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RAF Sgts Posting "Culture Shock"

#4
Welcome to our world!
Sometimes i do envy our crab colleagues their ability (like our neighbours who have lived in the same house for 12yrs) to stay in one place, must be good for the kids.
 
#5
My name is Sgt Mark O’Brien,
I am 40 years old and am
married with two daughters
aged nine and four. I have been in
the RAF for twenty-two years and
have previously served overseas at
Bruggen (single) and Brunssum
(married/accompanied). Posted from
Waddington to HQ 1(UK) Armoured
Division at Herford in Germany last
August I share my experience of the
pitfalls of a Service move abroad in an
attempt to warn others…
I was fortunate to visit Herford two months
before my posting to undertake a handover
with my predecessor and begin to prepare
for our move. Despite this, the process of
moving to a new unit, a new country and
in most respects a new Service, has at times
been ‘emotional’. Apart from the unavoidable
stress and chaos of physically moving house,
the financial impact of the move was the area
that was felt most.
It began with our shock to discover
disturbance allowance had hardly changed in
the four years since our previous move and
we knew immediately that it would be not be
enough to meet the costs of our foreign move.
On leaving the UK, most utility companies
were very accommodating, however, the
need to settle all utility bills at the same time
was a severe drain on resources. We wrongly
assumed our mobile telephone contract
would be easy to transfer as it was with
T-Mobile. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case
and we ended up completing the remaining
months of the contract as it was cheaper than
cancelling it early.
On arriving in Germany our cars consumed
finances and a great deal of our time.
The need to purchase, and then have
professionally fitted, continental headlights,
warning triangles, jerry cans and first aid kits
were all additional costs. Vehicle insurance
and breakdown cover were considerably
more than in the UK, as it was for the house.
The process of opening a bank account
brought further costs as did getting telephone
and internet connectivity to our new home.

Discovering that not all UK telephones are
compatible with the German telephone
network was just one of the minor problems
we encountered.
If I thought I would get respite at work
from the seemingly endless time spent in
the process of handing over money for little
visible gain, I was mistaken. On registering
for membership of the Sergeants’ Mess I was
presented with a bill for nearly £200. I was
informed that it was common practice in the
Army to pay for the Christmas function and
draw tickets over the course of the year and
I was in arrears! I was also informed that my
monthly bill would be four times that which
I was used to paying. Compulsory Mess and
Branch charges now cost me between £50
and £60 a month.
There is a great deal of information available
to personnel and families moving abroad, but
it doesn’t help the fact that the initial outlay
is approximately £3,000. The following is a
list of additional information both me and my
work colleagues would have found valuable
during our moves.
Preparing to Move
Mobile Phones: Even though we were
with T-Mobile (German telecom) we couldn’t
transfer our contract to Germany. We ended
up paying the remaining three months on
the contract rather than the cancellation fee
which was larger. We discovered that we can
still use our ‘free’ texts by sending them via
the Internet.
utilities: Most companies were helpful and
understanding but some did enforce charges
for breaching fixed-term contracts. This
process took many calls to 0845 numbers,
numerous letters and a great deal of patience.
Paying all outstanding bills was another
significant drain on funds.
Insurances: Insurances cannot be moved
from one country to another, even if you
intend to stay with the same company.
Household possessions had to be insured
when in transit between homes. We didn’t
go with the suggested policy that came
with the moving documents. By shopping
around we found we could get better cover
for considerably less.
Car: Ensure you get proof of ‘no claims’
entitlement as your new insurer will require
this. Via the internet and telephone we
arranged insurance with a German insurer
prior to our move. Cover started on the day
we left the UK and payments didn’t start
until we had a local bank account. Despite
shopping around our premiums were still
nearly double what we paid in the UK.
For those with personalised number plates,
be aware that you could lose them. Advice
from the DVLA and the BFG registrations
department has been inconsistent and at
times contradictory. People with personalised
plates are at times being told there is no
guarantee they will still own them on their
return to UK. This was regardless of how
much they had paid or how long they had
owned them.
Moving: The MoD provides flights from
Birmingham to Germany. Our new quarter
is ten miles from the garrison so we needed
to keep both our cars. As a result we were
unable to use the MoD option so travelled
by ferry. Some of the travel expenses can
be claimed back but the majority, including
the ferry costs and pet passports, cannot.
European breakdown and insurance cover
were unavoidable expenses incurred here.
Once in Germany
Telephones: Arriving in Germany, we
found our house telephone wasn’t compatible
with the German network – we ended up
buying a new set of phones.
german Telephone/Internet. Usual
connection fees required, up to €200 and
we found the standard monthly costs slightly
higher. However, internet speeds are far
superior to those we had in Lincolnshire.
Pets: Not an area that affected us, but
passports, insurance and jabs are a significant
unavoidable expense.
Medical: For family members with
existing medical issues the continuance of
treatment and supply of medication is far
from straightforward. The demise of Military
hospitals has seen medical support being
provided by a mixture of military and German
civil agencies. Work colleagues and their
family members have been vociferous in their
criticism of the efficiency of the system.
Problems ranged from difficulties with
prescriptions to individuals missing vital
treatment. In a rare display of inter-Service
unity, colleagues unanimously pointed the
finger of blame at the military element of the
support systems. So far, my only personal
contact with the medical services was when
my wife and children were due their annual
dental check. Unfortunately, the Dental Centre
was unable to carry them out, or even give
a future date when they could. They did
suggest using a local German dentist but we
would have had to pay for this and would
not be able to reclaim the money. Fortunately,
we had forgotten to cancel our UK dental
arrangements so my family use them when
they visit the UK.
Single Personnel: One of my colleagues
who is single lived in his own house in the
UK. On being posted to Germany he was
informed that the Officers’ Mess was full so
he would be living in a flat for the duration
of his tour. Rather than leave his house
empty for two years he arranged for it to be
let. He then discovered that as he was single
he was not entitled to have his furniture
transported to Germany at public expense.
He could however have it placed into
storage in the UK for the duration of his tour
and have that paid for, despite that being a
far more expensive option.
My family an I are now well settled into life
in Germany and it is a great place to live.
Many of the activities we do and places
we go will be very familiar to people who
experienced RAFG. However, many things
have changed. Even though it is only four
years since I was last overseas, some things
have changed dramatically, greatest of these
is the value of the Pound against the Euro.
Germany and the rest of Europe is now a
very expensive place compared to UK. My
advice to anyone moving overseas is begin
saving for the move as soon as possible and
do not rely on disturbance allowances or
future LOA to cover costs.
 
