Some readers who follow the official Facebook page for my Overeducated Housewife blogs have gotten the idea that Bill and I are considering a move to Italy. That is not the case.
The post that has people confused is one I wrote three years ago, when Bill’s first company lost its contract. Bill had applied for several Europe based jobs and got a tentative job offer for a government position in Italy. Back in 2017, we were strongly considering making the move to Italy and, in retrospect, maybe it would have turned out alright if we’d gone for it. At that time, I wrote a short post about that looming decision. Yesterday, I updated it, and it was automatically shared on the Facebook page by WordPress.
Although it was heartbreaking to turn down the job, especially since we both love Italy, Bill ultimately declined to make the move. He was then offered a position with his current company, which is much bigger and better than the first one was. The loss of the first company’s contract, while very stressful, turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.
As it turned out, the move to Italy would have come with no support from the government, since Bill would have been considered a local hire. That would have meant we’d have to move ourselves down there. There would have also been no housing allowance and, while housing is less expensive in Italy, it would have really cramped our style. It often takes awhile for government employees to get onboarded, too, so that would have been a huge logistical hassle for us, since we would have probably had to go on tourist status until the onboarding process was done. We decided that even Italy’s wonderful wines and pastas weren’t enough to lure us into that rigamarole.
As some readers know, we just moved to Wiesbaden at the end of 2018, so neither of us is wanting to move again so soon. We may have to move this year, since Bill’s company’s contract is up for renegotiation; but even if that happens, he’d likely be hired by the subsequent company or reassigned. And, as we have found out, we may have to move in any given year, thanks to random stuff that happens in the military and with contracting companies. Contracting can be a frustrating roller coaster ride, which is why a lot of people prefer working for the government.
Anyway… for those of you who are following the Facebook page and noticing the old posts resurfacing, I do apologize if they’re annoying. Last year, when I switched my blogs from Blogger to WordPress, I had varying degrees of success in transferring old material. I wasn’t able to transfer my original blog at all, probably because it was too big of a file. The travel blog transferred, but I’m now left with posts that have screwy formatting and print that is too small to read. I suppose I could have just started the travel blog over, like I did my original blog, but some of those old posts are interesting and useful. I’d hate to throw that history away, especially since we mostly loved our time near Stuttgart.
I’m now in the process of updating those old posts so they can be more easily read. Every time I update the posts, WordPress posts them automatically on Facebook. I could change the settings so it doesn’t do that, but I think some of the old posts are interesting and contain useful information. Some of them really do deserve another look. If you see a batch of posts showing up on Facebook, be sure to check the date on them.
Thanks to everyone for your patience! I hope to be finished with this tedious process in a few weeks or so.
Last week, while Bill and I were in Alsace, I got a message from a reader thanking me for a post I wrote at about this time last year. He’s considering jobs open in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden and was having trouble deciding on which town to apply more of his efforts. When I wrote the piece he referenced, I had only been in Wiesbaden for a a couple of months. Since we’ve now been here for about 14 months, I figure it’s time for an update of things I’ve noticed after having lived in both areas. Here’s the top ten list I did last year, with more information.
10. Wiesbaden is more “built up”.
I don’t know why, but I was under the impression that life was more bucolic up here in Wiesbaden. Maybe it’s the name of the city, which translates to Meadow Bath. To me, Wiesbaden is more crowded than the Stuttgart area is. There are many narrow streets here– even more than down in Stuttgart– and they are crowded with cars. I was thinking we’d be able to find a rural area in which to live, but just about everywhere we looked was very built up and crowded. That may be because there are several good sized cities here as opposed to just one. We have Frankfurt, Mainz, and Wiesbaden, all of which have at least 500,000 inhabitants.
Updated answer– I still think this area is a bit more “built up”, but that may be because both times we lived in the Stuttgart area, we lived pretty far away from the city. During both of our Stuttgart stints, we were at least 25 miles out, which resulted in lengthy commutes and many hours sitting in Staus. However, it was mostly worth it, since Bill and I both like country living. The reality is, you will encounter narrow streets and built up areas in Stuttgart, too. It’s just that the Black Forest is closer, which means you may find more opportunities to live in rural locales.
