How to Live Abroad as a Military Family

Jonah Andersson February 9, 2012
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How to Live Abroad as a Military Family

Military families are required to move often as part of the services in the Armed Forces. Among the areas that families might move, military bases situated in overseas locations are a possibility. In fact, many military families spend a few years overseas as part of their military service. While moving is a fact of life for any military family, moving abroad is a different experience and requires some additional preparation before the family relocates.

Cultural Differences

Military families are often adept at moving and adapting to new locations. Within the United States, the adaptation is somewhat easier because of the similar culture and common language. When moving overseas, this adaptation requires taking time to learn about the culture of the area.

Overseas locations are different than the states. Countries will vary in their culture and misunderstandings can arise as a result of misunderstood cultural differences. Taking the time to learn some of the cultural aspects of the new location, particularly as it relates to body language, can help smooth the adaptation.

Language Differences

While military bases overseas will often have the necessities like groceries, it is often a requirement to venture beyond this area. The language is likely to differ unless the base is in an English speaking country. This might mean some confusion and might require taking some time to learn the basics of the language. Some basic phrases like ordering food or asking directions are usually appropriate to learn before going to avoid as many complications as possible.

Housing Patience

Moving abroad with the family might be an exciting time, but not all military bases abroad will have housing immediately available. It might be necessary to wait as arrangements are made either on or off base. This is particularly true of bases that are undergoing any renovations to keep it safe and updated or simply do not have enough housing units for the number of families moving in.

Schooling for Children

The schooling situation for children of military members will vary depending on the particular location. Areas in the world that have excellent educational systems might require children to attend a local school in the area. Children will end up learning the local language as they attend school, often assisted by the local school system with tutors and English speaking teachers.

Areas that do not have good educational systems will have schools on base that are set up through the Department of Defense. These schools are designed by the military to provide education to children of military members.

The Department of Defense Education Activity will make appropriate arrangements for children of military families, regardless of the country. Those who are going to the local school will often have tuition costs paid by the Education Activity to ensure quality education while abroad.

Using the Support Center

Military families who are moving abroad will have a military family support center available on the military base. This center is designed to help families adjust to the new location and work out any potential problems that might arise as the result of different cultures and languages. The center will help as issues arise or give specific information about the area when first moving in to minimize the complications that might arise.

Living abroad as a military family is primarily about adapting to the new language, culture and location. The new country might differ dramatically from the original or it might have enough similarities for comfort, depending on the location. Regardless of the country, the family will need to take time to learn, adapt and use resources that can ease their way into the new environment.
Photo credit: Aeroplane by Vox Efx

About Author: Kenny Alvarez is an advisor to military veterans and also writes for, a site which explores military educational opportunities and all the secondary education benefits to veterans and their dependents; for instance check out this information on air force scholarships.

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