I never imagined I’d be a military wife. When my husband proposed to me, the room sounded like a mediation room, which makes sense as we are both lawyers. I laid out what he could expect for me, and things I would not be doing. I fully respect what my husband does and he is my hero. I have my own identity, and much of that is rooted in the civilian world. In our 9 years of marriage, the husband has been assigned to 6 bases. I have become an expert at becoming a local, separate from the military community. We are about to move to our 7th base this month, so these are the tactics I am using to make sure I feel comfortable in my new state.
1. Connect with people living in the area before you move.
As soon as I find out where we are moving, I think about whether I know anyone who has been assigned there. If I do, I call, e-mail, or connect with them through Facebook. I ask about areas to live, schools, their experience living there, and most importantly, do they know anyone still living there. I have had strangers pick our family up at the airport, loan my baby items, and let me stay overnight at their house on a house hunting visit. I return the favor to anyone who asks for my help. My social networking has made our PCSs smoother and sometimes supplied me with instant friends.
2. Research, Research, Research
How did people manage PCSs before the advent of the internet? I love researching information about my soon to be new home. Before I moved to Alaska, I bought and read a copy of The Milepost (http://www.amazon.com/The-Milepost-2013-Kris-Valencia/dp/1892154307).
3. Use social media to learn about local attractions, museums, restaurants
Like the Facebook pages of local restaurants and attractions, as businesses often offer special deals to Facebook “friends.” Follow them on Twitter.
4. Live off-base, if possible
It might not always be possible to live off base, but if it is for your family, house hunt and consider off-base options. Then talk to your neighbors! Introduce yourself; people love to welcome new families to the area.
5. Find an off-base church, gym, or library and frequent it
This especially applies if you live on base but want to make civilian friends. Libraries are a great, free resource.
6. If you have children, join a local Mom’s Club or look for a group that matches your interests through meetup.com
Mom’s Club (http://www.momsclub.org) is an international, secular organization by moms, for mom. MOPS (http://www.mops.org) is a Christian-based organization for moms. Most areas have options for one or both of these. Meetup.com is another great resource, as is attending storytime at the local library. If you live off base, and your children are school age, become involved in their school to meet local friends.
7. Embrace your inner extrovert and talk to people you meet. Let them know you are new in town, and ask about the area.
People love to tell you about the best spots in town. I have never asked someone for recommendations and left not having learned something.
8. Become a tourist in your new surroundings
When you arrive, start visiting all the cool things you found from your research and that were suggested to you by new people you have met. In no time, you will find your favorite park, the best library, a new favorite restaurant.
9. Try the local cuisine and local sayings
I do not mean you need to start saying “y’all” but if you live in the South, try the barbeque or grits or sweet tea. My husband still uses “cheers” when ending conversations from our time in England. Anytime I see grouper sold, I am reminded of our time stationed on the Emerald Coast of Florida.
10. Ask everyone you meet what they like best about the area.
This is especially useful if it is a climate that is new to you, a place far from home, or an assignment that was not expected. In addition, when you meet local friends do not talk bad about the area where they live.