Expat Essentials

Matthew Reynolds: From Sydney to Frankfurt … one expat’s story (so far)

When my partner, Mark, first suggested a work transfer and relocation from Sydney to Frankfurt, I was both excited and tentative. We were very comfortable in a lovely apartment by a large park, near the beaches and life was easy.

ALBERT (All photos courtesy of Matthew Reynolds)

We also have a 3-year-old miniature Schnauzer dog (“Albert”) so that was an added issue. My excitement stemmed from my fascination and affection for Germany. We have travelled here many times (both business and pleasure). Mark’s grand-mother was German and he has a deep love for the country.

We came or business as five years ago I acquired the Australian
distributorship for a heritage German teddy bear brand. I am a management consultant/accountant and have a fascination with heritage brands and creating an effective business strategy for them.

So, I was well-versed in what to expect – or so I thought!

EMBRACE THE EXPERIENCE

My tentativeness was mainly around the dog – I had visions of him in his little cage under seats, howling for his green parkland and a big cuddle over the 25 hours or so the flight would take.

And the beaches – I do love diving into the clear, blue waters of the many beaches that litter the coastline of Sydney. However, I am of a belief that we only live once, and we must grab experiences when we can.

I turned 50 last year and whilst being comfortable is nice, a part of me knows that comfortable does not lead to rich and meaningful experiences. It is only when we reach outside our comfort zone, I think, that we are thoroughly challenged and stimulated.

So, we decided to grab the opportunity. I am lucky to be able to work with clients remotely through cloud-based software and Skype, so moving my small business to Germany was not too troublesome on that front. I also found a great company that was experienced with international pet travel and they reassured me that Albert would be well and truly taken
care of.

We packed up our apartment for rent, stored most of the furniture in the garage and set off to Frankfurt on a wing and prayer. And the dog? He arrived safe and sound, a little disorientated but after a short stop-over and walk in Dubai he was okay.

After letting off a few yelps when we collected him from Frankfurt airport, which sounded suspiciously like “what the heck was all that about?” he fell asleep in our arms and has embraced the experience as we have.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE IN FRANKFURT FOR AN EXPAT?

Firstly, Frankfurt is an utterly delightful city. With 736,000 people, it’s significantly smaller than Sydney with 4.4 million. We bought bikes very soon after arriving which I wholeheartedly recommend.

I did think I would miss the car with its heated leather seats and surround sound. And on very cold and wet days I do. Though there is something liberating in not having (and being reliant) on a car.

I have been reflecting on how much we used the car for everything, such as buying a coffee just up the road. That wasn’t living, and it’s certainly not helpful to the environment.

I love just jumping on a bike and not worrying about a helmet and scooting off for a coffee or to the markets to buy fresh food.

A FRIENDLY, WELCOMING FRANKFURT

I love the people also. Almost every German I have met in Frankfurt has been friendly and welcoming and most have some ability in English – which helps for me as my German is starting from the very low base of just being able to order a beer or say “Guten Tag” or “Tschüss.”

Although they can be direct, be prepared for questions such as “how long are you staying?” or “When are you learning German?”

We have started to make friends, but it does take time and that is something I am mindful of and requires patience from new arrivals. We have settled in Bornheim which is east of the city centre and home to many cute timbered buildings, wine taverns and fresh food markets.

There is hardly a street in Frankfurt that was not damaged from the bombing during the war, but our suburb is more intact than most and it still gives me pleasure to walk a cobblestone street and find a little café in an old 1900’s building.

Overall, a great start to an amazing experience.

About the author:

Matthew Reynolds is an accountant and management consultant based in Frankfurt, Germany. His small advisory business assist companies around the world with business strategy, management accounting, board reporting, cash-flow budgeting, compliance issues and developing sustainable growth.

Matthew has also owned several businesses including recently the Australian/USA distributorship for Clemens-Spieltiere GmbH  (heritage German toys, teddy bears and collectibles) – where sales were increased more than 500 percent in two years through strong business strategy and emotionally resonant marketing campaigns. Matthew can be contacted at info@capstonegroup.net.au or www.austlinx.net.

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