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5 Tips for Living in Frankfurt

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats often move to Frankfurt for jobs in finance and IT. Frankfurt is continental Europe's largest financial center and has a population of approximately 2.5 million in the city and surrounding urban area. Towns in the Taunus area north of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden and Mainz to the west are popular among expats. There are many international and bi-lingual schools to choose from and lots of expat clubs in the Frankfurt area.

Expats in Germany - 5 Tips for Living in Frankfurt

Here are 5 tips for living in Frankfurt from expats themselves:

Where to Live in Frankfurt

Frankfurt Suburbs "The Taunus is a beautiful area to the north of Frankfurt where a large number of the expat community live. Towns with large expat populations are: Bad Homburg, Oberursel, Koenigstein, Kronberg, Bad Soden, Kelkheim, Hofheim and many others. Basically the nice thing about living in these areas, apart from them being picturesque towns with good road connections to the airport etc. and near to the international schools/pre-schools is that you know you'll never be far away from other expat contacts... which if you don't speak German will be very important to you. The locals are also rather more used to foreigners than say in a tiny village well away from a big city, which will probably also help you to settle in," explained one expat. To the west of Frankfurt, expats often choose to live in Wiesbaden and Mainz. Wiesbaden is home to U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and thus a good option for US military, especially those with children who can attend school for free at one of the 4 U.S. Department of Defense schools there.

An expat who chose to live in Bad Homburg explained his decision, "Wiesbaden and Oberursel generally have lower housing costs than Bad Homburg but, in my opinion, living in Bad Homburg is worth the extra cost. We live in the Gonzenheim area of Bad Homburg and can walk to the subway station (U-2 line to Frankfurt) Also, the train (S-Bahn) station is a short distance away. We are close to the A-5 autobahn and there are numerous side streets in case the traffic is too heavy on the autobahn."

An expat in Wiesbaden put in his two cents, "Wiesbaden by all means. For several reasons. First, Wiesbaden sits in kind of a bowl and gets very little snow. The Romans built their hot baths in Wiesbaden. Also, Wiesbaden is a very cosmopolitan type of city. It is very beautiful also. And things are cheaper there than Frankfurt. Frankfurt is a big, bustling city and very cold in the winter. Wiesbaden is very close to the Maine River so there are very beautiful places to go along the river."

International Schools in Frankfurt

Frankfurt Germany Frankfurt International School (ISF) is a popular option for expats. A British parent with children at Frankfurt International School said, "this is a very good school and very experienced in the International system. The school has been established for 50 years and has a about 1800 students enrolled in its 3 campuses. Even though the number of students is high in total, it is split into 2 geographical sites (Oberursel and Weisbaden). Weisbaden is from Age 3 to Grade 5 and Oberursel is from age 3 to Grade 12. The Oberursel site is large and has 3 schools on site (Primary, Elemetary and Upper). Each school feels friendly and small but has the benefit of being on one site. The school is a little American in feel - much of the teminology is US and I found that a little bit hard to get used to (E.g. Athletics does not just mean summer track and field sports as it does in UK but it means all sports!!!!), but about 25% - 30% of students are American. Overall, we are very happy with our move to this school. Our children have certainly grown in academic and social skills and are thriving here."

Metropolitan School Frankfurt is an IB World School with a small, friendly school community located in the northwest part of the city of Frankfurt - about 15-20 minutes from downtown and near northwestern suburbs. International Bilingual Montessori School is situated directly in downtown Frankfurt and has approximately 160 students from pre-school through primary (age 10). ISF International Schule Frankfurt is a K-12 school with instruction in English and approximately 1,000 students. It's located in Frankfurt am Main West about 25 minutes from downtown and 20 minutes by car from Wiesbaden. European School RheinMain is a fully accredited European School located in Bad Vilbel about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Frankfurt. The school is in a beautiful, new building with a 4 field sports arena. The European School of Frankfurt is located about 20 minutes northwest of downtown. Strothoff International School is located in new state-of-the-art facilities in Dreieich, which is about 25 minutes south of the city. Strothoff works with students from 3 through 18 and offers the International Baccalaureate that leads to the IB Diploma.