9. People are more laid back in Wiesbaden.
Despite the area being more “crowded”, I have noticed people don’t seem as cranky in the Wiesbaden area. Or maybe I’m just becoming German… I remember being taken aback when we moved to Stuttgart the first time. People seemed grouchy and “in your face”. It seemed slightly less like that during our second stint there, probably because I was more accustomed to German bluntness. Here in Wiesbaden, I wouldn’t say people are necessarily friendlier, but they seem less uptight for some reason. Maybe I should spend more time in traffic.
Updated answer– I still think people in Wiesbaden are more laid back. It may be because this area is so close to Mainz and Frankfurt, which are very international cities– Frankfurt especially. We have wine stands in our neighborhood during the warmer months and Bill and I have found that people here are more interested in getting to know us, even if our German sucks. We have met Germans who have lived in America, and our next door neighbor, who speaks English, has lived in Spain. They seem to understand what it’s like to be an expat. This isn’t to say you won’t find nice people in Stuttgart. You certainly will. I did– in fact, I still have several German friends in Stuttgart. It’s just that, at least in my experience, it seems to take a little longer to break the ice down there. Call it a cultural difference.
8. Traffic isn’t as bad up here.
I don’t know why, either. It’s not that there isn’t a lot of traffic. There is. But for some reason, we don’t experience the legendary Staus we did in the Stuttgart area.
Updated answer– I still think this is true. We do have traffic jams in the Wiesbaden area, but they aren’t nearly as often or as onerous as the ones in Stuttgart are. However, depending on where you live in the Wiesbaden area, you may or may not be able to access the S-Bahn as easily as you can in Stuttgart. Where we live, there is no train stop, but there are several bus stops. When we lived in the Stuttgart area, we had closer access to both trains and busses, although our first town near Stuttgart had an actual train stop, while the second town only had a bus stop, but the train was only ten minutes’ drive. On the other hand, since we live so close to Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Mainz, we don’t really need the train so much. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get to Wiesbaden, and about twenty minutes to get to Mainz or Frankfurt, give or take a few minutes. By contrast, getting to Stuttgart could take up to an hour from where lived, more if there were traffic jams.
7. Wiesbaden is not as pretty as Stuttgart is…
Actually, I should rephrase that. The city of Wiesbaden is very beautiful and posh. Stuttgart is kind of industrial and homely. In that sense, I’d say Wiesbaden is prettier than Stuttgart is. However, the areas around Stuttgart are absolutely lovely, while Wiesbaden’s surroundings seem to have less beauty, natural or otherwise. I really miss the beautiful views from our old house, as well as the charming towns that weren’t decimated during World War II. Forgive me, but I’m not as well-versed in history as I should be. Nevertheless, there’s not as much quaint charm in the Wiesbaden area. It takes more effort to see the half-timbered houses one sees in BW.
Updated answer– I still pretty much think that the areas around Stuttgart are prettier than the areas around Wiesbaden are. It may just be a personal preference, though. I liked looking at the Schoenbuch Ridge in the Stuttgart area, and it seems like there are a lot more forests for walking in and contemplating life. I especially enjoyed living at the edge of the Black Forest. We spent a lot of day trips in the Black Forest, feeling like we were getting a one day vacation. I also saw a lot more hot air balloons in the Stuttgart area. However, Wiesbaden and its environs are pretty in a different way.
I have come to appreciate our neighborhood with its friendly residents, wine stands, and plane spotting opportunities. We love being so close to the Rhein, which can also turn one day trips into mini vacations. And there are places to go if I need a walk in the woods, although it’s not as close to me as it was in the Stuttgart area. A big bonus is that I have yet to encounter the air smelling of shit the way I did regularly in the Stuttgart area during the spring and summer. If you haven’t experienced it yet, and you’re moving down there, you will probably soon know what I mean. I also haven’t seen as many fields of rapeseed up here, which is a blessing, since I am allergic to rapeseed.
6. Wiesbaden is more international than Stuttgart is.
I come from Virginia and sometimes, when I compare Wiesbaden to Stuttgart, I think of what it would be like to move from, say, Richmond, to northern Virginia. Stuttgart feels very much like the state capital it is, while Wiesbaden, being so close to Frankfurt, feels more like the national capital it isn’t. A lot of different kinds of people come through Wiesbaden because it’s close to Frankfurt. Consequently, it feels somewhat more cosmopolitan, although I’ve read that if you really want to party, you need to go to Frankfurt or Mainz. Wiesbaden apparently has a reputation for being “stuffy” and “snooty”, thanks to all the money up here.
Updated answer– Yes, this was a correct assumption on my part. There are all kinds of people living up here from all over the place. The bonus is that there are a lot more culinary delights here. We’ve found several restaurants that serve exotic cuisines like Georgian food, Afghan food, and even southern U.S. food. There are also a couple of American chain outlets up here that you won’t find in Stuttgart. Hell, if we wanted to, we could go to Hooters or Chipotle Mexican Grill (not that I want to). Both have locations in Frankfurt.
5. There’s more money in Wiesbaden.
Swabians are reputed to be tight with their money. Nevertheless, I thought Stuttgart was an expensive area to live in. That was before I went looking for a house in Wiesbaden. We pay almost twice as much (including Nebenkosten) for our current home than we did for our house in Unterjettingen. However, our new house is also much nicer than our last one was. Our landlord lives next door, but never bothers us… and when something needs to be fixed, he doesn’t freak out.
Updated answer– I still think this is true. I have noticed that housing is more expensive in this area, although I’ve also noticed that it tends to be more up-to-date. Also, the attitude regarding money seems to be different. I can count on one hand the number of times our landlord has rung the doorbell, even though he lives next door. He gives us free firewood, and has outright told us that he wants us to be happy in our home. He let a previous tenant put up a privacy fence and didn’t care that we installed a robotic lawnmower.
Yes, it’s his house because he owns it, but he doesn’t act like we should be grateful to be living in his house. He’s grateful that we rented his house. It seems to be a different mindset, which I really appreciate. I also noticed that same attitude when we were looking at other homes up here. Prospective landlords were quick to tell us that the house we rented would be our home, not a house that someone deigns to let us rent. Maybe it has to do with there being more money here or people being less frugal.
4. There’s more farming in Stuttgart.
One thing I miss about our old area is that we lived near several farms where we could buy produce on our honor. I won’t say this doesn’t exist in Wiesbaden, but it’s harder to find it. I’m not sure we’ll find a 24 Milch Tankstelle up here, either. On the other hand, up in the Wiesbaden area, there are wine stands. They should be cranking out Federweisser soon.
Updated answer– It’s true that there aren’t as many farms as where we lived when we were in the Stuttgart area, but then, like I said, we didn’t actually live that close to Stuttgart. We have found some local farmer’s markets and farms near where we live, though I’m still searching for the Milch Tankstelles and vending machines that sell lentils and pork products, which are more plentiful in BW. An added benefit, again, is that I have yet to smell the essence of manure in the spring air, either.
3. The food is kind of different and there seems to be less emphasis on beer.
In the Stuttgart area, the emphasis was on heavy, hearty German fare in the Gasthauses and there were many different breweries, all putting out beers that pretty much tasted the same. Up here in Wiesbaden, the emphasis is more on wine. I thought Stuttgart was wine country, and it kinda is, but it’s even more wine country near the Rhein. I suppose if I want a good Volksfest, I’m going to have to pack my dirndl and pay Stuttgart a visit.
Updated answer– Yes… this is definitely wine country. If you want beer, it’s probably going to be from Bavaria as opposed to a local brewery. However, as many German beers are excellent but taste the same regardless, this isn’t a huge issue. Since we moved to Wiesbaden, we’ve discovered local delights such as green sauce, spundekaese (and handkaese), roasted goose (which for some reason seems to be more popular here), and apple wine. We have also run into the hearty stuff one finds in BW and Bavaria too, like schnitzels and sausages. As I mentioned before, you can find a lot of culinary options in the Wiesbaden area.
