1. FINDING YOUR NEW HOME
Have you found an accommodation through the Housing Office yet?
If not and you are eager to search on your own, the internet is the most convenient source of information to use. The following websites are among the most famous in Germany you can go through to find your new home close to your designated duty station:
Also check out home listings in military newspapers including the Find-It-Guide.
Find more information on the Ramstein Air Base website.
German abbreviations - If you want to search for housing on your own, you will discover that advertisements consist almost entirely of abbreviations. To help you understand the ads and make your search more efficient, consult this compiled list of abbreviations.
Prioritize - In every case, it will help to prioritize your needs and desires when house hunting. Do you want a short commute or do you need a house that accepts pets? Pets can become an issue with a potential landlord, so be prepared to have your list of available homes decrease significantly. Is it essential to be on the school bus route? If your spouse and children accompany you, it is advisable to be aware of the assigned school bus stops and the arrangement of school feeder zones for the local communities. Find more information on this topic in the segment "Children".
Focal point Housing Office - In general, all housing contracts must reviewed and completed by the Housing Management Office. Once you have located housing in your community, please complete the paperwork provided by the Housing Office with your landlord and return this form to the Housing Office to finalize your contract. Never sign German rental contracts before you have had them translated and reviewed.
Real Estate Services - Are you looking for a real estate agent to help you in the process of finding a home? Call up the Yellow Pages website and enter 'Immobilienmakler' and the name of your town to obtain a list of local estate agents near your place of residence. Be wary, though: in most cases, the use of a real estate agent is not necessary due to the sufficient quantity of available housing and comes with considerable fees. The finder’s fee may range from one to three months’ rent. If you seek reimbursement of fees, you must provide significant justification in writing to the housing director and receive prior approval before making use of Immobilien services. For further information on real estate agents contact the local Housing Management Office.
German Landlord-Tenant Law - Ensure your Housing Office reviews the rental contract between you and the designated landlord and inspects the property when you find your new home. If you are curious about your rights as a tenant and want to inform yourself about the German landlord and tenant law, you can contact the 21st Theater Sustainment Command Legal Assistance Offices or Ramstein Air Base Legal Services/JAG.
2. Being a good neighbor
Found a new home? Great!
You can get off to a good start by introducing yourself to your new neighbors. It is not a requirement, of course, but it is an easy way to get acquainted with your immediate environment and allows you to learn who your neighbors are. Who knows, it might be the start of long-lasting friendships with locals!
The following is a brief list of the ordinances and rules you need to know to build a good relationship with your neighbors:
Quiet Hours - A crucial topic when living off base is compliance with quiet hours. Depending on the time of the day, upper limits on the permissible noise level may be in place.
In general, noise is prohibited from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and on Sundays and holidays so everyone can have a good night’s sleep. Lawn mowers and other gardening machines may be used from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. except Sundays and German holidays. To avoid frictions with your neighbors or the local authorities, be aware of the fact that car idling is not allowed in Germany for noise prevention and environmental protection reasons.
Maintaining Property - According to German law, tenants have cleaning responsibilities at the rented property: There are agreements in place specifying which tenant is responsible for cleaning which walkway or hallway. Whether you own a house or live in a rental, you have to keep your section of the sidewalk free of debris. In winter, you need to clear the snow off of your sidewalk before kids go to school, which means it has to be done by 7 a.m. What may seem annoying at first, can turn into a weekly opportunity to chat with your neighbors, though!
Washing the car - Unfortunately, this is not allowed at home because the chemicals in the soap can seep into the ground water.
Barbecues - First and foremost: The important criterion for a problem-free barbecue at home is that the smoke and smell do not bother your neighbors. Living in close quarters, you can let the neighbors know ahead of time when you expect to fire up the grill to give them time to close their windows beforehand. Another alternative is to move your grill to the other side of the building, if possible. Or invite your neighbors right from the start!
