Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 12/09/15
Personal Experiences from Frankfurt, Germany
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, mostly in the Middle East
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
8 hours flight from the East Coast of U.S.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most foreign affairs agency personnel are housed in a common USG owned apartment community. This is former US Army housing built in the 50's. Walk-up apartments have been updated and are decent size. Singles usually occupy two bedroom/one bath units and families with children are allotted between 3-6 bedrooms depending on availability and family size. There is a community "field house" with restaurant, small shop, play grounds, tennis courts, and a preschool. Consulate apartment housing have 110v outlets in the kitchen.
Non foreign affairs agencies are housed throughout the community in various apartments, town houses and houses.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
About the same if purchased at the Commissary in Wiesbaden, maybe a bit higher if purchased at German stores, though selection and prices are still good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Haven't thought of anything
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The typical McDonald's, Burger King and KFC at a little higher than American prices. Also have one Chipotle to round out the American offerings. There are many good restaurants here, though prices are probably higher than the U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO or local German mail for Amazon.de
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tiny gym in the Consulate building (free), decent size gym in the Siedlung Community (very reasonable) and many private gyms in the community.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Some smaller establishments and groceries only take cash or German "EC" (debit) cards. Using a credit card is safe but you should get a card with a chip as this may be the only kind accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Lutheran, Catholic, Evangelical, and all services at the Base
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Probably don't need any, many speak English but they appreciate your effort to communicate in German. It is helpful to know basic signs and phrases, though I know many people who haven't learned any.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It's probably easier than many posts. All buses are accessible and most U-bahn stations have elevators. The housing community does also have several accessible apartments. There may be some issues in certain very old buildings if there aren't elevators, but this probably isn't a problem in daily life.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes to all
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I would hesitate to bring a larger vehicle. There are some with mini-vans and pickup trucks, but traveling with them or parking in older areas of town or parking garages may be impossible. We have a sedan which almost feels too big sometimes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, we pay about US$65 a month for cable/internet. Service is actually a bit slow and goes out periodically.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Can be purchased or service signed up for at the base. Two different providers, both which offer no-penalty cancellation with advance notice of several months and your orders.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No quarantine. Lots of good care and boarding. Also if you live on the Siedlung, there are plenty of pet-sitters around for times that you travel.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most work at the Consulate or School. I think it would be difficult to work here unless you spoke German.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Community Outreach Group in the Consulate Community, School opportunities, many opportunities developing as a result of the refugee situation here as well.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work seems to be casual to business depending on the agency. In public you will see everything as well.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No unusual health concerns. People's allergies seem to be worse here. Plenty of great medical care available.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Seasonal allergies seem to be worse here. Allergy medicine is available locally.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summers can have intense heat waves and little air conditioning in housing and hotels. Winters have ranged from 30-50F degree highs in the past few years with little snow, though the year before we arrived there was a lot of snow.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Many high quality schools. DoD children must attend the DoD school in Wiesbaden. Most of the children attend Frankfurt International School, which has campuses in Oberursel and Wiesbaden. We have had a great experience at the Oberursel campus. Many children attend International School of Frankfurt and a growing number are also attending Metropolitan School of Frankfurt. There are also children enrolled in the German Public Schools.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
The Consulate Community Association runs a preschool/daycare on the Siedlung. There are also children attending many kindergartens locally.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Here again the possibilities are endless. Many after-school programs offered at the school and clubs throughout Frankfurt and neighboring towns. Soccer, hockey, music lessons, art lessons, circus school, cheerleading, field hockey, parkour, etc. Children can also take advantage of sports programs offered on the Army base in Wiesbaden such as football and basketball.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge community, morale varies. This community is not as close knit because of the size and many people are either traveling regionally for work or traveling on the weekends with their family. It is a different vibe than any post I have been at. It's not really a bad thing, just different and bothers some people. Many expat families at the international schools too.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Movies, travel, restaurants, swimming pools in the summer
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
yes for all of the above
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I believe so
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I haven't heard of any.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The possibilities are endless...get out and explore Europe by car, rail, or air. Many budget and inexpensive flights available from both Frankfurt and Hahn airports.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Steins, Bembels, Cuckoo Clocks, decorations from the Christmas and Easter Markets
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Travel around Europe, great public transportation and all the comforts of home
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Getting registered in Germany is a process and it will literally take 3 months before you have your ID, license plates, registration, etc. If you know this ahead of time, I think it's easier to cope. If you have US license plated for your car, bring them as you can drive with them here before you get your German ones. If you are going to buy a car here, you have to wait to get your diplomatic ID first before you can claim back the VAT paid on the car. This will take about 6 weeks so be prepared to either rent or get by on public transportation for a while. You can't claim any VAT on anything until you get the dip ID, so save all large purchases for after that.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
Ski gear. Incredible ski opportunities and International schools get a ski break in February.