#6
armr617 said:
Welcome to our world!
Sometimes i do envy our crab colleagues their ability (like our neighbours who have lived in the same house for 12yrs) to stay in one place, must be good for the kids.

hmmmmm....i was a crab brat, and the longest we stayed anywhere was 3yrs (in germany funnily enough)
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
I thought he was just warning people who haven't been abroad since the old RAFG things have moved on

Didn't think it was an article about the RAF's attitude to postings he accepted it and dosen't appear to have a problem with the posting just warning about some pit falls
 
#9
the_boy_syrup said:
I thought he was just warning people who haven't been abroad since the old RAFG things have moved on

Didn't think it was an article about the RAF's attitude to postings he accepted it and dosen't appear to have a problem with the posting just warning about some pit falls

In fact they should copy and paste it into the Patchpedia, it seems fairly informative and decently written.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
bigbird67 said:
armr617 said:
Welcome to our world!
Sometimes i do envy our crab colleagues their ability (like our neighbours who have lived in the same house for 12yrs) to stay in one place, must be good for the kids.

hmmmmm....i was a crab brat, and the longest we stayed anywhere was 3yrs (in germany funnily enough)
Overseas postins are 3 years IIRC with an option to short tour to two years

In the UK i've known people stay at the same unit virually their whole time
All depends on trade and aircraft type They used to nick name Wittering the triangle because the Harrier lads did Wittering - Guttersloh - Wittering - Bleize - Wittering.....
 
#13
Some good points raised with some useful advice.

He was lucky he had a handover two months before his start date at least people knew he was turning up in Germany.
 
#14
The reason I abandoned my offers of scholarships to join both the army and the air force was mythen girl friend's descriptions of her family's treatment as members of an RAF family. Being told on a Thursday that dad is moving from Leuchars to Gutersloh on Monday seemed to be pretty typical.

Met plenty of folks who backed up the stories of hideous treatment of families particularly working wives. Over the years I've met plenty of USofA military folks who have been 'transplanted' with minimal personal disruption. The UK mil is way out of step with UK civilian expat and foreign (USA) military treatment, enough for one to posit that retention is not a problem.
 

mysteron

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
It does seem however, that if he was able to commence HO/TO 2 months prior that he would have been able to ask and get the wealth of information that helps people move from UK to BFG.

