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Relocating to the multicultural city and commercial hub of Frankfurt comes with both opportunities and challenges. Expats and visitors come from all over and, while some only stay a short while, many others make a new permanent home in the city. As with any stay abroad, expats considering relocating to Frankfurt should think about the pros and cons of moving there.
Here are some of the positives and negatives of living in Frankfurt.
Working in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Employment opportunities in industrial and financial sectors
It is no secret that Frankfurt is an economic hub and one of Europe’s key banking and financial powerhouses. Home to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the European Central Bank and hundreds of other financial institutions, expats working in these sectors should have no trouble finding business opportunities.
+ PRO: Good work-life balance
There is a work-hard-play-hard approach that residents working in Frankfurt seem to embrace. As a key economic centre, employees in the city are hardworking with efficiency and punctuality the order of the day. To balance this, employees are afforded lots of time off work and generous leave allowances for holidays and relaxation.
- CON: Language barriers
When looking for a job in Frankfurt, it helps to speak German. Indeed, English is widely spoken and a host of international languages are also represented in the city. But, while not all jobs require a strong understanding of German, it helps when working with people as well as going about one’s daily life. Despite potential language barriers, learning German doesn’t need to be a 'con' – it can be fun and interesting.
Cost of living in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Flea markets and secondhand stores offer cheap deals
Looking for something on a tight budget or searching for something vintage? Frankfurt’s flea markets and secondhand shops are a great place to start. Expats can score great bargains on clothing as well as tables and chairs or antique items to furnish their new homes.
- CON: One of Germany's most expensive cities
The cost of living in Frankfurt is high, especially in terms of rent. While salaries are adjusted to accommodate this, tax on salaries is high too. Expats may be lured with what seems like a generous salary, but a large proportion of it will go to tax, and so budgeting is critical.
+ PRO: Affordable and efficient services
Despite many expenses an expat will face, the city offers extensive top-notch services, including affordable transport, schooling and high-quality healthcare. This is largely thanks to the high taxes, and many will find that it's worth it.
Lifestyle and culture in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene
There’s always a fun night out to be had in Frankfurt with a myriad of options including cocktail lounges, local bars, nightclubs and venues with live music. Areas in the north of the city offer the best nightlife atmosphere, such as Fressgasse, Zeil and Römerberg.
+ PRO: Lots to see and do
This riverside city may be a financial hub, but it equally hosts a multitude of cultural events, artistic monuments, restored medieval buildings and a Gothic charm. The area of Römerberg is a top attraction, as is the Frankfurt Cathedral, and new arrivals can familiarise themselves with their new home by taking a walking tour of the Old Town or a cruise along the river.
- CON: Making friends may be difficult
Many expats report that it can be hard to make friends with Germans and that, particularly in the workplace, Germans may not talk about their lives outside of the job. This may not always be the case, though. If expats share common interests, it can be easy to make friends and socialise. Frankfurt is a truly global cosmopolitan city and it’s possible to meet people from all over the world.
Transport and driving in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Well-connected city for travel
Frankfurt is centrally located and well connected to other German cities as well as European countries. Its train network, busy international airport and Autobahn system make travelling for business or leisure a breeze. Getting around to surrounding towns to take in the countryside is just as easy.
+ PRO: Pedestrian-friendly city
Frankfurt’s main attractions are in the city centre, which is a hive of activity and where many expats may find themselves working. These areas are easy to reach and get around on foot or by bicycle.
- CON: Parking is expensive
While parking is available in downtown Frankfurt, it is pricey. Most residents prefer to get around using public transport and don't see the need for a car, but it does provide greater freedom and in some cases may be necessary – if expats are planning on driving, then they may encounter some expensive parking fees.
Accommodation in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Wide range of housing options
Many types of property are available in Frankfurt, with apartments common in central areas and larger houses in surrounding suburbs.
- CON: High demand and high rental costs
Frankfurt is a relatively small city, and the demand for housing is greater than the supply. This has driven rent up and made it difficult to secure a home. Home insurance is also a must and is an added cost. Upon finding their perfect accommodation in Frankfurt, expats must act quickly to submit a lease application.
- CON: Most accommodation options are unfurnished
Most apartments and houses have minimal furnishings and so new arrivals will need to take some time finding furniture. For tenants and homeowners who prefer to bring in their own touch, this could be a good thing, however, an expat’s stay in a foreign country is often for a short period and many prefer to find a fully furnished home.
Education and schools in Frankfurt
+ PRO: Excellent standard of schools
Both public and private schools in Frankfurt offer a high standard of facilities and aim to provide children with a well-rounded education. Expat children can integrate into the public school system or a bilingual or international school.
+ PRO: Great universities in Frankfurt
Some of Germany’s best universities are located in Frankfurt, such as Goethe University Frankfurt and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Students looking to study abroad can find a range of research and education opportunities.
- CON: International school fees are exorbitant
While public schools are a viable option, some expat families may want their children to follow a familiar curriculum and teaching language and so prefer to opt for an international school. Parents who choose these schools must account for high tuition fees.
►Got some pressing concerns about the relocation? Check out Frequently Asked Questions about Frankfurt
"Sometimes we can’t help but make comparisons of Frankfurt to other places we have lived in too. However, I’ve learnt that no one city is perfect and there is probably no place like home. Living life out of your comfort zone may be a challenge but if you try to embrace the differences, you might actually appreciate Frankfurt more." Read more about expat life in this German city in our interview with Yolande Campbell.
Are you an expat living in Frankfurt?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Frankfurt. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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