AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --
It's a beautiful, sunny morning in Northern Italy. You and your family have just stepped off the plane and taken your first steps in Europe. You are living the dream! Living and working in Europe for the next few years. What more could an American family ask for?
Unfortunately, for some, the euphoria quickly fades as reality sets in. Whether this is your first time overseas or one of several tours, there is a big adjustment every time you move, especially when living in a foreign country. Unless you take proactive steps to help your family transition to this new environment, the dream can quickly become a nightmare, affecting your most important relationships and your ability to perform in your new duties. I hope the following tips will aid you and your family in settling in and enjoying a successful European tour.
First and foremost, have a positive attitude. You and your family may or may not have wanted to come here, but you are here - for better or worse. Determine to keep upbeat and concentrate on the many positives. Traveling Americans pay thousands of dollars to see Europe for two weeks; you have an opportunity to see it and enjoy the culture on a daily basis and get paid for it! Make the most of this wonderful opportunity and enjoy the time you have.
Secondly, maintain realistic expectations. Remind yourself, "This is not America!" As guests in a foreign country, we cannot expect things to be as they are in the U.S. Italy, in many respects, is vastly different from what we are accustomed to. Be patient as you learn the way things are done here; change can be a good thing and help broaden your perspective. During in-processing, take your family with you whenever possible and experience the transition together. That way, your spouse has a better idea how things work, where things are located and will be better equipped to handle anything that comes up if you should be TDY or deployed. And never stop asking questions! As has been said, the only dumb question is the one that is not asked.
Thirdly, get your family plugged in. Take them to your new office and introduce them to your co-workers. Get your spouse connected to your units' spouses group and your children engaged in the many youth activities offered. Ensure your family has the key numbers they need - first sergeant, key spouse, Command Post and emergency contacts and services. Make sure they all go on the newcomers tour and take them to the Airman and Family Readiness Center. One of the more common fears faced by our Aviano Air Base family is the language barrier. Fortunately, there are several resources available to assist. The base Library offers Rosetta Stone free to our active-duty members and an on-line language course free to our family members. Several of the local community libraries, such as Aviano and Sacile, offer free languages classes beginning in September. And finally, the base Community Center offers morning and evening language classes for a fee. The quicker your family becomes familiar with the many resources available to them, the quicker they will feel comfortable and safe in their new home.
In addition, keep information flowing home! When you get notifications, pass them on to your family even if you don't think they are interested. This can include anything from upcoming tours to gate closure information, events, etc. Sign them up for weekly base information sources like the Wyvern Weekly (31FW.PANEWS@aviano.af.mil
) and keep them plugged in to base happenings. The more information they have, the better equipped they are to make the most of and full enjoy their time here.
And finally, don't just stay around the base. As a family, get involved in to the Italian community you live in. Plan weekend jaunts; there's much to see within a few hours' drive! Take in some of the many Italian festivals. Learning the culture will help everyone see that we aren't so different after all, and your time here will fly by.
There aren't easy answers to help your family transition to living overseas. However, if you take the time to follow these steps, your ability to focus on and do your job will become easier. Your family will be able to enjoy this unique opportunity to live and experience a foreign culture and you will all walk away from your time here with memories to last a lifetime.
Live life and enjoy - Vivi e la vita godere!