advice, Germany

The quest for housing in Stuttgart…

One hopes to find decent housing upon arrival in Germany… Stairwell living is like going to the dogs… (just kidding!)

 

I always get tickled when I see newcomers posting in our local Facebook groups, looking for housing ahead of time.  I definitely understand why they do what they do.  The prospect of looking for housing in a foreign country is daunting.  No one wants to live in a hotel for weeks on end, especially if there are kids or pets in the mix.  Bill and I have now moved to Germany twice and, both times, we spent weeks living in temporary quarters with two beagles (different ones each time).  I know how much that can suck.

In the fall of 2007, we lived at the Vaihinger Hof for about six weeks.  I’m not sure if the Vaihinger Hof is still operating.  The one thing it had going for it, besides extreme pet friendliness and tolerance, was that it was very close to Patch.  I also liked the people who were running it, although it was a very no frills hotel and not very clean.  The reason we were at the Vaihinger Hof and not a military hotel is that they were all booked solid.  This was before the Panzer Hotel existed; it was being built as we were leaving.  There were three smaller hotels on Robinson, Patch, and Kelley and all three were full.  We might have preferred the Marriott in Sindelfingen and, in fact, we spent our first night there.  But all they had available were the executive rooms, which were way more expensive than what we could afford.

In 2007, many of the housing units on the four installations in Stuttgart were being renovated.  There was absolutely no prayer that we would be living in a “stairwell apartment”.  So we started looking for a home to rent.  We put our faith in the housing office, which at the time, had a rather bad reputation.  I will stress that we were helped by the housing office and did find our first home in Germany through them– actually very quickly, if I recall correctly.  What kept us in the hotel for weeks was waiting for the landlord to get it ready for us.  He and his ex wife had gotten divorced, so he had many years of memories to sort through and relocate.  He also had to repaint the house before we could move in.  So we lived in the hotel and tried many of the restaurants in downtown Vaihingen, because we had no kitchen facilities to speak of at the Vaihinger Hof.

Still, the Vaihinger Hof was a lot better than this place…

 

When we finally did move into our home in Pfäffingen, it was pretty far away from all the installations.  It turned out to be great for us, though, because we don’t have kids and my husband doesn’t mind commuting.  I’m sure for other people who come to the Stuttgart area, the prospect of trying to find affordable housing close to work and school and with all the things Americans love in housing seems very difficult.  So they try to get a jump on it before they get here.  I won’t lie.  Finding a good house within your budget can be difficult and worrisome.  It’s a rite of passage we all go through.

I just want to say “I get it” to those in America who are stressing over housing in Germany and trying to house hunt from the States.  I did the same thing both times.  Both times, we ended up living in rather obscure towns well outside of the American hot spots.  The first time, my husband ended up paying slightly more than the housing allowance he got from the Army.  The second time, in 2014, we found a less expensive place.  What we pay is well under what his company gives him for housing.  But again, we don’t have kids and we don’t live close to the American action.  Actually, I kind of like it that way.

When we moved back here in 2014, we spent one week in a German hotel and then found a temporary apartment, where we stayed for three weeks until we could move into our current home.  We found both our house in Jettingen and the temporary apartment on Stuttgart Bookoo.  But, once you get here, you find that houses can be found in a variety of places.  In some ways, it’s a lot easier finding a home now than it was in 2007.  Facebook is a huge help.

When newcomers post in the local Facebook groups about finding housing, there’s often a tinge of eagerness, nervousness, and/or even a little bit of panic.  Although I know this advice is hard to hear and even harder to heed, I would NOT recommend trying to find a house before you get here.  The reason for that is that most decent houses get scarfed up very quickly.  This is a place where people are constantly coming and going, so rental housing availability varies on a daily basis.  There’s no sense in whetting your appetite for food you may never get to taste, right?  Also, if you’re military, there is a very real chance that you won’t get to live on the economy anyway, although again, the availability of government housing changes daily.

