Top 10 things every single Soldier should know about Germany
September 10, 2012
1. A little German goes a long way.
One of the hardest things for Soldiers to get used to is the language difference, and, who can blame them? You probably had no idea you could end up in Germany, and now that you're here you're reeling from the culture shock. No worries though, help is here. Your Army Community Service probably offers German as well as cultural tidbits. Your on-base Education Center likely has classes offered by any of the accredited colleges there. But if immersion is your method of learning -- that is, you want to be steeped in the culture with a teacher who doesn't speak English -- then sign up for German classes at the city's community college, known as a Volkshochschule. Schools typically offer German classes year round.
2. Trains don't run from midnight to 0500.
You're in the mood to travel, and you've managed to figure out the train schedule and hop on the train. You get to your destination, have a great time and now you're ready to come back and hop into bed. One problem: It's past midnight and you're stuck miles, and possibly hours, away from home. A taxi costs more than you can afford. Walking is out of the question. Don't live this story. Remember, if you're going somewhere late, either have a plan to spend the night somewhere, a ride back or the money for the taxi. Also, make sure to check the train schedule before you leave home at the Deutche Bahn website.
3. There is ALWAYS something to do (beyond boozing), and someone can help you find it.
Ah, the plight of the single Soldier. You've got time to kill and money in your pocket. The world is your oyster (or is it your German bratwurst?), but you've nothing to do! There are people that can help and the BOSS program, Outdoor Recreation Center and the Sato travel office are perfect places to start. Trips, activities, parties, theme parks, adventures are all available so you've never got a reason to say "there's nothing to do."
4. Drinking responsibly is easy, someone will always call you a taxi.
Okay. Let's get down to brass tacks. We can agree only two causes of DUI are, of course, drinking and failure to plan. Let's eliminate the latter of the two right here. Know your local taxi number. Put it in your phone, write it down and stick it in your wallet. Do it right now. This number could save your career and life. Also, let's say that maybe you've had a bit too much to drink and lost your phone, or forgot the number, or your phone's dead. Guess what the German word for "taxi" is? Yes, the German word for taxi is "taxi." Just say it to the bartender or person at the door and they'll be glad to help you out. Remember: no one wants a drunk driver on the road.
5. I promise, someone can help you with that.
You're in a new place, and it's natural to feel like you're all alone, or to want to figure everything out by yourself. That's not a good idea. There are many organizations here in Schweinfurt that can make your life much easier. Looking for something to do, or people to hang out with? Try BOSS! Feeling adventurous? Go speak to the great people at Outdoor Rec. Need to take a class on…well…anything? Army Community Service is there to help you every step of the way. Need to speak to someone when things are getting tough? Military Family Life Consultants, the clinic's behavioral health department, and your local BOSS representative are glad to help you. The great news is that there are so many organizations that you can almost always find one suited to your needs. You don't have to go it alone, so why try?
6. Your Passport is like American express; never leave home without it!
So, by now I'm sure you've had the "Don't make yourself a target" briefing. Yet most people whip out their CAC every time they need to identify themselves off post. Do you know how to avoid that? Use your passport! Remember that, though Schweinfurt is your home for the duration of your tour, once you leave post you are in a foreign country. Iit's also necessary if you want to leave the country. Military orders won't hack it when you're taking leisure travel through France, Italy or anywhere else. Don't have a passport? No worries. Head over to your garrison passport office, usually at the Military Personnel Division office.
7. It's Sunday! Everything is closed.
So after a weekend of partying, you remember that you need to pay a phone bill or you want to go to grocery shopping on the economy. Too bad. It's Sunday. Don't be left in the cold. Get everything you need taken care of earlier in the week so you, like the rest of Germany, can rest on Sunday. When in Rome…
8. So! Everything's in euro…what?
The euro! Currency conversion is never easy, especially when you're paid in the currency that's on the bottom of the equation. If you're lucky enough to own a smart phone, invest in a good currency converter app. If not remember this: Multiply the amount in euro by 1.5 and that's usually a high estimate of your dollar amount. Better to round a little too high and be presently surprised, right?
9. Making friends makes everything easier.
It always makes things easier to be able to call someone in your time of need. Remember that and branch out when you can! The fact that you came from somewhere else is no reason to isolate yourself. Speak to people. Plug in. Remember, the people here want to get to know you. Give them the chance.
10. VAT forms: what, how, and why.
Germany has a 19 percent Value Added Tax on everything. VAT forms help you offset this tax, and buying them from your garrison tax relief office can save you a ton on services and materials such as clothing, furniture and car repairs. Remember, vendors are under NO obligation to take the forms and they're $4 each for purchases under ,2,500. So buying a few of these could save you some of your hard-earned cash.
Editor's note: Spc. Adrian Sherrod is a USAG Schweinfurt BOSS representative and contributing writer for the USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs Office. He's been stationed here for two years.