Stuttgart, Germany Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Stuttgart, Germany
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've lived in Panama, South Korea, England, and elsewhere in Germany
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?
Home base is Washington DC, which is about 8 hours of flying time plus a layover in Frankfurt or Atlanta
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Contractor supporting Defense Department operations
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most homes in the city are apartments or flats. We lived in Bad Cannstatt, which is a great neighborhood and walking distance to the fest ground. Traffic can be a bit heavy, especially on a sunny Friday afternoon in the summer when everyone is in a hurry to get home and start their weekend. But mass transit covers the entire city and is relatively cheap.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Anything you can possibly need is readily available. Prices at the German grocery stores are much cheaper than the commissary on base, and the food is of much higher quality because EU regulations are much more stringent than U.S. regulations.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A wide range of dining options from McDonald's to restaurants that cost 100 Euros for a meal. Great foreign cuisine at good prices - Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, and of course German, among many others.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Just the occasional small spider.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the post office on base, but the German mail system is very efficient - although a bit more expensive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The gyms on the U.S. military bases are free if you have access. There's a great CrossFit gym downtown that costs around 100 Euros per month. Plenty of other gyms but I don't know how much they cost.
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?
ATMs are found everywhere. Germany is largely a cash society - some places take credit cards but it's a good idea to ask first.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are English services available on the U.S. military bases - I'm not sure about in the city.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most Germans speak at least some English, but you'll get a lot further if make the effort to speak at least a few words of German.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Most of the commercial buildings and transit stations have ramps or elevators. A disabled person may have some difficulty finding a suitable place to live though, since most residential buildings are at least a few stories tall - generally without elevators.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Very safe, very affordable, and very efficient. Several of my friends didn't own cars.
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?
Compact cars are the way to go. Parking is tight, the spots are smaller than in America, and the roads are more narrow. You'll have a really tough time driving a Ford F350 around town and you'll get a lot of dirty looks.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Prices are about the same as in the States and speeds are a bit faster.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phone service is great, but a bit more expensive than in the States. I paid about 80 Euros per month for an iPhone service package with average data limits and speeds.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty of volunteer opportunities with homeless shelters, churches, the Red Cross, etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual in my office on base, and casual in public - although the European version of casual is a bit more put-together than American casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Stuttgart is a remarkably safe city. I never worried about my wife walking around after dark.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No health concerns and German healthcare is first-rate, with many of their doctors trained in the US and England.
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?
Good. The Germans lead the green movement in Europe so everything is considered from the perspective of its potential impact on the environment.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is great - cold, snowy winters and mild summers with a decent mix of rainy and sunny days.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is a good international school in Degerloch, but I don't have any personal experience with it.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Plenty of daycare/preschool options, but no personal experience.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
A rather sizeable American presence in the city and outlying areas. Morale is generally good - Stuttgart is a city that most people don't want to leave at the end of their tours.
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?
The same as in any first-world city - movies, restaurants, parks, day trips, you name it.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a great city for families, singles, and couples.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Very much so. The city has a pride fest every summer (in July, if I recall correctly), and they hang rainbow flags from city hall - so I'd say it's a good city.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Stuttgart is a melting pot - our neighborhood was a great mix of Germans and foreigners, including Greeks, Turks, Italians, and Americans.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling everywhere. But the Stuttgart region has it all - lakes, mountains, vineyards, nightlife, beautiful parks, etc. We loved our time here and would return in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Too many things to list! The fests in spring, summer, and fall. The Christmas market. Picnics in the park and warm summer days in your neighborhood biergarten. Day trips to France, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Spending a day at the zoo or at Sonnenhof.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Travel, German beer, and handcrafted decorations at the annual Christmas market.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You're in the heart of Western Europe, so you can drive four hours in any direction and find yourself in another country.
10. Can you save money?
It's a bit tough to save money because the cost of living is a bit steep, but it's possible if you're disciplined.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Nothing. The discovery process is what makes the journey so fun.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heartbeat.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Oversized American vehicles.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience. German customer service takes some getting used to and dinner is often a 2-3 hour event.
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?
If you're on your way to Stuttgart, I envy you!