Frankfurt, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 07/15/10

Personal Experiences from Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany 07/15/10

Background:

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

2nd expat experience.

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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?

DC. It's a short, 7 hour direct flight from DC. Frankfurt has a huge airport and it's great for getting to anywhere in Europe and most major airports in the States.

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

One word sums it up: awful (for anyone working on the Consulate that is). Most, if not all Consulate staff are put on a housing compound about a 30 minute walk from the Consulate called "Little America". The apartments are 3 story, ugly, old military style housing units. Although the insides of the units have all been renovated recently, they did the renovations cheaply, and most of the items (especially in the bathrooms) are already falling apart and breaking. Mold is another problem here as well. GSO tries to fix things, but these units are so old and there are so many of them (400+), that they have a hard time keeping up. Also, the ovens here either take 5-10 minutes to light and/or turn off randomly. Don't expect to bake or use the oven much here. I've had GSO over 5+ times to repair it, but they just shrug their shoulders and say deal with it. Also, the compound has a lot of hard partying, noisy and unfriendly military and quasi-military families here. They let their kids run amok on the compound, while they pound Budweiser beer and bottles of Jack Daniels. If you’re not on the top floor either, you can hear everything above and below you. The walls have little insulation, so be prepared for the fishbowl experience. My ex-pat friend came over to the compound for the first time, and thought it was Germany’s section 8 housing (due to the uglyness and amount of trash). She isn’t far off…Overall, until they get new housing, I would NOT recommend bidding on Frankfurt. Housing is horrible, and they need to fix it at some point soon (which will probably never happen). I will never bid on a place with compound living again, especially one with so many military families living on it. Morale is at a huge low here, and it’s almost 99% to do with the housing and everyone living on top of one another. If you’re an expat, there are some great neighborhoods in Frankfurt and some beautiful places to live. If you’rewith the Consulate, you’re in a rundown neighborhood in run down buildings. Again, I can’t stress this enough, the housing here is awful and is only getting worse.

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

Grocery shopping is good here. It's expensive, but their are two grocery stores within a 10 minute walk. They have everything you need. There is a commisary for Consulate and military folks, but it's a 40 minute drive each way. Not very convienent.

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

Nothing. Germany has everything the US does, it just costs more. I guess if you like those certain US brands, you could/should bring them. But then why are you becoming or are an expat?

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

German restaurants are plentiful, along with Turkish and Thai as well. There are only a couple within walking distance, so you'll have to travel on the metro to nicer parts of town to go out to most restaurants. Costs are bit higher than the States. Fast food meals are around 8-10 euro. Good meals start at 20-30 Euro and work their way up from there.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

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

APO/DPO.

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

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a small, rundown gym on the compound. It's affordable. Any on the local economy cost too much though.

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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?

It's fine here.

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

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

Yes. Cost isn't too bad: 25/month for AFN.

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

A little German won't hurt. But most people speak a little English.

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

Not too many. It's a little more difficult than DC, but not as much as some other European cities.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, yes. Afforable..eh. It's about 2-4 euros for a one-way train ride. In most other cities it's not that much. You can get a job pass from the consulate, which reduces the cost, but it's still pricey.

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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?

Small. I see so many people with big trucks and SUVs, but those are mostly military families. Bring a small 4 door car, or get one here. Plenty of used and new cars to buy (especially if you're eyeing a German one).

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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 speed isn't as good as you would think. It comes bundled with a home phone, for about 50 euros/month plus a 200 euro activation fee.

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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?

Cell phone plans are very expensive here. You can get a sim card with minutes on it, though.

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Pets:

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?

Nope, just get the paperwork needed and it's easy.

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

Pet care is available here, just about twice as much cost-wise as in the US, though.

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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?

Yes, tons.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Nope. Germany is very safe, especially compared to most US cities.

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

Medical care is great here. Better than in the US.

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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?

The air quality is great.

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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?

Cold, long winters. Summer is nice. It's a very green city and as long as you don't mind winter, it's fine.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

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

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Awful if you're working for the US Consulate (see housing above). If you are military or an expat not associated with the consulate, it's pretty high.

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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?

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

Yes, the city is. The compound seems to be fine with families, especially for parents that are fine with letting their kid(s) run around on their own. The city is safe over all, and I believe has enough for couples, singles and families alike.

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

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

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling. Although it's expensive, you have to get off the compound and travel.

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

Tons. Parks, downtown, castles, traveling. Tons to do.

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

Various items. Christmas markets are a big thing here.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Frankfurt is a great hub for travel. It's also a small city, so there are some great places to explore downtown, but tons of places driving or flying to as well. Germany is a great country to live in, and Frankfurt is a great city (except fot the housing). The weather isn't too great, but summer is nice, and the short spring and fall are okay as well. Winter I've heard is long and hard, but there are worse places weather-wise.

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11. Can you save money?

Ha! That's a good one. You'll be VERY lucky to break even here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No, no, no. Not with the compound living. If I was downtown or in a nicer suburb (there are tons of nicer suburbs with townhouses all over Frankfurt), then yes. But with the compound, I will never come back.

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

American products, propane grill (not allowed on compound, but everyone else in Germany has them), gardening tools (no yards).

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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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. Do you have any other comments?

Until they get rid of the compound, morale will always be low, and they will always be hard to try to fill positions here. It doesn't help that the COLA is low too, considering the costs of everything. But housing is the big morale issue that is not being addressed.

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