Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 02/23/08

Personal Experiences from Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany 02/23/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have also lived in Paris and Bucharest.

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for the U.S. Consulate.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Frankfurt is a true hub - one of the major European airports.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Compound living for State employees, some of the employees live on the economy in decent house (townhouses) generally in the Taunus area.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available. The military bases have all the products one might need.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None, we have everything we need here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yes to all.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have APO privileges.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is available but it's expensive - 10/12 Euros/hour.

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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?

Both are available and easy to use.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes as far as I know.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, there is SKY, AFN, local German cable, etc. For consulate employees living on the compound satellite is out of reach due to restrictions.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Knowing German is quite helpful. I recommend getting a Rosetta Stone and learning a little to save the frustrations when dealing with locals.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Public transportation access would be challenging as there are not too many elevators or ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and affortable when it comes to public transportation. Taxis tend to be expensive.

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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?

Any type is fine although there are plenty of narrow streets. Germans are embracing more and more the SUVs.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but is's quite a hassle to get connected; people complained all the time about this.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If bringing one to post, make sure it's one of those with a sim card. They are available.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage, 10-10 type calling numbers, phone cards, etc. Deutsche Telekom offers a flat rate package to the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Germans love their pets. Vets are available and the services are great.

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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?

If you are fluent in German yes, if not, not so much. The consulate has admin type positions available all the time, but the pay is low compared to the DC area.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Informal, relaxed.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's similar to any major city. A bit safer than DC for example, less crime, break-ins but more demonstrations.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy and cold.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Plenty, FIS and ISF are the most utlized schools, FIS is more project-based with lots of extra curricular activities, ISF more testing-based. DODDS can accomodate students, less lately due to concentration of military employees around Wiesbaden. There aren't any special needs options. There is a new school founded the past year, the Metropolitan School which is just as good as FIS or ISF and much closer to the compound.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None. DODDS offers special needs care for consulate families, on a space available basis as opposed to space-required basis for military families.

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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 are plenty of options but register early. Carl Schurz has a decent facility but it wasn't run as well as it could have been due to poor management from the past school directors.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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?

Plenty of clubs, jazz bars, etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, for all.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I know of.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Everything in Germany and Europe: plenty of castles, churches, amusement parks, historical sites, scenic routes, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Great food items, travel, travel, travel.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Truck.

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3. But don't forget your:

Allergy medicine.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

We've been here for a year and we love it. There are plenty of things to do on your own or in group. The CLO does a superb job with activities, trips, etc.

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