Meeting People in Frankfurt

Frankfurt Germany Expats There are a number of great organizations for expats in the Frankfurt area. Frankfurt Hash House Harriers describes themselves as, "a 'Drinking Club with a Running Problem'. An international club founded by a British Soldier in Kuala Lumpur back in 1938, it is based on the old English game called "Hares and Hounds". A typical Hash will find two "hares" laying a flour trail through the streets and forests in and around Frankfurt for the rest to follow the markings with checks leading on false trails and one 'true trail'. The runners are slowed down, enabling the walkers (wankers) to catch up. Anybody with normal physique can take part in a hash! The run is followed by a 'circle' where newcomers and visitors are celebrated, and other traditional ceremonies take place."

Pickwicks describes themselves as, "a social club, founded in 1978, open to anyone who speaks English. We provide both a weekly opportunity to meet other English speakers in the heart of Frankfurt as well as organized activities that take full advantage of the city, the surrounding areas and all of Europe. Most of us work in the Frankfurt area in professions such as teaching, IT or (as you might expect) finance. Some are long-term Frankfurt residents; others are here on short-term contracts enjoying their first experiences in Germany."

American Women's Club of Taunus (AWCT) describes itself as, "member of FAWCO, provides expatriates with personal support and enhances their lives through social, charitable and cultural activities. The Club is a registered non-profit, non-political organization with over 600 diverse members of all ages representing over 30 countries. The AWCT is here to help and offers activities to meet all interests, all ages, all talents (all in English)."

Other social groups include The British Club of Taunus, Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre, The English Round Table, International Kids' English Club and the International Women's Club of Frankfurt.

Working in Frankfurt

Frankfurt Germany Expats An expat in Frankfurt said, "I cannot seem to keep a job for longer than 1 year here. I miss working with people that are "thinking out of the box". I realised that at the beginning of my new life in Germany I was more relaxed and comfortable with myself. Now I realised (including my friends in California) that I am quieter, trying to fit in, not relaxed, always aware of my surroundings. All the work criticism really got to me and so I tried to change. Not a good decision because I have changed negatively. I am working on finding me again. I was told plenty of times the following: You are "too" American; Stop dreaming, Speak German, you are in Germany; Your written German is not perfect. Being here now 10 years, I am able to give back criticism and appreciate when someone compliments my German and personal skills. You really get thick skin after a while."

"For Germany at least - do not assume that any lasting change can take place in 1 year. My company wanted to be optimistic, but there should have been no way for my assignment to be less than 18-24 months. A year is enough to get the groundwork laid, but not show the progress needed. Ask for introductions to major players in the new office as soon as possible. Don't let things wait "until plans are more firm." It might not happen until it is too late to have the effect needed," advised another expat in Frankfurt.

Finding an Apartment or House in Frankfurt

"The German companies have no relocation programs. That means that you are on your own in finding a place to live. The companies that will help you for a fee are very expensive. And if you just read the newspaper (providing you speak German), you can visit the apartments yourself. But expect not be alone but surrounded by many other people at the same time - depending on the area, too, of course. The German renting system is very different than in US. While in US there are bigger companies, which offer apartments for rent, in Germany there are many people who have an apartment for rent in the attic, for example, of their house," explained one American who moved to Frankfurt.

An expat whose company did provide home search services said, "we had our company choose an apartment for us first. We were there 1 year and were able to explore all the areas around us. Frankfurt is a wonderful city. There are a lot of wonderful areas - you just have to get out there and explore. After that, we choose a realtor to find an apartment for us. It was expensive but we really liked the apartment and where able to choose an area closer to the friends we had made and the places we liked to frequent."

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Sep 17, 2014

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