I accept that there are some costs to pay, I had to pay them as well as everyone else, it also appears that so does he. Unfortunately, he appears to be a little too willing to pay straight away rather use things such as the Tax free option (Mehrwerkstuer - spelling? Can't remember!). He could have also got his car up to BFG standard in the UK (which is definitely cheaper!) brought it across and straight into testing.

I know it is easy to point and say where he went wrong. My point is that he seems to be surprised at the volume of things one has to do when moving abroad. There is tonnes of literature and advice out there and he had 8 weeks prior to posting to recce and book in advance - so a little bit of sympathy - but not much.

As an L2s article - fine, well written without too much bleating.

As this is the NAAFI Bar: Typical Crab - soft cushy lifestyle can't hack paying his mess bills - now he knows what it is like to be in a proper mess not in a Premier Inn with a bar and a one-armed bandit in the corner.
 
#16
GoodIdeaAtTheTime said:
The reason I abandoned my offers of scholarships to join both the army and the air force was mythen girl friend's descriptions of her family's treatment as members of an RAF family. Being told on a Thursday that dad is moving from Leuchars to Gutersloh on Monday seemed to be pretty typical.

Met plenty of folks who backed up the stories of hideous treatment of families particularly working wives. Over the years I've met plenty of USofA military folks who have been 'transplanted' with minimal personal disruption. The UK mil is way out of step with UK civilian expat and foreign (USA) military treatment, enough for one to posit that retention is not a problem.
Shame you didn't give it a bash. I would have said that the girl friend's story would have been as unusual then as it is now. Also, retention is not really a problem so I don't know whether we are as bad as you have been led to believe.

whf
 
#17
the_boy_syrup said:
bigbird67 said:
armr617 said:
Welcome to our world!
Sometimes i do envy our crab colleagues their ability (like our neighbours who have lived in the same house for 12yrs) to stay in one place, must be good for the kids.

hmmmmm....i was a crab brat, and the longest we stayed anywhere was 3yrs (in germany funnily enough)
Overseas postins are 3 years IIRC with an option to short tour to two years

In the UK i've known people stay at the same unit virually their whole time
All depends on trade and aircraft type They used to nick name Wittering the triangle because the Harrier lads did Wittering - Guttersloh - Wittering - Bleize - Wittering.....
I spent 4 years at Kinloss & 3/12 at Bruggen,One lad I was at Kinloss with spent his entire RAF career up there at the same camp,on the same shift on NLS.

GoodIdeaAtTheTime:
The reason I abandoned my offers of scholarships to join both the army and the air force was mythen girl friend's descriptions of her family's treatment as members of an RAF family. Being told on a Thursday that dad is moving from Leuchars to Gutersloh on Monday seemed to be pretty typical.
The only time I've heard that happening was to a supply sargent who was caught screwing the wife of one of the lads in the Bomb Dump when the husband was away on Granby.
 
#18
mysteron said:
I accept that there are some costs to pay, I had to pay them as well as everyone else, it also appears that so does he.
Why? My gf was moved to Norway for six months when single and three years out of university. Got a freebie plane ticket home every two weeks so that she could come home or her bf/husband/partner could fly out and visit her. Received a free flat close to work and a monthly disturbance allowance that said "we want make up for any hardship you might feel or differnce in the cost of living". Even given a fully fuelled pool car to tootle abount in. Basically they made sure that she was not out of pocket as a result of moving abroad at the company's behest.

I've met plenty of expats, including my two brothers, who have been treated in a similar fashion. The MOD seems to take a perverse delight in making families suffer for their benefit. "Man up" and "Dry your eyes princess" are the oft quoted refrains, but they are not helping anyone in the long term.
 
#19
bigbird67 said:
armr617 said:
Welcome to our world!
Sometimes i do envy our crab colleagues their ability (like our neighbours who have lived in the same house for 12yrs) to stay in one place, must be good for the kids.

hmmmmm....i was a crab brat, and the longest we stayed anywhere was 3yrs (in germany funnily enough)
Me too, 2 - 3 years was the longest we stayed anywhere (Singapoor and Germany). Bigbird, I think it's changed alot since our parents were in!
 

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