Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 03/16/20
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?
Frankfurt is our 8th posting. We have previously been assigned to Washington, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.
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?
Our home is Virginia, and there are multiple daily direct flight from Dulles. Flight time is about 8 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Consulate in Frankfurt.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is predominantly on the Siedlung for most Foreign Affairs employees. The Siedlung is USG owned and are old, walk-up apartments of three floors. In my opinion, housing is terrible here. It seems to me that grade/rank have little, if anything to do with your assignment. Those with young children (and typically lower ranking), seem to end up with the big two-level apartments, with senior officers being assigned directly under them in small apartments. The walls are very thin and you can hear everything that is happening in your building, from toilets flushing to babies crying to dogs walking to very personal conversations. In addition, there is no A/C in the apartments. Last summer we had four weeks of over 95 degrees. The apartments were unhealthy to stay in. By far, the worst housing we have had worldwide. We delayed this tour hoping to enjoy Europe later on in our careers, but instead, whenever home we're subjected to non-stop noise from young children. It's a bit depressing. The Siedlung is not for anyone that wants a quiet home life.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Basically the same as in the US - everything is available. In addition, we have access to the commissary and PX.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing; it's all available here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Same as in the US.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None. Which is odd!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Either through the Dip Pouch or APO. Both are incredibly slow. Dip Pouch takes upwards of 3-4 weeks. APO maybe two weeks? Slowest mail that we've had worldwide - ever. It's a head-scratcher.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There really are very limited options here, and very expensive. We had a "cleaning" lady come for four hours a week at 70 euros a pop, and she didn't clean at all. It's very difficult to find anyone.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Anything you want is here, at reasonable prices. Also, excellent walking paths. Germans walk everywhere.
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. You'll need a local German bank account, which takes about 2-4 weeks, and you'll receive a card from the bank. You'll use this card for local purchases. The Consulate has an ATM where we withdraw our cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
On the base there are options.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Classes are available through work. Most Germans speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Of all the cities that we've lived, Frankfurt is the most equipped to assist those with disabilities. Now the irony is - the Siedlung is not at all equipped. Not handicap ramps, no elevators, multiple stairs in buildings, limited parking and maybe one handicap spot out of 500 parking places.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. You can purchase a trip ticket that lasts for 12 months and can be used for buses and trains within Hessen. Local transportation is fabulous.
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 something fun to drive, and not a huge SUV. Parking on the Siedlung is incredibly limited, and there are no options if the lots are full. Also, the highways can handle any car, but the narrow village streets and parking garages can not.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It's available on the Siedlung. It's okay. But on a rainy day - which is often, everyone on the compound is using it, and the quality slows considerably.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Work will likely issue. We also brought unlocked iPhones and use a pay-as-you-go plan through Vodafone. We didn't want to be locked into a plan. With teenagers, this has worked out just fine.
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?
Germans love pets. Pets love Germany. Easy to ship them here, too.
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?
Frankfurt has one of the biggest EFM portfolios in the world. Lots of options here.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Working with refugees or at one of the schools.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Varies greatly depending on the section (and there are so many sections here). Anywhere from formal business, to jeans and sneakers.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Terrorist threat has been elevated. Remain vigilant. Daily crime, very low. Teens have a lot of freedom in Frankfurt.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is extraordinary.
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?
We find the air quality good however, in my opinion, the six months of complete darkness here will impact your mental health. Add in terrible housing, and it's a bad combination.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Basically the same as the US. Food allergens are listed, pollen is non-discriminatory.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Absolutely. Six long, dark months of rain, no sky coupled with terrible housing leads to the winter blues, and fast!
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very hot in the summer with no A/C anywhere. Buses, trains, buildings, our apartments. It's so hot. Winter is dark but mild. Fall was pretty.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Many terrific options.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Depends on the school, but a lot of options. The Community Liaison Office (CLO) is awesome at post and can assist.
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?
There is a preschool available on the Siedlung.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes to all!
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Enormous. Over 500 live on the Siedlung. You live together, stand at the bus stop together, work together. It's a lot. Morale is mixed. The military folks seem to do better than the State Department folks. We feel like we moved to Germany but live in America, in housing that doesn't even compare to what we had in college.
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?
Everyone does their own thing. Those with little kids will congregate under your window to visit, while allowing their dozen or so kids to scream.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Better for families with young kids. Those of us with grown kids or who choose not to have them, are subjected to a lot of noise. Couples have a lot of opportunity for travel. Teens do well because their schools are top-notch and their freedom exceeds what they would have anywhere.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Frankfurt is very proud!
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Not so much. In my opinion, Germans in the Frankfurt area are not outgoing or friendly. Southern Germany is completely different.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Absolutely. There are many problems. We just had a white national go on a shooting spree in Frankfurt.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling outside of Frankfurt. Get in your car and just drive. It's fun.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not a shopping post.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Housing is by far a fish bowl. Couple that with the noise, small size and no A/C , we wouldn't have bid here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Desire to live in a peaceful and private home.
4. But don't forget your: