Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 01/04/08
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?
Previous posts include Asuncion, San Jose, and Tel Aviv.
2. How long have you lived here?
This is our second tour here and we have been in Frankfurt for 3.5 years now.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
The author is a spouse of an Officer employed by the U.S. Consulate.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are mostly apartments for government employees. Commute is 5 minutes by car (limited parking), 15 minutes by bus.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
We buy most of our groceries at the base because of our tastes and the euro/dollar rate. We sometimes buy a few things at the nice market nearby, but they are more expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Children's chewable OTC medicines (can't always find at base). For people without APO privileges, send clothes and especially shoes as they are very expensive..
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
MANY kinds of restaurants. For American tastes, Pizza Hut delivers, McDonalds, etc.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We haven't had any help but many people do. It's probably about the same as the D.C. area.
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?
There's an ATM at the nearby REWE market (with fee) and the mall five minutes away. They take VISA at most places although not everywhere.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, for most denominations.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Stars and Stripes is about $1 per week delivered.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A little German is helpful. If you at least try to speak their language, Germans usually become very nice and helpful.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Right, same as the US.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
They are safe but a little expensive - two euros for a one-way ticket on train/bus within the city. Taxis are expensive.
3. 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?
Lots of us have minivans but don't try to drive in the old part of Heidelberg with them! Service for major problems can be a problem, so bringing a new or newer vehicle might be a good idea. Traffic jams happen on big autobahns. I've never been in a country where they obey the traffic laws as well.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about 30-40 euros/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Wide available and not too expensive - we buy time cards since we don't use ours constantly.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Best to call through the internet or using a discount number (we use 01081 - this costs 3 - 4 US cents/min; dial this number before you dial the 001)
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes. Our puppy had surgery here and it went very well. Book kennels in advance.
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 seem to be some.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Germans like to look well-groomed but not flashy. Dress code is much like the U.S. but maybe a bit more formal.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Good to moderate.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Most consulate employees live in same apartment complex which is not walled off but has roaming guards and the central street is only open to residents with an ID. Police aren't too concerned with drug use (just drug dealing). Violent crime seems low.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care depends on the provider. Not quite like the U.S. (Germans believe in much less agressive treatment generally) but can be very good (or not), just get detailed referrals from a variety of people before you make an appointment. Dental care definitely not up to U.S. standards.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
April through June can be gorgeous. September and October are usually reliably nice but summers can be anywhere from hot to quite cool. Winters are overcast but with little snow in the city.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are two international schools and the DODDs school -all are about 30 minutes away. Our kids attended FIS, a fine school for academically inclined kids (with no learning problems). It is not an American school (IB). If your child is not getting many A's in his/her present school (especially high school), s/he might struggle a little at FIS. If you're very sensitive to many European's anti-American feelings, you might want to choose another school (not overt, but present, mostly among some adults). We love the zero tolerance for drugs and weapons, and the excellent attitude regarding parent involovement.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The international schools probably won't accept the child. If the child's special need is discovered after getting here, they have very limited services. DODDs will be able to accommodate them.
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 preschool/daycare on the American housing premises is very good but you need to register early.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots to do, lots of expats to socialize with.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No overt prejudices that I've seen.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is something for everyone: hiking, skiing, English movies, festivals, castles, travelling a few hours to get to another country. For government employees, there are lots of activities and trips that are organized. For private industry, social life is often centered around school contacts. FIS has lots of activities.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nutcrackers, smokers, steins, traveling.
9. Can you save money?
That can be difficult!
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sunscreen and big pick-up truck.
3. But don't forget your:
Snow sled, skiis, and camera.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
7. Do you have any other comments?
My kids love the American housing area because their friends are so close. Even when their best friends aren't around, they can go to the playground and often find someone to play with.