Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 02/03/22
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?
Previously lived in France.
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 country is the US. We have family all over, and it was easy to visit most without having a layover anywhere.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Housing was a good size. In the States we always rented apartments in large metro areas; this was the largest apartment we've lived in, and we don't have any kids so our place was actually considered on the smaller end.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Availability was great, costs were on-par or cheaper than most stores in the States.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Method cleaning supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everyone uses Lieferando for a delivery service, but I recommend just getting in touch with the restaurant directly, as Lieferando take a huge cut. restaurant selection is "okay"; you can certainly find anything you want, but not all of it is quality. Ex: there is one good Indian place, one good Thai place, no good pizza places...
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insects or critters, just mold. We suggest investing in a good dehumidifier; opening the windows a few times a week as recommended doesn't work.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We had the consulate for mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We didn't hire anyone, but I've been told it's expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a paid gym on the "Siedlung" where most Consulate families live, but there's a free gym at the Consulate.
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?
Credit cards became more widely accepted soon after COVID hit, but I would still carry cash wherever you go. Use ATMs just like you would in the States: only use your own, stay alert, try to use them in the daylight.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an Episcopal church within walking distance of the Siedlung.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Having working knowledge of basic phrases isn't just a good idea for your own navigation throughout your day, it's also a nice gesture to the locals. English education in Germany is very classist in my opinion and only offered to people in "higher" professions like doctors. It seems very seldom offered to anyone in something like a customer service or receptionist role. If a receptionist is talking to you in English, chances are they went out of their way to take night classes or something to learn it, so be kind.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are accommodations, but not as frequent or obvious.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes! Public transportation is your friend! And not just locally; use it to get around Germany and into neighboring countries- DB 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?
I've never felt any more or less safe driving around. I recommend a smaller compact car, like a Mini Cooper. They'll be easier to park and maneuver. I have no idea how people with big SUVs get around. Smaller cars are also easier on gas, which is expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet on the Siedlung is not available to you unless you pay the Community Support Associate (CSA's) fees; you can't get internet yourself. You also cannot get basic TV channels without paying the fees (and this includes Armed Forces Network).
You can pay a large amount to have internet set up before you get there, or you can skip those particular costs and just use the data on your phone until it's set up. You may not find out ahead of time, but you will need a local German bank account in order to get internet services, and you can't get a German bank account without a face-to-face meeting at the bank (at least pre-COVID). It took us about three weeks to get an appointment. So as soon as you know you're going to Frankfurt, inquire about an appointment ASAP!
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use a local provider, as EU law dictates no roaming fees throughout the entirety of the EU. Set up Google Voice before you leave for people back home to keep in touch.
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?
Vets are incredibly cheap, kind, and generally speak English. No quarantine was necessary for our pet.
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?
There are few EFM jobs available at the Consulate.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
The Germans take their pets very seriously, so maybe there's a shelter you could get involved with.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Use your gut: dress up for more formal events. It's generally a casual city. Hoof it to the nearest H&M or Zara if you're concerned.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Just what goes with a typical city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Local medical care is incredible. The biggest thing that struck me: if you need a referral, either for a specialist or a CAT scan or something similar, there's no such thing as waiting weeks; they do it typically in the same day! It's also very affordable. The Health Unit seems very busy and in my opinion, it can be difficult to get an appointment ASAP. We tried going to the base (Wiesbaden) for some things, as we were instructed to by the Consulate upon arrival, but they turned us away as it's actually Wiesbaden's policy to NOT take new patients from the consulate. They instead instructed us to make an appointment at Kaiser-Lautern, which is nearly at the French border.
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?
It never gets cold enough in the winter to kill everything that triggers seasonal allergies, so brace yourself for year-round irritation/medication! Other than that, the air quality is great.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
How to say your particular allergy in German.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
A lot of people get a happy light.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mild all year round. You'll get a week of extreme heat, maybe, and a week or two of snow that sticks, maybe.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It's huge and morale fluxes greatly. The families with small children seem to have it better because activities seem primarily organized for families with small children. COVID really drove a wedge between people when it exposed who didn't care to take things seriously, especially the part about following host country guidelines, and who does take things seriously.
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?
MeetUp works great! You can always find a group with a few English speakers who share your same hobbies.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Frankfurt is a great place to live, for families of all sizes and ages. The Siedlung, however, seems best for families with small children. Get out, explore, find your own fun. You'll eventually find something.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Germans can be a bit standoffish, but it was explained to me by a local that they know you're eventually leaving and they don't get in the business of make "temporary" friends.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Frankfurt is the geographic center of the EU, so you can be anywhere you want to be by car, train, or plane, in 3 hours or fewer. Take full advantage of that. The best experiences are any regional event: Carnival in Koln, Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Silvester in Vienna, etc.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Honestly, it's easy to find your own gems. Be careful who you tell, because you may notice in a week or two's time your "hidden" gem is now overrun.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes and no: you have to travel to the specific German states if you want the "right" Christmas things, or the "right" cucuclocks, but the travel is part of the fun!
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Getting out to the rest of the EU.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I had some native German friends who did a pretty good job of preparing me for everything, so I think I did ok with this. Your best bet is to take some courses at FSI, I think, and find some books on German history, especially if they include things right up to Merkle's time as Chancellor.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but I would live off-Siedlung.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
-Diet expectations. Finding ways to navigate around food allergies and intolerances seems easy, but losing weight is not! And why would you want to when there's so much to try?
4. But don't forget your:
-Deutsche Bahn card: the single best purchase anyone who is wanting to travel by train can make! Bon voyage!
-Bicycle: public transportation is great, but it's also a very bike-able city!
-Picnic blanket: there are parks all over, many with their own (very affordable) food stands, and they're gorgeous! If you have kids, they all seem to have huge playgrounds, too!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"The Shortest History of Germany" by James Hewes. It's an intense read, but good.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Explore, explore, explore! Get out of town! Get out of the country! Frankfurt is the post for your European bucket list!