The most I would do is look for neighborhoods and communities you would be interested in seeing.  Don’t look at specific houses with a mind to rent them, though you might check out what they look like as a means of deciding what to bring with you.  Study the area and decide what you must have in order to be happy.  But, even as you do that, realize that you may very well end up somewhere else.  We did both times, and both times it turned out better than fine.

Don’t worry… your new home, whether on base or on the economy, will look better than this.

 

When people tell you that you might not be able to live off the installations, understand that they really are telling the truth.  If you are here with the military and housing is available, you’ll have to take it, make a very convincing case for why you can’t take it, or pay out of pocket for your housing off base.  Of course, some of the people telling you about this requirement may simply be slightly embittered because they live in stairwell housing and don’t like it.  On the other hand, other people actually seek housing in stairwells or move there against their will and end up loving it anyway.

Really, our community is mostly very friendly!  The people telling you not to get your hopes up about living on the economy are not “crushing your head” by telling you that you might have to live in a stairwell!

There are some advantages to stairwell living.  It’s close and convenient to all things American.  The commute is fairly easy.  It may be easier to make local friends.  You don’t have to worry about idiosyncrasies of German life, like dealing with landlords and neighbors who don’t speak English.  Of course, living in stairwells also means sharing walls, losing privacy, and communal living among people who may not share your sense of community pride.  But you can take heart in remembering that nothing is forever.  Even if your housing situation sucks, it’s only temporary.

The advice I would give to newcomers is to try not to stress too much about housing.  You really can’t control it too much from afar.  German landlords are usually fairly choosy and they will want to meet you and your family before they rent to you.  Also, even if you look from afar, as we tend to do in the United States, you won’t get the best idea of what the neighborhood is like.  Bill and I made the mistake of looking from afar when we moved from Fort Bragg to Fort Sam Houston.  We visited the neighborhood, but weren’t able to see inside the house ahead of time and, instead, relied on pictures.  We were too eager to get out of the hotel and spent a year in a house we hated.  Fortunately, it was only for a year.  I will not make that mistake again (and hopefully I won’t have to, now that Bill is retired).

Instead of focusing on the house hunt, focus more on what you’ll be bringing and leaving behind.  Consider that German houses often lack closets and do not have open floor plans.  Kitchens tend to be small and the electric current is 220 rather than 110.  I would recommend stocking up on dual voltage electronics and consider leaving 110 appliances in the States.  Ditto to bulky furniture.  Rooms in German homes are usually smaller and may not accommodate your big couch or television.  We do have two king sized beds in our house.  In fact, king beds may even be easier than queens, since they have split box springs.  Bear in mind that your staircase may be spiral and your doorways could be narrow.  And don’t forget to bring your seasonal stuff if that’s important to you.  The first time we lived here, we forgot our Christmas decorations.  I now have two trees and decorations for both.  When we leave, I suspect one or both of our fake trees will be left behind.

Well, that’s about it for my take on looking for a home in Germany.  Don’t worry.  You’ll find somewhere to live and chances are good that it’ll end up being just great.  Or, at least it will be habitable for as long as you’re enjoying STAUgart!  Welcome to the community and enjoy Germany!

*The photos above were taken when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia from 1995-97.  The buildings pictured were in the city of Gyumri, which was hit by a terrible earthquake on December 7, 1988.  As you can see, the buildings were still in a shambles in 1996 and ’97, when those photos were taken.  I have not been back to Armenia yet, but I’m thinking it’s looking better now.  You can read more about the photos and the earthquake here.

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anecdotes

People in Hell want ice water…

My cute little Mini when it was still pretty new…

Ever heard that expression?  The first time I heard it was while watching a movie about Patsy Cline.  Or was it Loretta Lynn?  I don’t remember.  All I know is that the movie was about a country singer.  I looked it up… it’s a quote from the 1985 film, Sweet Dreams, which starred Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline.  It’s a good film with some surprisingly funny lines in it.

