Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 03/30/20
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?
No, 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?
Virginia is home. We went from DC to Atlanta to Frankfurt. Unfortunately we had airports close state side due to storms. It should have only been about 13 hours total trip time. It was very easy all things considered.
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 primarily on the Siedlung (neighborhood). The apartments vary in size. Larger families live on the top floor with a 2 level apartment or they may be in housing around town. They range from 2 bedroom to 6 bedrooms in size. They are all furnished and the Consulate does not like to remove furniture. So if you bring things plan to store what they provide in the basement storage room you are provided or in other rooms you may have. We've been happy as a larger family with the apartment. You get your exercise going up and down the stairs with groceries and their is a lovely park near by. I've heard of a couple families living closer to one of the more popular schools. Travel to work, 15 min drive from the Siedlung, 30 min walk, 10-15 min bike ride maybe 15-20 min on the bus. You have LOTS of options.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find just about everything on the economy. However what you don't find you do have base privileges and can purchase from the commissary or PX.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
None, you can buy or ship in just about anything!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Many people use Lieferando. They pick up from several restaurants in the Frankfurt area. You can get Pizza hut, McDonald, Subway and Domino's here on the economy as well.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You will have stink bugs here. Also while outside in spring and summer, they have LOTS of bees. So do buy the drink covers. They are great.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO most times. The post office here has been pretty good. I've see times from 5 days for packages from amazon, Walmart and e scripts. Christmas time taking a month. So plan ahead on holiday's like all posts!
2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots of options on the economy, about the same price as the US. They also have a gym in the neighborhood for only Consulate families. It's pretty big and other family members hold Pilates and other work out classes that have been wonderful.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Oddly enough, credit cards aren't always taken here. Cash is king for sure. However you will need a local bank account to pay bills such as internet, medical and if you have kids school fees.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Several denominations are local. If you do not feel comfortable out on the economy the base also has a services with several denominations.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can take classes at the Consulate. I have found that medical services are hit or miss when signing in but dr's have been great with English. Shopping and dining out it would help to know some basic German. Most German's were taught English in school but may or may not be any good at it.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Many restaurants have bathrooms that are down stairs. So restaurants might be difficult. However accessing public transit are great. They have elevators at most stations or ramps. Many grocery stores near the housing are easy access as well.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local buses, trans and trains are easy and can be pretty affordable. You can buy a half year or full year discounted from the Consulate. For school age kids, you go directly to the train station and can buy a year pass for them at 365 euro. So a euro a day. Over all these are safe. Taxis and Uber are used here as well.
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?
Smaller cars for some of the towns and cities near by. We have a mid size SUV and it's a little harder to find parking. I've not had to worry about carjacking or burglary. However I have heard of some petty theft if your car is left unlocked on the town.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
They have pretty good internet here. If you are in the neighborhood, you will pay 2 fees. One to CSA for the maintenance and boxes and then for usage to Unity Media. It was set up pretty quickly. You can go online and have it set up prior to arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use T-Mobile. We pay month to month fees as I've heard cancelling a contract here can be costly or a pain. It's very easy to get a sim card here. Others use Vodafone or Google-Fi.
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?
We do not have pets with us.
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?
The Consulate has the largest amount of EFM positions I have ever seen. Many family members teach classes from home, fitness classes at the CSA or sell things like baked goods, mental health help and tutoring.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
The Refugee group has lots of volunteer work.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
You see anything from button down shirts and jeans to suits. Depends on the office you work in.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Pick pockets during market time is big some drug use near larger train stations can be seen like any major city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Very good medical/dental care on the economy. However we have run into problems with none English speakers at the registration desks. Google translate has been amazing.
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?
We found like any move different pollen may effect you more. So that being said they have lots of trees, flowers and green space around Germany. Food allergies, plan on cross contamination. They do not seem to keep things separate.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It is dark or gloomy hear a lot. Many people have mood lamps or may take vitamin d supplements for a good part of the year.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
You will have all four seasons. You are provided two portable AC units for the hot months. I believe we had about 5-6 weeks of extremely hot weather last summer. It does get cold but we had very little snow over the winter. They use radiant heat in most of the homes here and it works pretty well.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
You have several schools to choose from. Frankfurt International school, International school of Frankfurt, Metropolitan school, a french school and of course you can go to German schools. Most kids go to FIS. Most are IB-based. However look around and see what may fit best for you. Many of these schools do require a laptop or tablet of some sort.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not to many school have special needs help. A couple can help with minor things.
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 at the CSA. Also some of the IB schools have a preschool associated to them.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Lots of sports, soccer is, of course, big here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The Expat community is huge here in Frankfurt. Morale is all over the board. This post is what you make of it!
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?
The Community Liaison Office (CLO) here puts on lots of gatherings and hikes. They have Easter marketes, Christmas markets, Apple wine festivals, Fall festivals and of course asparagus festivals! Yes, Germans will find a reason to drink and eat!
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think this city can be good for all types. Many places to be social or you can be a hermit if you prefer.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
They have a HUGE LGBT parade and they have PRIDE!
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I find many Germans do not socialize if they do not have to with others. You will find that some here are having problems with accepting refugees.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I have not seen racial problems. More so ethnic/religious problems with refugees.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Munich October fest, Heidelberg, Strasbourg France Christmas market, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an amazing little town to see over spring or christmas, Christmas markets in general are beautiful and amazing to see, Rudesheim has a neat cable car view of the Rhine river. The list can go on and on. You have so much access to not only Germany but several other countries.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Sachsenhausen has a flea market every Sat starting in March and ending around Christmas market time.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
You can find a Bembel for your apple wine in Frankfurt, a Cuckoo clock from the black forest, you collectors mugs at Christmas time from every market are different.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Public transit is amazing here. I am very impressed. You really don't need a car until you want to travel to smaller towns near by.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I would have planned to buy another AC unit or two prior to arrival.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I would still come here. This is an amazing city.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Modesty, doctors don't give you anything to cover with and people do sunbathe in the nude.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience if you live on the Siedlung. We are all in this together and it is a fishbowl community.