2. Wiesbaden is growing on me…
It’s nice to have a change in scenery. I’m looking forward to spring, when the weather will be better and we can take some day trips on the weekends. The weather up here, by the way, seems to be less cold and snowy. When I read about snow in Stuttgart, I look out our window forlornly and see nothing but rain. But maybe it will be somewhat milder all the way around. Like, in the summer, I won’t bake. One can hope.
Updated answer– We still have yet to have a decent snow up here, whereas down in the Stuttgart area, we always got at least one good snow a winter. It could be that winter is just generally milder this year and was also last year. As for the summer, it was also pretty hot up here last year, although the house we’re in has Rolladens on every window. That made the house cooler. Also, I have two portable air conditioners and doors with windows. I lower the Rolladens all the way to the top of the air conditioning hoses and rest the top of the Rolladens on top of the hose, eliminating the need for hot air stoppers. If you don’t know what a hot air stopper is, you’ll probably soon find out. Basically, they’re fabric pieces with a zipper in them that can be attached by velcro to windows and allow for exhaust hoses to extend outside of the window, while keeping a seal to prevent hot air from coming in through the window. I had to use them in our Stuttgart area house, but don’t need them in this house.
As for fun day trips, yes they are certainly possible. We have several appealing Rhein towns we can get to, like St. Goar, Bacharach and Eltville, as well as other charming towns like Idstein, Eppstein, and Rudesheim. And if the pull of BW gets to be too great, we can be there in about an hour. Heidelberg is also not far. I do still miss the Black Forest, though.
1. But I kind of miss Stuttgart a little, too…
If the weather has to be cold and yucky, I like it to snow. We have yet to have our first decent snow up here. I know the town where I used to live has gotten some white stuff. I miss having a nice area to walk my dogs, too. We were literally next to the Black Forest down in the Stuttgart area. Here, they get walked by a grocery store near the Autobahn. On the other hand, we do have a fenced in backyard, which is great. Still, I was thinking wistfully about how beautiful the rural areas near Stuttgart are. I do miss them.
Updated answer– We lost one of our dogs a few months ago. He had cancer. Prior to his passing, I found a new walking route that was better than where we were walking the dogs a year ago. One time, I was picking up some crap and a German man approached me. I expected him to yell at me, but instead, he had a look of amazement on his face. He thanked me for cleaning up after my dogs. That might have happened in Stuttgart, too, although it often seemed more like I’d be yelled at down there than up here.
So… while I do still miss some things about living in Stuttgart, I think, overall, I like Wiesbaden more at this point. I could also comment on the way the garrisons are run, but that might be risky, especially since it would be mainly from the perspective of a spouse. Suffice to say that my husband has a much shorter commute, there seems to be a lot less chaos in terms of the work he’s doing, and I think contractors get treated better. For instance, if you’re a contractor, you can get help from the housing office in finding a place to live. In Stuttgart, you have to go it alone. We didn’t need housing either time we moved here, but Wiesbaden was helpful when Bill approached them about a general housing issue we had. In Stuttgart, they would have told him to pound sand. Wiesbaden is a lot closer to Ramstein, Kaiserslautern, and Sembach than Stuttgart is, which can be handy if you have special “American” needs, like medical care.
There’s also a whole lot less social media drama in the Wiesbaden area. Stuttgart has a lot of Facebook groups that most everyone winds up joining. The groups are useful for spreading information and making friends, but the by product is that people can get kind of rude and shitty to each other. By contrast, there’s a lot less of that in Wiesbaden… or maybe I’ve just been wise enough to steer clear. I don’t know very many people in Wiesbaden, but met quite a lot of folks in Stuttgart… some of whom I regretted meeting, and some of whom probably regretted meeting me.
