In every foreign country where our nation has troops stationed, we also have formal agreements with the governments of those countries spelling out the conditions under which our troops are hosted. Those agreements are called Status of Forces Agreements, or SOFAs. While Cat 6 travelers do not need to be intimately familiar with ALL the details of these agreements, one particular aspect seems to be a stumbling point for many – where can we, and where can we NOT use commissaries and exchanges?
Lady Cat 6’s personal philosophy is that I travel to experience the cultures of the people in the countries I visit, and that includes using their grocery, sundry, and drug stores (pharmacies). In all my travels in Europe and Asia, I have never been to a location that does not have these commercial establishments in the local area!
That being said, knowing what is permitted in the countries we visit can save a lot of frustration. In some countries, like Italy, visiting retirees are free to use US facilities. In others, like Germany, we are not.
Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to abide by the agreements our government has negotiated.
Fortunately, there are handy little charts,
that provide information regarding shopping at exchanges (BX/PX/Navy Exchange) and commissaries overseas. Simply find the country you want to visit, and find your answer. Easy-peasy!
Since so many retirees transit or visit Germany in our travels, a few notes are in order:
Regarding Ramstein, the main point of entry into Germany for space a travelers: though retirees are not permitted to use the commissary or BX, they CAN, except for car rental concessions shop at any of the private vendors (feel free to load up on Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas bling!), in the mall complex, and they CAN purchase sundries at the little shopette. Retirees can also take advantage of the tours provided by MWR.
It is possible, if one intends to visit Germany for 30 days or more, and one desires to document that intent, and provide receipts for all purchases, to make arrangements to shop at the commissary and BX and pay the attendant taxes to the German government. Instructions on the requirements and process are found here: https://www.commissaries.com/regions/exchange_shopping_germany.pdf
Regarding the Edelweiss Resort: many retirees in the past have enjoyed staying at the Edelweiss Resort, in Garmisch. No longer. Details can be found here: http://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/reservation-eligibility Never fear though, Germany has many resort properties and tour operators we CAN utilize, in addition to thousands of charming B&Bs, restaurants, and other recreational opportunities!
Some SOFAs are soft and warm and cushy and easy, some are firm and streamlined and spare and forbidding. Successful Cat 6 travelers are aware of the particular “styles” of SOFAs in the countries they are visiting, and know when to sit and relax, and when to stay off the furniture!