illesheim, and a lot can change in that amount of time. He also wanted to learn more about Wiesbaden.
Stanley was among nearly 30 Soldiers, Family members and civilian employees who attended the third day of Culture College at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center Sept. 14. The day featured representatives from 21 local organizations, including ACS, the Red Cross and Tricare.
Culture College replaces the former Head Start program as a way to help people learn about their new community, said Annikka Trabucco, Wiesbaden ACS outreach coordinator.
ACS offers the program once a month and it lasts for three days, Trabucco said.
The first day of the training covers language and culture, the second day consists of a local walking tour and help buying train and bus tickets, and the third day informs people about local agencies, Trabucco said.
The training is a good idea for everyone -- even people who have lived in Germany for years at other installations, Trabucco said. Every installation is different, and the training is place specific.
For most people, however, the training will help take away some of the apprehension they have about traveling in their new host country, she said.
"We want to take away all their excuses for why they're not going out and doing things," Trabucco said.
Col. Jeffrey Dill, garrison commander, said at the Sept. 14 event that he encourages people to go out and explore Wiesbaden and nearby Mainz, which are both capital cities of German states. "There's a lot to do in Germany, and we're in a great part of Germany," Dill said.
Anemone Rueger, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden public affairs officer, said when newcomers leave post, they will find people in the Wiesbaden area are welcoming.
There are events throughout the year that local Germans encourage Americans to attend, including New Year's Eve celebrations, Fasching events and Christmas markets, Rueger said.
Several organization representatives pointed out differences between living in the United States and Germany.
For example, the drinking age off post in Germany is 16 years old for beer and wine, said Investigator Thomas Davis from the Directorate of Emergency Services, and parents need to be aware of that difference.
Also, Germany has quiet hours between 1 and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and all day Sunday, Davis said.
Authorities in Germany can also cite people if they can hear music more than 10 feet away from cars, Davis said.
Curt Parker, chief of client services for the Judge Advocate General, said the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides service members with several consumer protections in the United States, is not applicable here because it is a U.S. law, not a German law.
People also need to be aware of differences between contracts in Germany and the United States, Parker said. For example, in Germany, contracts are often automatically renewed annually unless specifically cancelled.
Jim Stammerjohan, chief inspector for the U.S. Forces Customs Wiesbaden Field Office, said it is necessary to be aware of customs laws that prohibit giving and selling tax-free items that Americans can buy in Germany.
There are certain times of the year, such as Christmas, when the laws allow gift giving, but it is important to contact the Customs Office and find out the details, Stammerjohan said.
Additionally, there are differences between living on U.S. military posts in the United States and Germany.
Members of the military and retirees who live in the United States are not allowed to shop at commissaries or post exchanges in Germany, Dill said.
That is because of the Status of Forces Agreement, the agreement with Germany that governs U.S. forces here, only applies to the Soldiers, Family members and civilian employees who live here, Dill said. The agreement allows tax-free purchases at the commissaries and post exchanges here.
Kristi Echegaray, a civilian business process adviser who works for the Defense Contract Management Agency, said she has traveled much of the world, but had never been to Germany before arriving for her job in July. She received a briefing when she first arrived in Germany, Echegaray said, but still learned a lot during the presentations.
Echegaray said she was not aware of all the programs Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation offers, and she was glad to hear about Value Added Tax forms, which can save people from paying 19-percent taxes on the German economy.
"As an American, you should be conscious of what you spend," she said.
Trabucco said people can sign up for the college by calling ACS or stopping by the office.
ACS offers the "first day" of the training on Monday and Thursday, the "second day" on Tuesday and Friday, and the third day on Wednesday, Trabucco said. That way, participants can choose the days that best fit their schedules.
Contact ACS at mil 335-5254 or (0611) 4080-254, or stop by the office in Hainerberg Housing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.