Anyway, I’m inspired to write about how “people in hell want ice water” today because it’s PCS season.  For those not familiar with the military lifestyle, allow me to explain.  PCS means permanent change of station.  Summertime is prime PCS season for military folks around the world.  It’s when military families everywhere move to a new place to a new job.  Bill and I have been through it multiple times over the past twelve years.  We did spend several years in the Washington, DC area because he had two jobs in a row there.  But after that, we were constantly moving.  In fact, for the last seven years of his career, we never got the full three year tour in one place.  Three years is about how long the average job runs for a service member.

Now, if you are moving to a place in the United States, a PCS can be a bit of a pain in the ass.  But it can also be a good chance for a road trip.  Almost two years ago, Bill and I moved from North Carolina to Texas and I got to see a part of the country I had never seen before.  It was kind of cool, since most of the rest of our time was spent in the southeastern United States.  But we only lasted a year in Texas before Bill retired and we moved back to Germany.

An international move is a major pain in the ass.  Yes, it’s exciting to move abroad, but there are many more steps that have to be accomplished before your move is successful and complete.  The first time we moved to Germany, I had to start the process while Bill was in Iraq.  However, we had plenty of time to prepare and there was a lot of support.  The second time, of course, we moved as civilians.  We got little help from Bill’s company, aside from a paltry moving allowance.  It was okay, though, because we’d been here before and knew kind of what the process was.  And we had Facebook to help us.

This morning, I noticed someone posting about how they were looking for a car.  They want a cheap, older, yet still reliable car that seats four.  If you were in the United States shopping for a vehicle, that wouldn’t be so hard to find, right?  But when you are in Germany and most people have only shipped the one car the government will pay for, you quickly find out that reliable used cars are a hot commodity.  You may find yourself paying much more for a car here, just because they are in shorter supply and there’s a higher demand.  You might not get a car you like, either.

So I get a big chuckle when I see people in the States posting about wanting to buy a cheap but reliable used car in Germany as soon as possible.  It’s not that it’s impossible to do that, but more that there will likely be stiff competition for the “cheap yet reliable” used cars.

I must admit, last year when we were planning our move back to Stuttgart, we thought about only shipping one of our two cars.  We have a 2006 Toyota RAV 4 that we bought brand new in March 2006.  It’s paid for and reliable and we knew it would work here because we brought it the first time we lived here.  It also still has fairly low miles because for the first year and a half we owned it, it was my car.  I don’t drive very much.  I think we have cracked 100,000 miles by now, but for a nine year old vehicle, it’s not as long in the tooth as it could be.

The other car we own is a 2009 Mini Cooper S convertible.  We bought it here as we were leaving last time.  It’s paid for and wicked fun to drive.  Sadly, it still has low miles because it’s my car.  It needs some repairs, which I hope we’ll get next week.  Though it’s six years old, it’s only got about 23,000 miles on it.  I think it needs a new clutch, which it may get next week when we take it in for services (Minis are rather labor intensive cars).

Now, as we were planning our move, Bill and I thought long and hard about which car to bring.  Do we bring the tried and true RAV 4 with its ample seating and reliable track record?  That would be good for hauling around guests and our dogs, but it’s more expensive to fuel up and harder to park.  It’s also not as much fun to drive.  Or do we bring my less practical but way fun, easy to park, and fuel economical Mini Cooper?  It’s not as stress free as the Toyota is and won’t accommodate as many  people or as much stuff.  But I can put the top down and enjoy the autobahn during the two or three warmer months we enjoy here.  😉

Either way, Bill planned to either lease a car here or buy a cheap one.  We managed to get by alright with one car last time we were here, but it was frequently a pain in the ass for me (and for Bill, too, because he’d have to take off work to shuttle me to the dentist and the eye doc).  We did save some money, though, thanks to only needing to gas up and pay insurance for one car.  The Toyota was very new back then, so repair costs were very minimal.

