Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 02/01/16
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, previous assignments have been 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?
Frankfurt can be about 12 hours travel time to DC, depending
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?
Housing is good. Most of us all live in the same neighborhood. The apartments are well-maintained. One doesn't feel cramped or in a fishbowl. Nothing remarkable about the housing but there is little to complain about. I would characterize the typical apartment as cozy - neither large nor small.
The Consulate is about 40 minutes away by foot, about 10 - 15 minutes by bus and car.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Pretty much everything is available. Buying household supplies without a modicum of German can be a bit daunting at first, but you get used to it. The incredible variety of cheese is initially terrifying. You can't swing a cat without hitting a sausage link in this country. Cooks will love the place.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Shoes can be expensive, as can clothing.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food everywhere. Decent restaurants everywhere. A bit pricier than DC but not noticeably so.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None. Well, our neighborhood is eaten up by rabbits. The kids like seeing all the bunnies, though, so there's that.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Frankfurt has a very good DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Expensive I have heard.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The consulate has a workout facility. Don't know about cost.
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?
No issue there.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I believe all English language services are available.
However, they don't much like Scientologists here. From wikipedia, "(Germany) views Scientology as an abusive business masquerading as a religion and believes that it pursues political goals that conflict with the values enshrined in the German constitution."
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not much. You can get by with English only but you'll feel constrained. You'll only need a little German to get by and that much is easily learned.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Depends. Frankfurt as a city is not known for its accomodations for physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
One doesn't need a car here and most don't have one. Buses and trains are everywhere and there are few places in Frankfurt that aren't near a subway stop.
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?
Bring what you want but make sure the vehicle is well-maintained and a recent model.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Decent to quite good, about US$70 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
No issues with cell phones.
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?
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?
Not sure, but German labor laws will likely not favor the expat unless you have a work visa.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty but likely associated with churches, if you don't speak German.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work. But for the weekend, I might leave the white socks at home. Germans don't really wear white socks ("White socks are for sport!") and will immediately mark you for an American if you do. They seem a bit better dressed than the regular American Joe, but you won't stand out (unless you wear shorts, or white socks)
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?
None. Healthcare is very good.
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?
I have heard that Frankfurt in the spring is hard on those with allergies.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Wet. Wet. Wet. Occasionally wonderful for unexpected stretches then wet again.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I have no experience with them but hear that they are excellent.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I have heard that can be a real issue. Anyone with special needs children MUST check with post very early and well before arrival.
3. 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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
I'm guessing, yes.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge. Morale is good. Frankfurt is an easy place to live, work and play.
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?
Opera (2 opera houses), theatre, movies, symphony, you name it. Young people would probably better enjoy Berlin's nightlife but Frankfurt has a little for everyone here. But not a wild nightlife. You can even find first run movies in English here. Be sure you ask for the salty popcorn or you'll get the sweet kettlecorn.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great place for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I have heard
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"?
German food initially seems rather bland and unimaginative. Sausage and more sausage. Pork and more pork. But once one starts to explore, the culinary adventures become more apparent.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing particularly unique to purchase except the wide variety of Christmassy things at Frankfurt's, and each Germany town's individual Christmas markets. Germany is very into Christmas!
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Frankfurt is wonderfully located and can be an excellent base from which to travel elsewhere in Europe. Germans are interesting, cultured, and friendly. There is little to complain about except the weather which is often wet.
10. Can you save money?
Sure, if you learn to cook.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I was not terribly excited to come to Frankfurt which I had heard was an uninteresting city. That's not the case. Frankfurt is actually quite small, very, very walkable, and interesting to explore. And some great shopping (but can get very pricey if you don't watch yourself).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heartbeat. I'll be sad to leave.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts. White socks. Bug spray.
4. But don't forget your:
American style breakfast sausage (you can buy it at the base commissary). Bring an umbrella. Bring two.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
I might watch the German The Lives Of Others
to get an interesting insight into a time in Germany that still shapes local attitudes.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Great place, you'll enjoy it.