Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 10/01/22
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?
As a family, yes.
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?
DMV, however due to the extreme cost of flying with a family of five from Europe, we did not travel home at all during this post. Getting to post however was a breeze with an eight hour direct flight from Dulles.
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?
We lived on the "campus" ( I would say compound, however the grounds are open to the public with a public playground for locals and a private playground for residents.) We had a large flat with two floors, and it was a walk up. Not an elevator in sight, which was fun with strollers, groceries and pets. The campus was walking distance to the consulate, which was awesome. There were many who would brave the bike ride in, however the walk was less than 30min and good exercise so I preferred the walk (and during covid, I loved the walk in).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find just about anything that you need on the local economy, but groceries are very expensive. You will not save any money at this post. At the time the US dollar was very weak in comparison to the Euro so the difference over the years of the sheer cost of things was mind blowing. Thankfully if you have certain dietary needs, you can find things GF, dairy-free, vegan, etc., at many grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I wish I had shipped better tasting GF products, however we were able to find what we needed on the economy, just not as tasty.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lieferando ( like Uber eats or door dash) saved us during covid. Everyone uses that app. You can get groceries delivered through Rewe, and take out options are plentiful but just not great if you are a foodie. There was one restaurant out of the many that we tried that had great tasting food and takeout: Isoletta, the food was excellent and very close to the housing complex.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None, thankfully. However, in general wasps can be a beast in the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO, Pouch and Deutsche post for local shipping needs.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We didn't employ any help. However, the cost for those that do is expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a gym available for use on the housing campus, paid membership required.
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, they are, however Frankfurt is largely a cash dependent society especially at the Christmas markets and other festivities is a must. Even bakeries and cafes can be cash only. Using ATMs requires the same amount of caution in the states, be smart, if it looks shady don't use it.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I was thankful to have taken German prior to post because making doctors' appointments (and we had many for the children), it was absolutely necessary (as the staff at nearly all of the specialists' office did not speak English). However, all of the actual doctors spoke English and navigating appointments was fluid. MED helped make a few initial appointments, however we were on our own for all of the rest, so yes knowing German can go a long way.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Absolutely. It is bizarre how unaccommodating the terrain, buildings and even most Ubahn stops are to a person that is unable to get around unassisted.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transportation was the main way to get around, safe and easy. Uber is also an alternative.
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?
Big SUVs, as you may struggle parking if you drive from country to country for travel.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available, however everyone learned during the new telework days during covid that it gets really spotty even at the highest speed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Magenta Mobile served us well. We did the contract through the base and with orders were able to break it when we needed with no penalty.
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?
Amazing vet services all over.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual for many offices, keep a suit jacket at work for the unexpected.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is excellent, the out of pocket costs for dental care can be alarming, however the out of pocket costs for just about all other medical needs are very reasonable in comparison to the States if not cheaper.
2. 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?
If you have allergies (seasonal) or a mold allergy, then this post will test all of your go-to medications year round.
3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is REAL at this post and can sneak up on individuals that have never experienced ten months of grey weather. Many have "happy" lamps to help during the fall, winter and spring. The summers however are short, beautiful and mild.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is extremely grey, mild temperature and can be misty often in the fall and winter. We did not experience a lot of snow, the children wished for it often, but it always rained instead in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Many international schools to choose from, however if you have a child that needs even minimal accomodations I would not consider this post.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The schools do not make many accommodations for special needs. It was an extremely disappointing few years in that regard, as they talked a good game during the bidding season. However, when we actually arrived and tried to get a plan in place with the school, we were met with a lot of resistance and halfway attempts to accommodate minimal needs.
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?
The daycare on the housing campus has availability in waves. We came during a very popular time for our youngest age groups and could not get a full time spot for over a year. However there were families that arrived the following year and were able to get spots within a month or two of being at post. Tagesmutters and utilizing the Kitas can be touch and go. We were on the wait-list for over two years for a Kita and got offered a spot three months before departing post. It was an incredibly frustrating situation for many, especially those with two working parents.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, if your child has learned German they will do beautifully in the local football clubs. Otherwise, after school clubs through the international schools or driving out to Wiesbaden near the base will be the better option for English speaking sport clubs.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is rather large, and many people enjoy that bubble.
2. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
There are a lot of prejudices, and considering the large military and expat community that exists in Germany, we were very surprised to witness it. However, we found there is an unspoken disdain shown toward anyone that might resemble a refugee, and even worse if you are African. There is a large refugee outreach that many Americans participate in, however, the day-to-day relations noticed between locals and people of color was telling. In my opinion, it isn't talked about enough even in the
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, people will absolutely stare if you are ethnic-presenting, and if you have children that are African-American, biracial or anything other than European presenting, then be prepared to fend off people constantly trying to pet them or touch their hair.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The Christmas markets were magical, and the children also enjoyed the Kürbis festivals all over town. We visited what felt like a million castles, but the best was getting the chance to stay overnight in one. I believe my children will never forget that experience. Legoland is worth the trip, and the trip to see the mud flats in the North Sea coast was awesome.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The only thing I can recommend is to get away from the area. With that said, to escape the dismal winters, trips to the Canary Islands, or Morocco can really boost the spirits.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The advantage of living in the city is the transportation is easy as long as there isn't a strike. The locals really love a good strike and it can last for weeks, from Ubahn, Sbahn, even the airplanes via Lufthansa.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known how unaccommodating the schools are for even minor needs (and they do not recognize 504 plans). I wish I was aware of how difficult the childcare situation can be for children under age four.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
Cold weather and rain gear. There is a lot to explore if you have the ability to venture out to do so. Hiking, biking, traveling is all very possible. I know many people that thrived at this post.