Moving to Stuttgart to work at a US military base - Germany

Advice on housing, schools, other tips, etc.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

kdnwbrry
My family and I are moving to Stuttgart in 8 weeks (by March '08). My husband will be working for the US military as a civilian, so we will have access to stores and such on base. Anything that we can't buy on base that we should bring with us?

He'll be spending time on Patch and Kelley, mostly. Any advice about where to look for housing in that area? I have a preschooler and a first-grader. Any idea about the DOD elementary schools in those areas?

Thanks in advance.
Kim in Colorado
HEM
Doesn't the employer (the US military) assist with such information - such as with schools etc?
Ivy
Welcome to Stuttgart! The housing office at Panzer Kaserne should help, but if you want to check around on your own, here's a bit of info re: the military schools since you have young kids. There are three elementary schools on the bases, and two of them are fairly overcrowded because of the burgeoning Africa Command. Those are the elementary schools at Patch and Panzer. However, a third elementary was set up at Robinson Barracks that is still fairly underutilized and the attention the kids get there seems comparable to a private school. My boys have 12 and 16 kids in their 2nd and 5th grade classes there. The principal and asst. principal both have PhDs and teachers seem VERY good. If you are interested in having your kids attend that school, then you want to look at neighborhoods and towns closer to Kelley, such as Plieningen. I think there's a map of the school zones on the EUCOM Web site, but be warned it does change slightly every year although I think it's to get more kids going over to Robinson, not fewer. Hope that helps a little. Good luck!
PES
Check Renting an apartment or house in/near Stuttgart for housing listings.
travelingpac
HI! We were just in the same situation as you. We have been here a month and have found a house. Do you have a sponsor? They could probably help the most. The housing office is very busy and very difficult to actually see someone. The housing office has a listing of houses for rent where you don't have to pay realtor finders fee - but we found it difficult to actually get in to see any of those houses. We worked with a couple of estate agents and one was particularly helpful. PM me and I will send you the ones we found most useful. It is good to look now, just to get an idea of where you want to live.

As for schools, have you thought about sending your kids to German schools? We are sending our 4 year old to German kindergarten - the perfect time for her to learn the language.

If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me.
Good Luck with your move.
Keydeck
PM me and I will send you the ones we found most useful.
Why not just post the information so that it may be of use to others in the future?
gaeta
Hi--I have lived in 5 different countries plus Hawai'i and found the Patch/Panzer complex to be pretty poor. The Army puts the least amount of money in its infrastructure and it shows. Bad PX. New building, but the general selection, particularly for clothes and shoes are even worse than is typical in a military Exchange--good thing for the internet--especially Amazon and Zappos! Commissary is very mediocre. Bad produce, OK selection of meat. Would you believe no dried split peas? A small point, but surprising. The Housing office is massively overworked. My husband is a senior officer and we got OK treatment--but only when he was there. Otherwise--forget it. I was sitting in the office and my name was skipped over--luckily I memorized the name after mine and I asked the desk person why I hadn't been called. I was told that I was in the wrong office--though I really wasn't--good thing I was waiting for this sort of thing or I would have been there all day. Their response was not to tell me (erroneously) that I was in the wrong place but to just forget about me altogether.The clinic is appalling. I got better service and treatment at the old hospital in Pozzuoli ( the condemned- above- the first- floor old Camorra-built hotel). Listening to the senior staff member chewing out a co-worker for mishandling narcotics--in front of an overflowing waiting room--is something I won't forget easily. The Army is seriously under strain over the war, and the medical staff is taking the brunt of it. Putting in the new command is just going to make things even worse. The furniture selection is the worst I have ever seen--get anything you need NOW--it is terrible plus a 100 euro charge for a 20 mile delivery. The gym isn't great, either.

On the plus side--there is a new library, bowling alley, and craft store. The schools are OK--but they are redrawing the school lines again and more kids will be shipped around to different schools. RB is still way underused--I wouldn't count on putting my kids there just for the small class sizes because the DoDs is working hard to equalize the numbers. I put my kids in German schools. Why live in little America? ( I've only lived on base in Japan--and that's because we were re-routed from D.C. to Japan with no time to sort furniture or prepare our kids, and at least Yoko, for all its difficulties, cannot be said to be isolated from the "real" Japan.)I found Panzer and Patch to be more isolated from the local community than any other place I have ever lived--and I have been overseas 17 years. I personally found Robinson Barracks to be the most desolate and depressing military housing I have seen anywhere in the world. Most of the Americans off base live south of the complexes. Boblingen, etc. is a popular choice--with prices to match since you are also competing with the IBM and Auto industry crowd. I would have loved to have lived in Ludwigsburg, but we couldn't find a place--and the traffic is pretty bad driving south to the bases. The school bus lines are pretty much drawn south of the bases to since that's where most of the people live. The school system do a good job of trying to accomodate people.

My husband normally would have been forced to live on base because of his job status, but fortunately the new Africa Command is taking over much of the senior housing, yah! Hope you have a good sponser--we really didn't have one. Undoubtedly your sponser'll have a less jaundiced view--we Navy and Air Force people almost universally think the support system here is pretty bad. The internet helps--and get any furniture you need now. Sorry to be blunt, but I believe it's better to be prepared. Maybe there's a great sense of civic pride and community amongst the base dwellers, but as a place to supply basic needs it leaves a lot to be desired.
Ivy
Wow. That's a pretty dismal picture she/he paints! Maybe you'll have to see for yourself whether the commissary, schools, etc. are substandard for your needs or not. I have had nothing but GREAT experiences here, and my husband's orders initially were unaccompanied, meaning we were only entitled to space available offerings. The health care folks have been shockingly helpful, ensuring our kids vaccines (which were slightly different from the state of Florida requirements) were done in time for the school year. They employ docs from the economy to take care of civilians and dependents, so that they can be staffed fairly well. I've NEVER had to wait more than five minutes for an appt. at the Patch clinic, and I thought the health care provided was more than adequate, and my background is in health care.

Re: schools. You have to judge for yourself. It's true that the young kids benefit from German language schools in that they have the unique chance to immerse themselves. However, you might want to talk to some educators. One thing I learned here, because one of my sons is in the fifth grade is that the German schools decide in Grade 4 whether a child is going to head toward university or vocational education. Because our son was already past grade 4 and couldn't speak German, he would have been put in a vo-ed track. Your kids are young enough that that won't matter. A teacher friend of mine has her youngest in the German kindergarten and her second grader in the DoD schools, mostly because she's afraid that when they return to US schools, he might be behind in the curriculum. You should talk to more folks and see how you feel. I will say that it will take some time before the DoD school boundaries are equalized. Right now, Patch and Panzer elementaries have at least two classes per grade level of approx. 30 students per class. At Robinson, we only have ONE class per grade level, and I think the largest grade tops out at 18 kids, so it is dramatically smaller, and folks are VERY resistant and VOCAL about not wanting their kids moved.

You know, I HAVEN'T spent 17 years overseas and maybe that's why things seem pretty good to me. I'm very satisfied with the commissary and exchange, but that's probably because Germany is just a great place to live and you really don't need that sort of support. We really don't shop much at those places. The base library is a godsend, in my opinion, and the shoppettes on the bases all rent English-language DVDs, which is great too. We have all that we need. I have encountered a lot of naysayers around here and maybe there are more luxurious offerings elsewhere, but we continually pinch ourselves because we are amazed at the great opportunity we have stumbled on here.

Lastly, re: the housing office, I was just there today since my husband's accepted a civilian position and our orders will now entitle us to accompanied housing. We were able to make an appt. for Tuesday and it sounded like I would have a chance to see houses nearly right away. Maybe I was just lucky, but I guess I would leave room to say that maybe some days are busier than others. With Africom standing up, things are quite a bit in flux here--that's for sure. But, from what I have seen, it seems as though folks are working to accommodate the new demands.

Good luck!
travelingpac
Just wanted to comment on the housing office. our first visit there was great. We saw someone and did inprocessing. We came back to see the housing list and it is impossible to see someone that day as they want you to make an appt. We found that too difficult to schedule and found a house on our own. When we had to get our lease approved, we had an appt then the office called that morning to cancel the appt as they had no German speaking councelors there that day. They rescheduled us one week later. We showed up and found out our councelor didnt show up... they got us in because we werent going to leave. three hours later, we got the lease approved and were fine. not sure why but the office seems somewhat dysfunctional... or just under staffed.

the person we used is frau gaissert. www.isb-gaissert.com. i need to double check. i liked her because she is the only one who was pro active and found us a place. The other people tried to scare us into taking a place by saying you have to decide now... housing will be more limited when Africom is here... dont listen. It is all in the timing. keep looking and something will come up that will fit your needs.

good luck.
travelingpac
just wanted to add:

We found our house through here:
http://www.ibg-gaissert.de

others we looked at but didn't find the people as pro-active:

http://www.stuttgarthomesonline.com/rental.aspx
http://www.houses-rental.com/CurrentListings.htm
http://www.relocatetogermany.com/listings/index.php

Hope this helps.
travelingpac
Lastly, re: the housing office, I was just there today since my husband's accepted a civilian position and our orders will now entitle us to accompanied housing. We were able to make an appt. for Tuesday and it sounded like I would have a chance to see houses nearly right away. Maybe I was just lucky, but I guess I would leave room to say that maybe some days are busier than others. With Africom standing up, things are quite a bit in flux here--that's for sure. But, from what I have seen, it seems as though folks are working to accommodate the new demands.

Good luck!
Just wanted to add. I was told to make appts early in the am so you can "reserve" a house to see. If you get there later in the day many of the houses on the list are already on hold , meaning that someone is going to look at it. Only one person at a time. You have to come back the next day to see what is available. So, make an appt early and often.
They didn't want to give us a phone number, so to make an appt you have to do it in person. Oh, we did have an appt with one person and I called her to cancel... her voice mail said she was on holiday until the following week. Good thing I had to cancel, because she wasn't going to be there.

Just be prepared to do the work on your own. I am fine with that s I personally don't see myself spending much time on the base once we get our in-processing done.
BeeGeeJesus
Wow. That's a pretty dismal picture she/he paints!

You know, I HAVEN'T spent 17 years overseas and maybe that's why things seem pretty good to me. I'm very satisfied with the commissary and exchange, but that's probably because Germany is just a great place to live and you really don't need that sort of support. We really don't shop much at those places. The base library is a godsend, in my opinion, and the shoppettes on the bases all rent English-language DVDs, which is great too. We have all that we need. I have encountered a lot of naysayers around here and maybe there are more luxurious offerings elsewhere, but we continually pinch ourselves because we are amazed at the great opportunity we have stumbled on here.
Agreed. I HAVE spend over a decade overseas and I don't think Stuttgart is all that bad. It's not fabulous, but it's certainly not the shithole that was described before. The PX is brand new and they have tons of crap. I've never been in a PX ANYWHERE that had a good selection of clothing so I wouldn't use that as the yardstick by which to measure my shopping experience. The Commissary has everything you might need (though apparently they don't have dried split peas...shock! Horror!) What you can't get there, you can get on the economy. Stuttgart has a very nice shopping selection. The electronics in the PX are pretty good, though you won't have a Best Buy type selection (but you can get dual voltage/mutlisystem things which is pretty cool) But the point of these stores isn't to give you EVERYTHING from home. It's to provide enough to make the transition easier. There are far worse places than Stuttgart in terms of bases. And if you're looking for a bigger selection of American goods, Ramstein is only about a two hour drive away and that is not only an Air Force Base and therefore probably nicer than most Army Bases, but it's also the largest US installation in Germany if not Europe. If you can't find it there, order it online.

Welcome to Germany. You'll love it!
travelingpac
Agree 100%. We are really enjoying Germany. We came here from the UK (where the military base was much, much smaller than here).
We liked the UK but we like our central location in Europe now. Plus, it is much cheaper here than England (even with poor dollar).
(My dad is retired military and the PX or BX has never had a good selection of anything that I can remember while growing up. Commissary is good for getting some things much cheaper - like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, etc. Do your shopping on the economy - fresher and really not much more expensive.)

You will love it! welcome.
gaeta
Yes, you can get anything you want on the economy, but right now the dollar is very weak. I am not complaining about Germany itself. The writer didn't ask about Germany, but about Patch and Panzer, and I did write some positive things about the bases. I've lived in Spain with no heat, air conditioning, phone , sporadic electricity, and no water for 12 out of 24 hours (this went on for almost 3 years) so I am not a spoiled American. I went for 6 months with no dairy products when the French border workers (angry that they were losing their jobs when the borders were opening up)were turning back the UK trucks and had to drive for 3 hours to get fresh milk and cheese in Gib (this was before the Spanish started supplying milk since it is not part of Andaluz food culture.). I've dealt with at least a score of overseas bases, and with the exception of Hawai'i, the Army support has never impressed me. I was back here in the early 90's before the draw-down, and things have naturally not improved. This is to be expected. If the person writing is coming from the AFB in Colorado Springs--a base well noted for its great support even for the AF--she is in for a shock. I expected much more from the European Command. As I said, bring furniture, and buy clothes and other things on line.

I cannot think how anyone would think the clinic is great. The stress level is palpable. And for anyone to dismiss my account of a protocol breach--which I reported--in the hospital--and say the clinic is doing a great job is just plain wrong. I was horrified that a staff worker had PUT THE WRONG DOSAGE of medicine in a vial. This is completely unacceptable.

I knew that people would be pick up on the split pea thing. I said it was a little thing, but hey, the writer asked what to bring.

The Army does not do a good job supporting its people. Period. I've seen the statistics that show the Army (with the Marine Corp just behind) and the amount of money budgeted to support the overseas infrastructure. The AF spends almost twice as much money on their bases. The Navy is somewhere in the middle.

Again, I've lived a huge amount of time overseas, so when I say that other places do a better job, maybe I DO know what I am talking about. When the dollar is weak, the weaknesses of the support system provided becomes more important.

By the way, Frau Gaissert is great--we got our house from her. Don't be scared off by her primitive web site--she is a bit of a Luddite and hates computers and does the bare minimum on her site.. They really stress her out! We turned down the first place we saw, wrote her a very nice thank you explaining why. A few weeks later she saw that we were on line at 6AM, called us up with a place that wasn't even listed, and got us in to see it as we were in a bind. for the kids and school. She's great. She's got a fabulous house herself--she works around the clock and really deserves her rewards.

I didn't mean to scare anyone off. I've seen far too many people come with too high expectations. It's better to come in with realistic expectations, and to accept that the support system here is barely adequate. When I was in labor with my daughter in Italy, my poor labor nurse was fresh off the plane and reeling from culture shock. She thought Naples would be a quaint little town. She sat there by my bed and wrote down all the places I told her she should go--and where not to go--for hours. I've loved living overseas, but I have found that for me, I am happiest not relying on the base too much.
gaeta
Another thing--why shouldn't we expect good clothing on all bases? I've certainly seen a wonderful selection in all the D.C. bases--ironically, where it is least needed. That's where the money is, of course. The Kaneohe MCB had a great selection of clothing --and Yokosuka had a great selection of purses, etc. (The Japanese spouses put great value on brand name accessories, so if people really want it, the military will --sometimes -- supply it.) And Lakenheath had a good selection of clothing. Again, guess I've had more experience--almost 50 years dealing with the military--than the majority of TT writers.
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
TT Logo
You are viewing a low fidelity version of this page. Click to view the full page.