Weirdly enough, I actually miss Stuttgart’s airport, which was smaller and a lot easier to use than Frankfurt’s huge airport is. However, it’s a lot easier to fly directly to more places from Frankfurt, so there is that trade off. And I miss our very friendly and easily booked vets in Herrenberg, although the vet we currently use is a bit more modern and we’re close to a really excellent emergency veterinary facility. So again– many trade offs. I’m just grateful we’ve had the chance to live in both areas and experience the best and worst both places have to offer. Really, I don’t think you can go wrong in either place, especially since individual preferences and circumstances will certainly color each person’s perspectives. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be here, but we intend to enjoy as much as we can for as long as possible.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about how HelloFresh.de dropped a surprise on me by sending me a food box TWO YEARS after I requested that they cancel my account. Because I wasn’t an active customer, my payment information was out of date. And when they tried to debit the money from my account, they were not able to. This set off automated emails from them letting me know my “payment had failed”. However, they still sent the box.
When the unwelcome food box arrived on Wednesday, I instructed the UPS guy to return it to Hello Fresh. I got an email from UPS indicating that the box that Hello Fresh erroneously sent me has been delivered to their office.
Today, a full three days after my first of several irate emails arrived, I finally got a response from “Hana”, who wrote this. I am screenshooting it for the record, in case I have to get an attorney.
WTF??? Nine subscriptions? Their system is even more fucked up than I realized!!!
This was my response.
I actually feel sorry for Hello Fresh customer service people.
And here is the proof that UPS delivered the package to the Hello Fresh office in Berlin.
I don’t have the box in my possession. I sent it back to them.
Is 54,98 euros worth my telling everyone who will listen to me what an incompetent, underhanded company Hello Fresh is? I don’t know… but this is not something I enjoy dealing with, especially since I thought I was done with this company two years ago and asked them to delete my account information. It took two weeks before I got a response. Obviously, they didn’t do as I asked, nor did they delete it as a matter of course, as they say they’ll do.
Someone named Nicole was assured that they “delete every data”, but clearly two years of inactivity wasn’t enough to convince them to delete “every data” in my case…
This is my review from today.
This is a screenshot of my most recent orders. The top two with the failed payments were sent almost exactly two years after I stopped ordering boxes. Somehow, near the second anniversary of my cancellation, my account was reactivated without my knowledge or consent. Either someone at the company did it manually, or there is a glitch in their computer that did it. I did NOT do it.
Needless to say, I recommend anyone reading this to steer clear of this shitty company. Weeks before a move, I sure don’t need this extra stress. I can only wonder what would have happened if I had already moved back to the States or somewhere else. It’s an enormous inconvenience.
Edited to add: Here’s an email I sent to another customer service agent named Maja, who responded to one of my missives. It’s slightly less pissy.
About a year ago, I wrote what has turned out to be a very popular post about the difference between Army life and contractor life in Germany. Today, I have decided to update everyone on how our first year has gone.
First off, Bill is doing really great work in his job. His employers are very happy with him and he’s managed to get a raise in his housing allowance as well as a cash bonus. He also just received a retention bonus which, as long as we stay for another year, he gets to keep. Don’t throw us in the briar patch! We still love living in Germany, so staying another year is not a problem for us. Bill has also gotten to do some interesting travel during our first year. I even got to go with him one time.
We ended up with a decent house in a nice neighborhood. Although our house is a duplex and I was originally concerned about noise (both from us and from other people), it hasn’t been a big issue. Our neighbors seem to have gotten used to our dogs and everyone is respectful. I’ve also gotten more used to driving in Germany.
Bill tells me his office still needs qualified people, but apparently there has been a problem with German authorities issuing SOFA status to contractors. We were very lucky because we got here before this became an issue. Currently, a lot of people are only able to do 90 day stints (as long as the tourist visa lasts) before they have to either go back to the States or work somewhere else where this isn’t a problem. I am told that the issue is being addressed, but there is no telling when or if it will be permanently resolved. Also, I don’t know if this issue is affecting everyone or just some people in certain jobs.
Bill has also told me that adjusting from being an Army officer with clout and decision making authority to being a contractor (aka “hired help”) has been somewhat hard at times. I often remind him that as frustrating as it is not to have any real power, it’s not his ass on the line if something goes wrong. He says it helps to remember that, though I’m pretty sure he still gets stressed out a lot.