Please keep in mind that your neighbors do not have to consent to frequent barbecues if the smoke and smell is unbearable. In this case, you can consider moving your weekly grilling to a different location by renting a communal barbecue hut. Contact your community for more information.
The good news for all pitmasters out there: Restrictions are only imposed in the event of complaints by neighbors. In the absence of complaints, you're free to grill as often as you wish!
Parties – In general, you are allowed to make noise until 10 p.m. but after ten, you are required to turn down the volume to a moderate level. However, informing your neighbors ahead of time about your plans and reaching an agreement with them to keep the show going until after 10 p.m. is possible, of course. The best option is to invite them, too!
Heating fuel, water, and electricity are in general more expensive in Germany than you are used to from the US.
If your landlord has not taken care of electricity, water or gas, you will have to make your own arrangements with a suitable provider. Your landlord or the Housing Office can direct you to the appropriate office or give you the contact information for local providers. German utility companies bill differently than stateside ones. You may pay every month or even quarterly, therefore bills will not fluctuate from month to month: you pay a flat amount each billing cycle. Remember to enroll in the Tax Avoidance Plan that will cut your utility costs considerably!
Utility Tax Avoidance Plan (UTAP) - A great benefit of the SOFA agreement is the Utility Tax Avoidance Plan (UTAP). UTAP reduces your utility costs by providing tax relief for electricity (19%), gas (19%), and water (7%). Register for the program by visiting the Value Added Tax (VAT) office on your installation. Be sure to bring a copy of your contract and a copy of your orders with you when you go to the VAT Office.
Phone contracts - Keep in mind that you will not have phone service automatically when you move into your new home. For internet access and landline phone service, you have to sign up with a phone service provider of your choice like TKS on base or Telekom, Kabel Deutschland, Vodafone, 1&1, etc. It pays off to compare them! Check 24 is a good and convenient comparison portal.
The minimum contract duration is 24 months and the contract is automatically extended for another 12 months if it is not terminated a few months in advance of its end date. Please note that the contract termination must be in writing! Early termination requires a substantive cause. Your status with the US Military allows you to terminate your phone/internet service contract upon PCS. Just present your provider a copy of your orders.
Cell phone - There are two types of cell phone subscription: Prepaid and Contract.
Contracts have a fixed term, whereas with a prepaid service you just buy a cell phone and a SIM-card to load with credit and subsequently use up. If you bring your U.S. cell phone with you, it might be compatible with a German SIM-card if it is unlocked. In this instance, all you need is to purchase a SIM-card from a cell phone service provider (T-Mobile, TKS, Vodafone, E-Plus, O2, etc.).
Just shop around and ask about the available coverage.
Internet access - Before the installation of internet service, you will probably need to sign service contracts. In that case, you might have to plan on waiting several weeks before gaining access to the internet at home. Hence, it makes sense to contact your desired internet service provider and arrange the installation before actually moving in, if possible!
You can find more information on the local internet speed in the segment Project Communities under Internet/Phone.
Germany is the undisputed world champion in separating waste materials!
The inherent eco-consciousness in German society prompts a very distinct attitude towards waste generation and disposal. Recycling is the keyword! Garbage is separated into blue, yellow, green, and black containers and subsequently introduced into the recycling process. Additionally, glass containers are available for various colored glasses. Many communities have receptacles set up for you to sort your glass - clear, brown and green glass go into different containers. The project communities have compiled the locations of their glass containers on their respective subpages.
Garbage Guide - U.S. service members living in the Kaiserslautern Military Community are encouraged to take a look at the Garbage Guide in English provided for the Kaiserslautern County area as well as for the inner city of Kaiserslautern. Also check out the handy Garbage Guide App for your cell phone.
Waste Separation - The county of Kaiserslautern has arranged a neat Flyer on how to separate trash properly. Feel free to take a look at the condensed and very helpful material!
So, which trash can is for plastic?