Expat Essentials

Alisa Jordan in Frankfurt: Tips from a Londoner about what to expect

(Editor’s note: Frankfurt is the chief beneficiary of Brexit, with an estimated 10,000 new jobs as financial firms leave London. This is for you Brits who are new to the city, or on your way there.)

Frankfurt am Main isn’t at the top of many peoples’ lists when it comes to places to visit in Germany, and it certainly wasn’t mine. But after three years of living in this up-and-coming city, I have no intention of leaving whatsoever.

I love my life in Frankfurt!

Here’s a run-down of what to expect from a Londoner who moved to Frankfurt just after the UK voted leave.

FRANKFURT’S BUSINESS DISTRICT IS KNOWN AS “MAINHATTAN” DUE TO ITS MODERN SKYLINE (Photo by Alisa Jordan)

QUICK FACTS ABOUT FRANKFURT

• 720,000 inhabitants from 180 different countries
• 300,000 business commuters
• Germany’s only American-style skyline (hence the nickname “Mainhattan.”
• Home to Germany’s largest inner-city forest
• Germany’s most international city

ARRIVING IN FRANKFURT
Frankfurt is big enough to give you a big-city lifestyle but small enough that you don’t feel swallowed up. If travelling within the city, you are never more than half an hour away from your next destination, meaning it’s quick and easy to become familiar with the city and call Frankfurt your home.

One annoying thing: there’s no shopping on Sunday because all of the shops and supermarkets are closed. (This is Germany.) Of course you can still go to restaurants and cinemas, but this can take some getting used to.

PHOTO BY ALISA JORDAN

WHERE TO LIVE
Frankfurt is home to three major universities and has Germany’s highest population of expats. So let’s just say you’ll need to be very committed to finding your new home.

It’s do-able though, even if you initially live in temporary accommodation, as did I.

This also gave me time to become familiar with the different areas and choose where I wanted to live depending on which areas I liked the most.

Below are the main districts:

Bornheim
Bornheim is home to Frankfurt’s famous Bergerstraße.

Pluses:
• Many restaurants, cafes and boutiques
• A lot of young people

Westend
Westend is home to Palmengarten and Grüneburg park.

Pluses:
• Lots of families
• A lot of Altbau (old build) apartments with high ceilings

Bockenheim

Bockenheim is just northwest of the centre.

Pluses:
• Home to Frankfurt’s Natural History Museum
• Many students

Innenstadt

Innenstadt is the city centre.

Pluses:
• Well connected to all districts from Konstablerwache & Hauptwache stations
• Shopping, bars, restaurants etc.

Sachsenhausen
Sachsenhausen is the south bank of the Main River.

Pluses:
• Home to Frankfurt’s Museum Mile
• “Alt-Sachs” (Old Sachsenhausen) attracts tourists with its typical German pubs and small, cobbled streets

Nordend

Nordend is just north of the central business district.

Pluses:

• Home to two universities, the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, and Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences

• Home to Oederweg and Aroma, Frankfurt’s top-ranked recommendation for quick bites to eat

Ostend

This area east of the central business district is Frankfurt’s most up-and-coming location.

Pluses:

• Home to the European Central Bank
• A lot of business people and newbies to Frankfurt

Enkheim
Suburbs northeast of the centre.

Pluses:
• Family-orientated
• Lower prices

Dornbusch
Suburbs directly north of the centre.

Pluses:
• Family-oriented
• Lower prices

Prices vary but as with most European cities, the more central you are, the more expensive it will be.

GOOD TO KNOW!
In Germany, a studio flat is called a ‘one-room flat’ and a one bedroom flat is called a ‘two-room flat.’ They literally count all of the rooms in the flat, so don’t assume there will be an extra living room.

These were the best two websites I used when looking for somewhere to live:
WG Gesucht
Immobilien Scout

Important!
You’ll probably be asked to provide a SCHUFA before signing a contract.
SCHUFA stands for Schutzorganisation für Allgemeine Kreditsicherung, which is the organisation for general credit safety protection aka credit checks. You can find information on SCHUFA here, and although I paid approximately 30 euros for mine because I needed it quickly, you are entitled to get it for free.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Frankfurt has a very accessible transport system, including an underground train system, which you can actually use your mobile phone on – result!

Frankfurt also has the fourth busiest airport in Europe behind No. 1 Heathrow in London, No. 2 Charles de Gaulle in Paris and No. 3 Schiphol in Amsterdam.  Frankfurt Airport has 89 airlines flying to about 262 destinations in 100 countries worldwide.

JOBTICKET

Before buying a monthly or annual ticket, find out from your company if you are entitled to Jobticket, which is a travel card subsidised by the company you work for. With some Jobtickets you can even have an extra person travel with you for free on the evenings and weekends.

APPS TO DOWNLOAD

RMV – Local public transport
Deutsche Bahn – Long-distance trains to outside of Frankfurt

Daily travel card: 5.35 euros
Group adult ticket: 11.30 euros

MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Frankfurt offers a group travel card. As long as you travel together, you can share a travel card with up to five people. (Maximum group size five, minimum group size two.) This means that five people can travel together on a one-day travel card for only 11.30 euros. So cheap!

Weekly travel card: 26.10 euros
Monthly travel card: 90.40 euros

Very reasonable prices for travel within the city!

THE GYM

Frankfurt offers a range of gyms with different facilities and pricing ranging from approx. 20 euros per month to approximately 100 euros month. The choice is yours but you do get what you pay for. If moving from the UK, be prepared for a bit of culture shock if you visit the saunas.

Recommended gyms:
Elements
Fitness First
7/11
McFit

Useful tip!

Some of the websites may be in German but if you call or go in, you’ll likely find a member of staff who can speak English. It is Frankfurt, after all.

BANKING
I’ll be honest. Banking in Germany is not quite what you’d expect, especially if moving over from London. Cash is still used on a regular basis and contactless payment is not widely available; however, I have recently noticed an increase in being able to pay by card.

You can normally only use an “EC” (Electronic Cash) card, rather than a debit or credit card. You’ll also be charged a fee if you withdraw cash from an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank, and even for opening a bank account in the first place! It’s extremely old school.

I’m no banking pro, but these are the most popular banks amongst the people I know in Frankfurt:
Commerzbank
Sparkasse
N26 (online & free)

PERSONAL FAVOURITES
I’m an expat from London who has been living in Frankfurt for three years. I’ll be honest, there are a lot of things that I miss about London, including always being able to pay by card, free entry to museums and Pret a Manger – ha! But Frankfurt has its sweet spots too.

Here are a few I would recommend:

Restaurants:
Super Bros
Aryodee
Bento Boutqie
Saravanaa Bhavan
Ono Cubes
Oosten

Bars:
Good Times For Good People
Plank
Amp
Naiv
Hunky Dory

Friends and family often ask if or when I’ll be returning to London. I will never say “never,” but one of the things that keeps me in Frankfurt is the high improvement of value for money and general quality of life.

I can truly say I’m happy here.

About the author:

Alisa Jordan moved from London to Frankfurt in 2016, just weeks after the Brexit referendum.

Alisa’s enthusiasm for the German culture and determination to make Frankfurt her home have led her to publish regular posts on alisajordanwrites.com, sharing not only her everyday expat life experiences but also her favourite finds in Frankfurt.

Alisa was sure that if she was having these experiences whilst living abroad, then someone else must be too. You can read how Frankfurt has been treating her here.

Enjoy Frankfurt!

Website: www.alisajordanwrites.com
Instagram: @alisajordanwrites
Facebook: www.facebook.com/alisajordanwrites
Twitter: @alisajwrites

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