As we were contemplating what to do, it occurred to me that in our case, paying to ship both cars was a better idea.  First off, both cars are paid for, so if one of them gets dinged, big deal.  They’re our cars.  Secondly, the cost to ship the cars door to door from San Antonio to Boeblingen was about $4000.  We would definitely have to ship at least one car, so we’d already be spending a chunk of money.  Thirdly, if we didn’t ship a car, we’d have to find a place to store it.  Not shipping a car, going only by a rough guess, might save us a couple thousand bucks… but a couple thousand bucks won’t buy a reliable hoopty in these parts.  And we also don’t know how long we’ll be here.  It could be until next summer or it could be until ten years from now.  As it is, I’m kind of fretting about some of the stuff we have in storage.

So I said, “Bill, let’s just send both cars over there.”  We did.  They were picked up in San Antonio in late July and we got them in mid September.  It took a bit longer than we expected and the cars arrived a bit dirty.  But the shipping company did let us put about 100 pounds of stuff in each of the cars, which did help us out a bit.  We were only allowed to move 5000 pounds of furniture here.  Good thing we don’t have kids!

When it comes time to move again, Bill may decide to buy himself a BMW, which he has been eyeing for awhile.  That may mean our older, yet reliable and low miles RAV4 may be on the lemon lot market.  Or maybe we’ll get rid of the Mini…  who knows?  All I can tell you is that finding used cars among military folks in Stuttgart is a bit like the infamous housing hunt.  It can take awhile and end up being expensive and frustrating.  On the other hand, buying our Mini from Cars International outside of Patch Barracks was hassle free.  Dennis, the guy who sold us the car, still works there and even recognized Bill recently after bumping into him.  I was impressed he remembered him after five years!

My advice to people moving here is to think long and hard about whether or not you really want to leave your spare car at home.  It could be that in your situation, it’s better not to ship the second car.  Or it could be a much better idea to ship it rather than trying to buy something used in Germany.  It depends.  If you have a fairly decent car that is paid for, you’re probably better off shipping it.  If your car has a big lien on it, it may be better to sell or store it.  Also, consider when you’re moving… PCS season will bring a lot of people looking for cars, but as people move in, people are also moving out.  If you come after PCS season, the pickings could be slimmer, but you may face less competition.

As summer approaches, I look forward to more posts that make me think of funny sayings…

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airlines, Germany

My review of our flight on Lufthansa…

So now that we’ve been in Germany for nine days, I’m ready to write about the long-ass flight we took from Houston, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany.  Although my husband Bill and I lived in San Antonio, we flew out of Houston because we had our two dogs with us and we wanted a direct flight to Germany.  A direct flight means fewer opportunities to lose baggage and live animals.  If we had flown out of San Antonio, we would have had to change planes at least once.

We also chose to fly out of Houston because Houston has more international carriers than San Antonio does.  Since we had our dogs, we couldn’t use Delta Airlines, which is usually our carrier of choice.  Delta won’t fly pets from May until September or when the temperature anywhere along the route is higher than 85 degrees.  In fact, all of the American carriers had restrictions.  We could have flown on United, which is the airline we used last time we moved to Germany, but we would have had to use their Pet Safe program to move our dogs.  It’s a cargo service and costs a whole lot…  and frankly, I’m not sure it’s any safer or more convenient.

Having done my research, I determined that flying to Germany on Lufthansa was our best bet.  Lufthansa has special areas for pets that are kept temperate and well lit and they take care not to put animals on the plane until the last minute.  The Frankfurt airport also has a pet facility that was built in 2011 that is supposedly pretty awesome.  I didn’t expect we’d need to use the pet facility, since we were going to be on the same flight with our dogs.

