Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 01/28/17
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. Other posts 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?
Washington, DC., USA. Eight-hour flight from IAD to Frankfurt.
3. How long have you lived here?
I lived there for three years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Bigger than most Germans have. The apartments are blocky with no character. Washer and dryer in the kitchen. Commutes are great: either a) three minute car ride, b) ten minute bus ride, or c) 40 minute walk. The worst part of the housing is that there is no A/C, so the few sticky months in the summer are pretty awful.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Less variety but not bad. Everything but beer and wine are more expensive in Germany.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Your own mattress and a portable A/C unit are a must.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The restaurant scene is gradually getting better. Spanish tapas, Thai, Indian, and Italian in addition to some outstanding German beer halls.
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?
APO/DPO is easy and surprisingly fast.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Almost impossible. Either they will charge you an arm and a leg (350 euros for one cleaning of your apartment) or are so flaky they rarely show up. We did find a cleaning lady for 40 euros per visit, but she flaked out at least half the time. Hiring an American on compound for babysitting/pet-sitting is a better bet but options are limited.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They are available but not cheap.
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?
Yes and no. You can use them, but I found cash was easier. I only used credit cards to pay for hotels and plane tickets.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by with very little German, but it does help to know the language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No. Most of the city and public transportation is accessible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
One of the best parts of the town. The public transportation system is great!
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?
A sedan or compact is best due to small streets and parking spaces. Importing a car is fairly easy.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but expensive and you have to buy a whole package of TV you will never watch. Installation can take from a few days to a few weeks.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I used a USG phone. My wife used a prepaid cellphone. Any iPhones will have to be jail-breaked.
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?
Yes, very plentiful, professional, and not too expensive. There is no quarantine.
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?
Many found telecommuting to work well. There are some, low-level jobs at the US Consulate. No one really helps you find work.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Depending on your job at the consulate, jeans and shirt to suit and tie. More casual than most posts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Just the normal pickpocketing and other nuisances of being in Europe. ISIS has staged attacks across Europe but none so far in Frankfurt.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care is great. Doctors speak English but their staff might not.
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?
Moderate. Better than most US cities.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Gluten-free restaurants are starting to appear (even pizza!) In general, German customer service is poor and they act annoyed if you ask questions about the food, but this might change.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Some people have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Wet and cold from mid-October to the end of April. Not a lot of snow. Most people take a trip to somewhere warm and sunny during winter (like most Germans). May through early October is lovely. Average highs in August are in the high 60s.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are multiple international schools and I heard they are excellent.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I have heard that this can be tough.
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?
Yes, but expensive and not open for a full workday.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, plenty. Germans love sports!
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge. Morale is surprisingly middling. A lot of not-so-nice people choose this post for some reason. Some never leave the compound and only go to the US base on weekends. They are the most unhappy and take it out on those of us who travel.
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?
There are groups on the compound but they like to exclude people. Some people socialize through churches.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
As an American diplomat, it is essential you have children or you will be ostracized by the American community. I do not recommend for single people, or God forbid, couples without children. My wife was refused admittance to the Mom's Book Club because she was not yet a mother. Once, we had a baby people were all of sudden nicer to us. Also, the average age at post is much higher than one in the Middle East, so if you are under 40 you will be treated like a kid.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, no problem at all.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel, travel, travel. Be like the Germans and take advantage of the fact that Frankfurt is the rail/air hub of Europe. We saw much of Europe and beyond.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The Rhine River day cruises are a must. They are many day trips from Frankfurt to pretty German towns. The spas are fun if you are not too bashful about nudity.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, beer steins, Polish pottery, and cuckoo clocks. If you are into Christmas ornaments, you will love the Christmas Markets each winter.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lots of parks, and a hub for travel.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How cold and nasty some of the US expats are.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, only I would have had a baby before coming.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Modesty bathing, impatience with bureaucracy, crummy American wine and beer.
4. But don't forget your:
Portable A/C unit, and passports to travel everywhere!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
None in particular.
6. Do you have any other comments?
The best way to look at Frankfurt is a base for travel. It has its nice points, but is no London or Paris (or even Berlin).