Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 09/05/19
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, I've also had many others in Middle East, Africa, South America.
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?
Atlanta. Direct flights daily. Very easy trip and Frankfurt has a modern/comfortable airport.
3. How long have you lived here?
About two years.
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?
US Consulate housing compound. Housing has been tight during our tour. We were given a two BR, one BA apartment for two adults and one child. No AC and temps have been near 100 this summer. Bus commute to the consulate is about 15 minutes. Many people walk and it takes about 40 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Anything you could want. This is a modern European city. Prices about the same as a large city in the U.S. If you're with the Consulate, you can use the PX at the base about 30 minutes away. Not much difference in prices but a good selection of American brands.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing. Everything is available.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Anything is available.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No problem with bugs/insects.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Post has DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Few people have domestic help. It's expensive and complex in Europe.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The compound has a gym and tennis courts. German "baths" (indoor water parks) are also popular.
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?
American credit cards work fine. You will need to get a German bank account to pay certain bills including internet.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
LDS is the only one that I'm sure of but probably others.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Some German would be helpful but not really necessary.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
They would be OK. Many ramps and elevators and marked parking spaces.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
As safe as anywhere (ignoring a recent incident of a mother and child being pushed in front of a train at the local station). Bus prices are reasonable (about $3 one way) but taxis are fairly expensive.
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?
Anything you're comfortable with can be serviced here. Lanes and parking spaces are tight so smaller is preferred by most people but some consulate employees drive vans, SUVs and large pickup trucks.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes it is available. We pay about US$80/month includes cable TV and phone. It is advertised as 400mb service and often actually test at that speed.
Can be set up before you arrive but is usually done after arrival and takes 2 to 3 weeks.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We have one phone supplied by the consulate and one unlocked phone that we pay-in-advance about 15 Euro/month with Vodaphone.
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?
I hear "yes" but expensive but have no experience with them.
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?
Lots of consulate jobs are available and also jobs with the employee association. It is possible to get a good job on the local economy but is not easy.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Depends totally on the section. Jeans are common in some sections and in others, it's almost always a suit.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not very serious concerns although security incidents do seem to be increasing.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The local health care is as good as anywhere. However, people that are used to getting good health service through their embassy might be disappointed. The consulate's med section doesn't provide the same kind of service that is often provided in environments where outside services are not as 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?
Very good (for a large city).
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
No experience with this but there is certainly no lack of awareness of this in the general population.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Nothing like SAD but the close quarters of the housing compound can lead to some stress - late night noisy parties, dog bites neighbor's dog, etc.
Everybody knows what everybody else is doing. A bit like living in a goldfish bowl.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Not unlike the middle of the US. It has four distinct seasons. Usually snows a few times in the winter and often gets above 90 in the summer. Did I mention no AC on the housing compound?
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our experience with the preschool on the compound has been great. One of the highlights of the tour. We've heard that the other schools are good but have no experience. This is generally considered one of the best post in the foreign service for families with school age kids.
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?
Preschool on the compound. A bit expensive but not outrageously so. It's tuned to the needs of consulate employees so you can usually count on holidays and opening/closing times to be compatible with a typical consulate work schedule.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, anything you'd want but a bit expensive.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large and at least average morale, maybe above. Frankfurt is a very comfortable city.
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?
Better than most any other post. Frankfurt is a large international business center. Socialization is not a problem.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for anybody.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Among the best.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Germany has a growing anti-immigrant movement but so far it's fairly low-key and non-violent. Nothing to worry about at this point but something to monitor as time goes by.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Can't quite say no problems but I can say as minimal as you're likely to find anywhere.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Living in a first world country after Africa is such a relief. You won't save money here but it is almost like being on home leave all the time. Life is easy.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Too many German tour guides for anything to be considered hidden.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Germany is noted for its Christmas markets. Make sure to visit them.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
First world experience.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much of a goldfish bowl the consulate housing would be.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
It's hard to say. Most of the experience has been good but coming home to an apartment that's too small for our family and only one bathroom is always a downer. The lack of a guest bedroom for family and friends to visit has made the whole European tour experience less than it could have been.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Pretty much anything; you can buy it all here.
4. But don't forget your:
Credit card as you can buy it all here.