Leipzig, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 08/27/18
Personal Experiences from Leipzig, Germany
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I lived in Brussels, Berlin, Munich, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Amman.
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?
Chicago, IL. There are non-stop flights to Frankfurt and Munich with connections to Leipzig. Leipzig airport is not very useful unless you are flying Lufthansa and connecting to their international flights, or flying a charter to Mallorca.
3. How long have you lived here?
Five years and counting.
4. 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?
The housing situation in Leipzig is far from perfect. The economic boom in recent years has resulted in shortage of apartments in the market, but one can still find decent housing for a relatively good price.
Having seen some diplomatic housing, I would say to keep your expectations low. What I have seen appears to be nice, however, outdated, dark, and can be noisy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Comparable to the US.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Ziploc bags and Tex-Mex food.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a few good restaurants, but they tend to be expensive. There are some decent pizza/pasta restaurants and many regional German restaurants, but nothing special to write home about. This is still far removed from the restaurants of Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Yes, Deutsche Post is very reliable.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Local help is available.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Fitness First on Peterstrasse in the city center, and some smaller gyms in outlying districts. More expensive than in the U.S.
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?
A lot of places are, surprisingly, still cash only; ATMs are readily available though. I have heard of reports of Eastern European mafias robbing people at the ATMs late at night, or managing to steal the PIN numbers and then accessing accounts.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Not sure, but overwhelming majority of East Germans do not seem religious.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
German is a must.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There is no infrastructure to accommodate disabled people. No elevators, the city is paved with cobblestones, however the buses tilt to facilitate the boarding of wheelchairs. The old trams have high steps.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transportation is a dream. Leipzig is small enough, that you get from one side to the other in 20 minutes.
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?
A small car as street parking is limited. I heard of cars being vandalized while parked on the street overnight.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, internet is reliable. Once you have received residency permit, the process is easy to obtain internet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I keep my US T-Mobile active for when I go home. There is no lack of providers in Germany
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?
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?
It is not a good place for expat and foreign service spouses to find jobs. German language is an absolute must to find a job on the local economy and jobs are limited. I have heard there are no jobs at the US consulate for spouses. Salaries in comparison to west Germany are lower.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
None that I know of.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Similar to the U.S.; Germans tend to be formal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is not West Germany. Anti-American and anti-Western sentiments are evident in former East Germany. It seems Locals much prefer to hear Russian than English, especially older generation.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The allergy season is long and painful, if you are allergic to trees and pollens. Leipzig is very green.
3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It's northeastern Europe, so the winters can be long and grey. Especially if you are coming from the tropics or a sunny destination, be prepared to be hit by seasonal blues.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The winters are cold and long, and summers in recent years have gotten extremely hot. Central heating is available everywhere but A/Cs are rarely present. Restaurants and department stores still don't have A/C, and one certainly notices body odors.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is one international school with good reputation.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Most apartment building don't have elevators.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Painfully small expat community. If you don't make German friends, it can feel very isolated here.
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?
Check out Leipzig Glocal.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is not a good city for single people; I know people who left their jobs due to loneliness.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not sure, but I can't imagine that this is anywhere near Berlin or Munich. You are on the borderlands of Eastern Europe.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
It's a very atheist society and religion is still seen in a bad light.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The many trips to Berlin, Munich, and neighboring countries.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Erfurt and Dresden are very nice, and imho, nicer than Leipzig in terms of sightseeing.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not particularly. East Germany is not known for any specific handicrafts.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's relatively small and cozy still, especially when compared to a nearby (relatively-speaking) Berlin.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish somebody would have told me that Leipzig and East Germany are not Germany.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I don't think so.
3. But don't forget your:
Patience. German bureaucracy is a killer.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Good Bye Lenin.