Aside from taking care of our dogs, I was kind of excited about flying on a European carrier on a transatlantic flight.  It’s been my experience that European airlines are better than American airlines are in terms of comfort.  Since we had to pay for our tickets (which means we have to reimburse Bill’s employer), we were able to book directly with Lufthansa.  Had we been flying on military or government orders, it’s very likely we would have been forced to fly on an American carrier.  I don’t know if this is still the rule– it was when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and last time we moved to Germany– but if you fly on the government’s dime, they make you take an American carrier for as far as possible.

Anyway, we had a really decent flight on Lufthansa.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was having to pay $35 each for two seats together.  We could have let fate determine where we’d be sitting, but Bill and I wanted to make sure we were together.  So we spent $70 so I could sit by a window and Bill could sit in a middle seat.

The guy who checked us in at Lufthansa had never dealt with pets before, so a co-worker came over and trained him as he got our dogs set up.  Then he walked us to the oversized baggage counter so the dogs could be checked by TSA.  Let me just say right here that the two TSA guys at the Houston airport were great with Zane and Arran.  I wish all TSA encounters were as pleasant.  Zane and Arran each weigh about 25 pounds and in their carriers, they weren’t too much heavier.  So though we were originally quoted $800 when we asked about how much it would be to fly with them, we ended up paying only $400.

The boys wait patiently in the airport…

Loaded up and ready to fly.

The Lufthansa flight itself was very pleasant.  Our flight attendant was terminally sweet and chipper and was happy to check for us that the dogs were checked in safely.  She brought us a before dinner drink and the wine flowed freely throughout dinner.  The dinner was some kind of chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes.  It wasn’t great food, but it was edible.  The wine helped.

The seat was reasonably comfortable and there was a monitor on the seat in front of us which allowed us to watch movies or listen to music.  I used my iPod and watched the progress of the flight; Lufthansa had kind of a cool Google Earth feature that showed a simulation of what was under the plane.  I liked seeing the names of places as we flew, too… especially as we got closer to Germany.

The carry on baggage bin above us was full of crew equipment, so we ended up having to stick our bags under the seats in front of us.  My bag was sort of full, so I ended up with less leg room.  Good thing I have short legs.

I didn’t try the breakfast.  I think it was some kind of omelet.  The thought of eating a pre-made omelet was too weird for me, so I passed.  Bill tasted his and said it was okay.  I ate the bread and fruit instead.

The guy who sat on the aisle with us was upset because his monitor quit working.  He summoned a flight attendant who did all she could, short of moving him to business class, to make him happy.  He ended up staying in his seat and the monitor eventually worked again.  I was impressed by how kind and efficient the flight staff was.  It really was a nice flight– especially since the guy in front of me didn’t recline.

The dude in the aisle seat wasn’t as lucky and got stuck with some American jerk’s head in his lap for most of the flight (he actually had to be told to sit upright for the meal service).  As we were sitting in the last row before the exit, we didn’t have anyone sitting right behind us, so for once I felt alright about reclining and also didn’t have anyone’s knees in my back.

The dogs were in great shape when we picked them up.  They weren’t real happy to be in the carriers and they were thirsty, but otherwise they came through the flight just fine.  It sure beat paying thousands for them to fly cargo or using a pet shipping service.

We need to go back to the United States in November, so I look forward to using the other half of that  round trip ticket.  I don’t like long haul flights, but on a European carrier, they are somewhat more bearable.

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international moves, Texas

The process of moving is beginning…

We served notice to our property managers.  I can hardly wait to ditch them.  I started some preliminary cleaning today because I am determined to leave this house in a better condition than we found it in.  Sadly, that won’t be difficult.  This house was totally nasty when we moved in last year and we’re expected to leave it in pristine shape.  Have I mentioned how much I hate our property managers?

