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Living Overseas


Moving to a foreign country is the ultimate military adventure. However, it does require some preparation, guidance and a dose of patience. Military OneSource gives you strategies for making the most of your time abroad with pointers on adjusting to your new home, information on finding employment for spouses, advice for getting around and ideas for assimilating your kids to a new culture.

Adjusting to a foreign culture

There is often a period of adjustment after moving to a different country. It takes time to learn a new language, customs, gestures and a monetary system. When you receive overseas orders, you may feel scared, uneasy or worried about how you will handle the changes. That may change to excitement and enthusiasm as you prepare to move. Once overseas, you may feel tired and overwhelmed by all the new things there are to learn. After a while, as you better grasp the language and culture, you should begin to feel at home. Here are some strategies to help you adjust to a foreign culture.

  • Learn the language.  Start out small with conversational phrases such as greetings or expressions of thanks and appreciation, like please and thank you. You may never become fluent in the language, and that’s OK. Most people appreciate when you try to speak their language, even if you do so imperfectly. Check with your Military and Family Support Center for language and cultural classes to get you started.
  • Speak English clearly. Many people around the world speak English but don’t understand slang phrases or jargon. Speak slowly and clearly to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Eat the native foods: In foreign cultures, food is often a symbol of hospitality. Eating the foods offered to you is a form of a compliment to your host. Even if you don’t like it, try to eat it with a smile and thank the host for a tasty meal.
  • Dress appropriately. Clothing is a central part of the customs and traditions of most cultures. While shorts and a tank top may be common casual wear in the U.S., they may be considered rude in other parts of the world. Take note of how the locals dress and become familiar with local dress and appearance customs.
  • Learn how to address people. Some cultures are very formal in how they address each other. Become familiar with the titles people use and what is considered courteous.
  • Be on time. Your friends in the U.S. may not mind if you’re running 15 minutes late for lunch, but in some cultures being tardy shows a lack of respect for the other person.
  • Be open-minded. Be receptive to trying new things like food and language. You never know, you might discover you have a new favorite. Explore the history and culture and take time to learn about your new community. Keeping an open mind to new experiences can lead to positive growth.

Finding employment for your spouse

Plenty of overseas employment opportunities await military spouses. Your installation is the best place to start the job hunt. Contact your local Spouse Education, Training and Careers office, and check the installation website for job postings. Consider volunteering or working from home as you settle in. You also have options to find jobs in the local economy but be sure to check the Status of Forces Agreement first and be aware of taxes and fees.

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Contact your installation Spouse Education, Training and Careers office to learn more about finding overseas jobs available to military spouses.

Overseas Cost of Living Allowance

Overseas Cost of Living Allowance is a nontaxable allowance designed to offset the higher overseas prices of non-housing goods and services. It is not a fixed amount and may vary based on location, paygrade, years of service and number of dependents. OCOLA can fluctuate based on the exchange rate and should not be included as part of your monthly budget. Learn more about OCOLA and the 2023 adjustment process.

Engaging your children

Foreign countries with different languages and customs offer opportunities for kids to explore and learn firsthand, but it’s also a big change. As a military parent, help make the transition abroad easier for your children by keeping the lines of communication open, encouraging fun ways to learn the language, going online to research popular music and local sports teams, and making a travel wish list. Learn more in the following article:

Getting around overseas

Depending on where you’re stationed overseas, you may need a car to get around. While the military will pay to ship your privately owned vehicle, that weight counts toward your overall packing weight allowance. And not only does the car need to fall in line with local laws, but so do you – apply for a new driver’s license in your new locale.

Celebrating holidays

No matter where you are in the world, you’ll want to celebrate the holidays that matter to you and your family. Living abroad might mean that you won’t be able to gather around the table with your extended family and friends back at home, but you can still enjoy your closely held traditions and even incorporate some new ones from the local culture at your new location.

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While the distance might mean that you can’t celebrate every holiday with your extended family, your new community abroad offers a way to liven up old traditions, start new ones and celebrate new holidays.

Resources, benefits and support services for Living Overseas

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