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Living in Frankfurt
A comprehensive guide about living well in Frankfurt
Living in Frankfurt can be an amazing experience for expats. Germany’s business hub is a multicultural city hosting people of approximately 180 nationalities. Our guide to life in Frankfurt offers you insights into culture, healthcare, transportation, and more.
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Life in Frankfurt
- With around 180 different nationalities in Frankfurt, you are sure to find someone who shares your culture and language.
- Health insurance in Germany is obligatory, meaning you will have to be insured to be allowed to work in Frankfurt.
- Although the city is well-linked by motorways, it is not advisable to drive in the city center itself.
- There is, however, a very good public transport network at your disposal.
- Expat parents can choose from many different international schools in the city.
Frankfurt: A Multicultural Town
Life in Frankfurt is not just characterized by the city’s skyline and its role as a commercial center, but also by the multiculturalism of its society. Just under 30% of the roughly 730,000 strong population is considered to be foreign, coming from approximately 180 different countries around the world. Frankfurt offers expats a lot of amenities, too. For instance, you don’t have to drive far for consular services: Frankfurt is home to around 60 consulates.
Although this sounds like living in Frankfurt means living in just another metropolis, the city remains a cozy small town in many ways, often referring to itself as the “smallest metropolis in the world”. Frankfurt’s neighborhood surrounding the central train station, for example, sees people of all nationalities calling it their home. Here you can hear people speaking Turkish, Italian, Chinese, English, and, of course, German in the streets. Other neighborhoods have the charm of German villages and small towns with their characteristic timber-framed houses.
It’s Leisure Time
On beautiful days, the shores of the river Main seem to be the unofficial meeting place in Frankfurt. Whether you enjoy cycling, walking, or even skating, the riverside is a nice place to spend the day. On Saturdays, various areas along the shore are occupied by flea market booths, and you may even find a bar or restaurant near the water’s edge.
The museums located on both shores of the river Main are another fine way to spend some of your time in this city. Among the impressive buildings designed by Richard Meier and Oswald Mathias Unger, you will find museums dedicate to film, architecture, and modern art among other things.
Apple Wine: A Tradition to Get Used To
Your life at the river Main is not complete if you haven’t enjoyed a cool glass of apple wine on a balmy summer’s eve. Granted, many expats living in Frankfurt who try this traditional beverage, also called “Eppelwoi” or “Äppler”, for the first time hardly enjoy it. Most of them expect the sweet taste of cider. Unfortunately, good-quality apple wine is rather sour and contains no added sugar. But even if your first taste of Frankfurt’s signature drink does not go as planned, you should not hesitate to give it a second try.
In summer, most people enjoy a refreshing glass of apple wine mixed with water or lemon soda. In winter, it is often served steaming hot with cinnamon and sugar. Frankfurters often claim that it is also a perfect cure for any cold. Apple wine is traditionally served in a bluish grey ceramic jar or the characteristic glass with its diamond pattern.
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Healthcare in Frankfurt
A Well-Established Healthcare System
Germany is known for the high quality of its medical care and its healthcare coverage. However, depending on your country of origin, healthcare contributions may seem quite high. While living in Frankfurt, you may choose between the two sectors of the country’s healthcare system: gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (public health insurance) and private Krankenversicherung (private medical care). Your choice depends not only on your preference but also on your annual income: as of 2016, employees with an annual income of less than 56,250 EUR will have to stay with a public insurance provider.
It has become illegal to be uninsured while living in Germany. In fact, you need to have some sort of health insurance when you apply for a job. This means that every German citizen and legal resident is entitled to healthcare coverage and health insurance providers cannot turn you down.
Public Health Insurance
If you are a regular employee with a gross monthly income of less than 4,687.50 EUR, then you are automatically insured under the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung. Your monthly contribution to your public health insurance provider is automatically deducted from your monthly income. You pay 7.3% of your income, while your employer also contributes the same sum. You may also have to pay a small supplemental rate on top of this. Please note, these percentages and income numbers are subject to change and were up-to-date in 2016.
Luckily, it is quite easy to sign up with a public health insurance provider. The best way is probably to get in touch with a regional office and make an appointment. Don’t forget to bring along your passport and your Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence permit). If you are lucky, your employer’s HR department can assist you or even take care of the process for you.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance, although it is the first choice of many well-off employees, is more expensive than public healthcare. Only self-employed individuals, German civil servants, and those with a sufficient income are eligible to apply for private health insurance. In the course of the application process, you might have to undergo medical examinations and be asked to give your potential insurance provider information on your medical history. A proof of sufficient income might be required as well.
