Host nation tour helps newcomers familiarize with Kaiserslautern area, German culture

Stefan Wegner, cross cultural adaptation technician, Army Community Service, provides information on how to purchase train tickets at the Kaiserslautern Hauptbahnhof train station during a host nation tour held Jan. 6.

There’s no question. Moving to a new country can be difficult and at times frightening for many of us.

Trying to learn a new language, shopping in the city, buying groceries or even dining out at local restaurants — everything that wasn’t a big deal before will now be a new challenge.

Taking away most of those fears is the Army Community Service’s Relocation Readiness Program’s ultimate goal. The program, which has received a lot of positive feedback, helps newcomers in the U.S Army Garrison Kaiserslautern area to have the best possible start, and helps them get more familiar with the Kaiserslautern area as well as the overall German culture. 

Stefan Wegner, ACS cross cultural adaptation technician, provides regular city tours that usually run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., two or three times a month. 

“The tour shows how easy it is to use the public transportation system in Germany and in Europe overall,” Wegner said. “It brings Soldiers, Civilians, and their families out of their bases/barracks and their homes, and gets them in contact with their host nation citizens. And finally, it brings like-minded U.S. citizens together.” 

We started our tour with an introduction on Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, where Stefan outlined our stops for the day. From there, we walked to the bus station and hopped on a bus to reach the city center.

The German-American Community Office, also known as GACO, is located in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The fish sculpture in front of the building was created in 2001 to commemorate the 725th anniversary of Kaiserslautern receiving its city rights in 1276.

While waiting for our bus, Stefan showed us how to use the bus system and how to read the bus map.

Our first stop was at the German-American Community Office, also known as GACO, which is a joint initiative between the 86th Airlift Wing, U.S. Army Garrison Rhineland-Pfalz, and the city of Kaiserslautern. The office serves as a medium of communication between the local community and members of the U.S. forces stationed in and around the Kaiserslautern Military Community. 

All GACO services are free and open to the general public. GACO’s goal is answer questions and address any concerns on German laws, practices, or local culture in general. 

The GACO has brochures that provide a variety of valuable information, such as ways to recycle, find a specific restaurant, or even find interesting things to do in the Kaiserslautern area.

After visiting the GACO, we headed back to the bus station. Walking there, Stefan showed us the old ruins that are left over from Emperor Barbarossa’s era, and explained a few things about them. This is a great opportunity to learn more about medieval history!

Our next stop was the Kaiserslautern Central Railway Station. Stefan explained to us how to read the departure/arrival times and how to buy train tickets. This was very helpful because most newcomers do not have a car when they first move here, and might need to take the train for the first few weeks or even months here in Germany.

Our last stop was at a German restaurant downtown Kaiserslautern, where we had the chance to taste some delicious German food. 

After lunch we got back on the bus and headed back to Kleber Kaserne. Stefan said more people should take advantage of the host nation tours, and encourages everyone to sign up for the German and English classes he teaches. 

For any additional information, please visit or call the phone number (0)611-143-541-9007.