Bill has been looking at houses in Germany and talking to the HR folks at the company that hired him.  He’s been by USAA to talk about what insuring our car in Germany will cost.  Right now, we’re planning to take one car, but I’m thinking it might be better to bring both of them.  The reason being is that my car is tiny and we know the other one will work in Germany because we took it there last time.  I don’t want to store my car, especially since I bought it in Germany.  We would rather take the Mini on trips, but when it comes to hauling the dogs or handling guests, the Toyota is a better bet.

We’re looking for a hotel that will allow pets, which shouldn’t be too difficult… and hopefully one with free WiFi so I don’t have to depend on the library at Patch to get my Internet fix.  I think I’m going to go ahead and buy a laptop if it looks like it’ll be a long wait for our stuff to arrive.

I’m still worried about bringing the dogs, though I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do it without any problems.  And we have to either break our cell phone contract or keep paying for services we can’t use… It’s freaking $1000 to break the contract, which sucks.  I just got my new phone at Christmas time and am not wanting to change it.

I’m about to purge some furniture, too…  I mean, I have some stuff that is hopelessly dated but serviceable.  We might as well ditch it, though.  My parents bought it for my sisters in the 70s.

This is going to be so worth it, though.  I am looking forward to trying out a few more beer spas and writing about them on this blog… I also plan more cruises once we have an idea of how flush with money we’ll be.

It seems like there are more resources now than there were in 2007, which is a good thing.  Bill has already impressed his new boss by finding the contact info for the HR lady in California.  The ball is starting to roll.

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international moves

We’re moving.

When we were in Germany last month, I told Bill that I felt like our trip would lead us back to Europe.  We met an American guy who worked in Belgium and gave Bill job hunting tips.  We saw my friend, Audra, and her French boyfriend, and they said they hoped we could come back.  Meanwhile, we couldn’t find anything suitable employment wise for Bill.  The jobs he was most qualified for were all abroad.

Even though the focus has mostly been on Europe the whole time Bill has been looking, I still didn’t want to let myself believe that we’d actually be able to go back to Germany.  I figured it was a pipe dream.

Well, the stars have aligned and Bill was informally offered a job in Stuttgart this morning.  A letter of intent is coming to him within the next 24 hours and if all is acceptable, which I imagine it will be, we will be moving back to Germany within the next few weeks.

I am feeling a mixture of elation and nerves.  I am elated because I know we’re going to a place we love.  Of all the places we’ve lived together, Germany was far and away our favorite, even though living there can be a pain.  We loved the stimulation of living near so many great places.  We liked the food and beer.  We liked the culture.

At the same time, moving back to Germany is liable to be a challenge on many levels, especially since we aren’t going there on military orders.  On the other hand, not going there on military orders is going to simplify things since I won’t have to get an official passport or a medical checkup like I did last time.  I probably could use either of those things, but they won’t be required.

I have also heard that the housing situation isn’t quite as dire as it was a few years ago, since the military is now making people live on the installations instead of the economy.  Fewer people are being sent to Germany on orders now, so there could be less competition for a home.  Last time we were in Germany, we lived in a cheap hotel for six weeks.

I don’t look forward to the long wait for our furniture to arrive, nor do I look forward to trying to find yet another place to rent.  I also don’t look forward to trying to move our dogs.  On the other hand, I know I love Germany.  We also have some things going for us that we didn’t have last time.  For one thing, we know the area and we already have some transformers so our electronics will work.  We even  know of a good place to board our dogs, though we have different ones now.

Anyway… very soon, things will be crazy again.  Hopefully, the transition will be as smooth as possible.  This blog is about to come to life in a big way… because when we live in Europe, we travel a whole lot.

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anecdotes

Now Belgium is a possibility?

So Bill has so far applied to several jobs in Germany.  If he gets an interview, it’s likely that he’d be a strong contender.  He’s done a lot of the type of work the jobs in Germany entail and we’ve already lived in the Stuttgart area, which is where the jobs are located.  I would be delighted to go back to Germany, even though the prospect of moving abroad again is a daunting challenge, especially when it’s with a contractor rather than the military.