I was a member of the local Facebook groups Stuttgart Friends and Moving to Stuttgart for most of this first year. I ultimately left both groups, but definitely recommend them for anyone planning to move to Stuttgart. They are great resources for finding out how living in Germany, especially while on SOFA status, works. You will know when it’s time to abandon the groups. Also, Stuttgart Bookoo is a great site for finding housing or used items people tend to discard on their way out of Germany like air conditioners, furniture, washers, dryers, fridges, or transformers. Toytown Germany is a good source of information for English speaking residents of Germany. It also offers a non-military/US government perspective.
Duolingo offers a good basic place to practice your German skills. I used it for about eight months, until I finished all the lessons. Then I fell off the wagon. I am thinking about restarting/reviewing Duolingo, since it has helped me understand more German. I probably should take a class and maybe I will at some point, but for now I think it’s helpful… especially for those who have trouble getting out of the house.
Panzer Kaserne is going through massive building projects right now. A new commissary is slated to open there in a couple of years and the high school is now located there. In the midst of all of this construction, there is also a road widening project going on that has been in progress since the summer. It makes getting to and leaving Panzer a bit of a pain. Since a lot of in processing is done at Panzer, I’m forewarning newcomers.
Last year, there was some hullabaloo over German authorities cracking down on expired American driver’s licenses. As you might know, if you have SOFA status, you get a special “license”. But really, what makes you legal to drive is your US license. German police were stopping Americans with expired licenses and forcing them to get them renewed (and they were not allowed to drive once they were caught). This issue has since been rectified. Still, if you think you might be in Germany for any length of time, you will want to renew your license before getting here if you can.
Worth coming back for…
This time around, I have been using Amazon.de a lot, as well as regular Amazon for shopping. The APO mail system has been really slow lately, so it often makes more sense to buy stuff locally. I still buy clothes and some other items from American Amazon, but use Amazon.de for appliances and stuff I need right away. Amazon.de is pretty great about quick delivery, though unlike in the United States, you will have to sign for all of your packages. Fortunately, Germans seem quite willing to accept packages for neighbors. I have done it for my neighbors and they have done it for me. Last time we lived here, I didn’t use local Web sites for anything!
I don’t know how long we’ll be here. At this point, we are willing to stay for as long as we’re allowed to. I can’t say I miss Texas much, even though some things about living in Germany can be a bit of a pain sometimes. But you get used to it… and really, some of the things that seem annoying at first can turn out to be blessings. For instance, not shopping on Sundays… you end up finding fun stuff to do instead.
So, that’s my update so far. We’re making it just fine.
So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my disastrous attempt to subscribe to Hello Fresh. I ended up with four fruit boxes and three classic meal boxes. Despite my niece’s visit last week, we still have some leftovers from that huge delivery. On the plus side, after we made the Hello Fresh recipes, we used the leftover supplies for other meals. My husband made a mixed grill with vegetables with the extra chicken, beef, broccoli, and peppers we had. He also took two of the fruit boxes to work with him and they were a big hit with his co-workers. And Hello Fresh, to their credit, refunded the extra charges.
I lucked into finding a customer service guy who turns out to be half American and, perhaps in a fit of solidarity, pledged to help me out with any future customer service problems I have. After I sent him a copy of the email I got from the first Hello Fresh rep who neglected to cancel my orders and told me not to let the extra orders happen again, my new Hello Fresh customer service rep apologized profusely and fixed my account. So today, I got one classic box and one fruit box and I was charged only one time. Moreover, since next week’s meals don’t appeal, he paused delivery for me within minutes of my request.
Because we like the Hello Fresh concept and enjoy the food, we may stick with it for awhile longer. We’ll see how this week’s recipes turn out. For now, I’m much less pissed off at Hello Fresh than I was two weeks ago. As an added bonus, I tried Jerusalem artichokes for the first time. Anything that gets me to try new things– especially fruits and vegetables– is a good thing.