The benefits of choosing private over public health insurance lie not in the quality but in the speed of care. With a private health insurance it will be easier for you to get an appointment at an otherwise busy doctor’s practice and you will not end up waiting for hours. Your employer might be able to help you with the rather tedious selection and application process.
Medical Care in Frankfurt
As one of the founding cities of the Network of Healthy Cities in Germany, Frankfurt offers its inhabitants a variety of information centers and medical centers. It is one of the goals of the city and other members of the network to enable its residents to take better care of their own health.
In addition to a good network of information centers, there were, at the time of writing in 2016, 17 hospitals in Frankfurt. Two of the largest are the Bürgerhospital and the Goethe University Hospital. For a general overview of doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals, have a look at this comprehensive website (in German).
Transport and Education in Frankfurt
Driving in the City
With the Frankfurter Kreuz, the city is well connected to the German Autobahn. Thus traveling to or from Frankfurt by car is easy. However, when it comes to driving in the city, Frankfurt is known as one of the worst cities in Germany to explore by car. One-way streets are everywhere in the city center and it is almost impossible to find a place to park. It is always best to park your car somewhere near a bus or train station and use the public transportation system to get around the city. For more information, have a look at our article on driving in Germany.
Of course, taxis are readily available as well all over the city, particularly around the main station and at the airport. Additionally, there are taxi stands at the Römer, at Kaiserstrasse, Schweizer Platz, and Bockenheimer Warte. Keep in mind that taxis are the more expensive alternative to public transportation. If you wish to call a cab ahead of time, contact one of the following companies:
- Taxi Frankfurt eG (call 069/230001)
- Time Car GmbH (call 069/20304)
- SGS Taxi GmbH (call 069/79307999)
Public Transportation: Ready for You, No Matter the Hour
As mentioned above, public transportation is probably the easiest and cheapest way to explore Frankfurt. Almost all corners of the city are connected by bus, tram, train, or the subway system — 9 suburban (S-Bahn) lines, 9 subway (U-Bahn) lines, 9 trams, 57 bus routes, and 26 night bus routes stand at your disposal as of 2016. Thus, no matter the hour, getting around the city will be easy and hassle-free.
The Rhein-Main Verkehrsbund (RMV) is responsible for operating all of the area’s modes of public transportation. You can purchase your single and day tickets from vending machines at almost every stop; most ticket machines also offer the opportunity to purchase weekly and monthly tickets, however, you can also purchase these, and yearly tickets, from the RMV ticket shop. For more information, visit the RMV website.
Frankfurt Airport: A Key Transport Hub
Listed as Europe’s fourth busiest airport, in 2015 over 61 million passengers passed through the doors to Frankfurt airport. It is easily accessible from the Autobahn and has its own long-distance train station. Additionally, the Lufthansa Airport Bus offers connections to Kaiserslautern, Cologne/Bonn, Saarbrücken, and Strasbourg. There is also a shuttle service between Frankfurt airport and Heidelberg.
While Frankfurt’s main airport is popular for many destinations and airlines around the world, Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is popular for low-budget airlines such as Ryanair and Whizz Air. While it might sound tempting to catch a cheap flight to another European country, you should know that despite its name, this airport is not really located close to Frankfurt. In fact, it takes at least an hour and a half to travel the 125 km from the city of Frankfurt. Still, the tiny airport is popular, with close to 2.7 million passengers in 2015. There are shuttle buses running from Frankfurt to Frankfurt-Hahn.
Raising Bilingual Kids in Frankfurt
Luckily for expat families, Frankfurt is not only a great traffic hub, but it also offers a lot of opportunities for international education. Below is a list of some of the international schools available in and around Frankfurt:
- Accadis International School
- Erasmus School
- European School Frankfurt
- Frankfurt International School (FIS) and International School of Wiesbaden
- International School Frankfurt-Rhein-Main (ISF)
- Japanese International School (website in Japanese only)
- Lycée Français Victor Hugo (website in French and German only)
- Metropolitan School Frankfurt
- Strothoff International School
Keep in mind that this is just a brief overview. There is an abundance of public and private schools in Frankfurt offering bilingual education. The Staatliches Schulamt(the local education authority) may be able to provide more information, but please be aware that the website is only available in German.
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