But then yesterday, Bill sent me an email to let me know he’s applying for a job at SHAPE.  SHAPE is in Mons, Belgium.  I would love to move to Belgium.  It’s one of my favorite places for so many reasons.  I love the people, the beer, the frites, the mussels, and the chocolate.  It would not be a bad place to cruise into menopause… not that I’m showing any signs of hitting that right now.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, though.  The idea of moving abroad is both exciting and scary, even though I’ve done it before.  Because right now, we have to be able to make plans, and that’s hard to do when you don’t know what the hell is about to happen.  Moreover, trying to find housing in Europe can be difficult.  Last time we were there, we were in a hotel for six weeks.  We don’t even have kids, which can make finding a home harder (they have to have access to schools).  I suppose I could do it again if I had to, but again… different support for people not with the military.

Of course, it’s fun to fantasize about going back abroad to live.  There are a lot of good reasons to do it, even though it can be a logistical pain in the ass.  But I figure most moves are a logistical pain in the ass anyway.  And I do hope to move again, at least to a different house.

The job in Belgium would be a different type of job for Bill.  It involves computer security.  It’s pretty lucrative, though it’s been posted a couple of times.  Makes me wonder where all the applicants are, especially since it’s a government job.  It’s doubtful they would hire Bill, given that he’d have to switch gears significantly.  But I would love to move to Belgium… maybe even more than I’d love to move to Germany.  Or so I think I would, anyway.  If I’m unhappy, there’s always frites, croissants, beer, and chocolate around so I can drown my sorrows.

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international moves

Moving abroad with pets…

Back in 2007, Bill and I moved to Germany for two years.  We took our two dogs, Flea and MacGregor with us.  Moving with pets was stressful and a little scary, since I had read a lot of horror stories about what can happen to pets on airplanes.  At the very least, we knew it could be expensive to fly with the dogs, since we had to buy tickets for them and travel crates.  I also knew that it was possible that they could suffer an accident.  Some animals have died on airplanes.

Fortunately, we were able to move our dogs with no serious problems.  It cost a few hundred dollars to pay for their passage.  We flew from Washington, DC to Frankfurt and when we landed in Frankfurt, we could actually hear Flea’s indignant barking at being stuck in a crate for so long.  A customs animal inspector came over and inspected our paperwork, then sent us on our way.  We picked up the dogs and they happily adjusted to life in Germany.  When it was time to go home, Flea was ill with prostate cancer.  But he was strong enough to make the flight from Stuttgart to Atlanta and was with us for about two more months before we had to have him euthanized.  Flea charmed people on both ends of the travel, despite being so loud.

Lately, with the prospect of Bill’s Army retirement looming before us, we have been thinking about where we’d like to live next.  If you have read my main blog, you know that I’m not wild about the house we live in and would really like to live in Europe.  Bill has found job openings in Germany, Belgium, and Ireland.  It’s likely he will apply for jobs overseas, though we don’t know if he’ll be successful in getting one.  Given our goals, I’m looking once again at information about what it takes to import animals into European countries.  I’m not too worried about a move to continental Europe, though a move to Ireland or England might be difficult because they are island nations.  I read that the regulations are less strict than they once were, but they still require planning and foresight.

I just found a very interesting Web site for people who need to move abroad with pets. PetRelocation.com is based in Austin and helps people move their animals anywhere in the world.  Likewise, PetAir Carrier also relocates pets.  I know there was also an airline specifically for pets called Pet Airways, but it looks like that concept went belly up.  I’m sure it was too expensive and too limited to be of use to a lot of people.

Moving abroad is a pain, especially when you’re traveling with animals.  But it was worth it to us, last time, to have our dogs with us in Germany.  If we move overseas again, we will try to choose a country that is pet and owner friendly.  If we go back to Germany, I have a feeling our dogs won’t be quite as annoying as Flea and MacGregor were.  Zane and Arran are a lot less noisy than they were.

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