Shout out time…is there a difference between an expat and military family

I am an expat…

This post was originally from the blog, From Casinos to Castles. The author has now lived the exciting life of both military personnel and American wife to a German husband and so has compiled a nice list of what each side of this coin experiences and has come to the conclusion, with no offense intended, that military personnel and their families are not expats…

The blog post begins with a very nice, clear definition of exactly what an expat is, and then explains the distinct differences between expats and military families. Additionally, Deanna does the math on what Europeans, or at least Germans would be paying for gasoline if Europeans/Germans used gallons instead of liters, because you know that liters are less than a gallon – right?! The price difference is AMAZING and I can safely chalk not having to drive and own a car at the moment as a blessing and luxury!

Military Families

  • You do not have a foreign bank account and still receive your income in U.S. dollars. You bank at American banks, on base, that are set up to utilize that particular country’s banking system.
  • You receive a USAREUR license, not a foreign driver’s license. While the test you take is similar, it is not as extensive as the one you’d take without your military umbrella. You are not required to attend any sort of driving school (aside from the short safety briefing) or have your license translated. The fee you pay is minimal in comparison. (last known, $10)
  • When you shop off-base you refer to shopping in the “economy”.
  • You have VAT forms making you exempt from paying local sales taxes.


  • We have foreign bank accounts, no access to U.S. dollars and pay bills through the foreign banking system.
  • Depending on what state you are from, in Germany you must either take the written and practical test, only the written test or you’re lucky and your state side license transfers over completely. Based on those first two scenarios, you have to enroll in driving school. Furthermore, you must have your state side license translated and pay all appropriate fees. We also must acquire our own study guides which are not always provided for free. (In my case, it’s a total of  €250)
  • The “economy” is my home, no differently than the U.S. is your home when you are there. Expats don’t use such terms as there is no other shopping option such as the commissary or BX.
  • We pay the sales taxes with no exemptions. (19% here)

What do you think?

Published by livingtheamericandreamineurope

I live in Europe, I am from America.

8 thoughts on “Shout out time…is there a difference between an expat and military family

  1. We used to be American expats living in the UK… now we are dual citizens. Best of both worlds, actually… but it took many years here to qualify. One of the best decisions we ever made. Well, now I have married children on both sides of the pond, so that isn’t entirely ideal… but there you have it. 🙂

    1. My husband is dual, and my son is technically. I am only American, how boring, ay. No, just kidding. I can only imagine that as we age, because we all do, living abroad away from family becomes much tougher. In a perfect world flights to the west coast wouldn’t cost and arm and a leg for three people, or take about 24 hours transit time (total)…and we could make the trip more often. Sadly however, this isn’t the case.

      Thanks for sharing!!

  2. This is so interesting! I hadn’t given too much thought to these details previously, but I had heard about the American stores on the military bases and wished I could go in one and buy my beloved Jif peanut butter 😀 Also it cracked me up that they call my normal everyday life the “economy” lol

    1. Thanks! The original post that I am offering a shout out too was considered so controversial, but I complete understand based on the parameters Deanna, the original author spelled out.

      I think while the two worlds can be very similar, and parallel or even mirror each other, I agree that -at least in my limited experience, there is a difference.

      Mind you, I do not want to unkindly (or otherwise) lump all military-related Americans overseas together. The people I have met associated with the American military here really run the spectrum. That said however, all of our lives and perspectives are shaped by what we do or do not do (by choice or otherwise) and the opportunities given or offered to us. Many American service people and their families are given a choice to live on or off base and might not understand the complexity of that choice, or the stress or otherwise ease of choosing base-life over village life, or vice versa.

      Living abroad as an expat, long-term tourist or military is challenging, no
      Matter what!

      I don’t so much miss the Jif, but I do miss larger sized containers of things like peanut butter. The standard size sold in the stores here is probably a third of the size we are used to back home-but just as expensive.

      I also miss big-ass American freezers. They have larger stand alone freezers for sale here, but space in general is an issue.

  3. As an ex-military soldier who lived in Germany for 5 years, I completely agree that there’s a difference. I lived “on the economy” with my wife (who is German) and son, but the housing was leased to the US from Germany. To me, an “expat” is one who has left their homeland to work and live in a foreign country, FOR that country. As a military member, you are still working for the US and actually have to still follow US laws (Not 21? Still can’t drink, even if the host country’s laws say you can), along with the laws of the host country. As a matter of fact, my wife and I are desperately trying to move back to Germany. I never felt more at home than I did when I lived over there. But there’s that little detail of finding work as an American, which just seems nearly impossible! (If you have any tips, I’m all ears!) I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Hi there, thanks for reading the blog and thanks for your input on this topic!

      Regarding working here, if it is a goal of yours I don’t think it should be too challenging if your other half is German. I imagine that would get a work permit. The problem is if you are fluent in German and if you have degrees or certifications already. You can train and study here, but if you can’t really speak the language your options might be limited.

      I’ll try to post some links or something in a post to help with this specifically.

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