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Tell us: What do you wish you’d known before moving to Germany?

Moving abroad is a steep learning curve. We'd love to hear what lessons you learned after moving to Germany, and what you wish you'd know before you got here.

Three locals enjoy a beer in Frankfurt city centre.
Three locals enjoy a beer in Frankfurt city centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Whether you moved to Germany for love or for money, there are countless things that can go wrong when relocating. Maybe you paid more than you should have for an apartment, maybe you moved to the wrong city, or maybe you committed a cultural faux pas because you weren’t familiar with the German way of life. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

For a future article, we want to know what you wish someone had told you about life in Germany before you moved here. And if you have any sage words of advice for others in the same boat, we’d love to hear them too.

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The verdict: Is Frankfurt really that bad a place for expats to live?

A recent survey placed Frankfurt as the second-worst of 50 cities for expatriates to live. So we asked Local Germany readers if it really deserves that ranking.

The verdict: Is Frankfurt really that bad a place for expats to live?

German cities did particularly badly in several recent expat surveys, ranking low in categories like “expat essentials” covering things like housing, language, and bureaucracy. It didn’t do much better either when it comes to local friendliness and ease of settling in.

Frankfurt though, Germany’s bustling financial capital of nearly 800,000 people, fared particularly badly. Scoring 49 out of 50 in the Internations Expat Insider 2022, only Johannesburg did worse.

Is it really all that bad?

Just over half the respondents in our reader survey said yes. It is.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt ranked ‘second worst city for expats’ in new international survey

In a close vote, 51.5 percent of respondents to our survey said Frankfurt deserved the low ranking, compared to 48.5 percent who said it didn’t.

Our readers had key gripes about cost of living in the city, the inefficiency of its bureaucracy, and its lack of cleanliness in certain parts – particularly around its central station.

However, there were also lots of good points listed about Frankfurt am Main, sometimes known as Mainhattan thanks to its skyline. 

‘Worst thing is weather’

Several respondents said they were frustrated about paperwork in the immigration process. 

One reader told us they had been waiting over seven months for an appointment at the immigration office.

Others pointed out that although job prospects were good, finding both housing and childcare were challenging endeavours. This led to some sentiment that Frankfurt is “a city for bankers,” but little else.

Reader Eraldo Grabovaj said Frankfurt was a “Beautiful city” but “very expensive”.

Many said Frankfurt locals were often rude or even racist or discriminatory in some cases, even if it was easy to find help in English.

“We could use a little less grumpy locals in town,” said reader Liza Maria.

“I find people to be friendly but not overly so,” Viktoria M told us. “The worst thing though is the weather. It rains a lot.”

There were mixed responses on transport, with some saying buses and trains were excellent, while others said they could be a lot better. 

“Public transportation is terrible, not only in Frankfurt but mostly in Hesse,” said Renan Dias. “I lived in Hamburg for seven years and after that, just in three months of living in Frankfurt I was already fed up with the public transportation. I’ve been here for a year now, lived in three different areas and and it’s still highly unreliable.”

train passengers

Passengers wait for the train in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

A few people said Frankfurt airport – Germany’s largest – wasn’t well organised. 

“The airport is a disaster,” said Jeffrey Josef Maltz. It’s too big and too many people. It does not seem like a German city.

Frankfurt’s good points

But it’s not all bad. In fact readers listed loads of positive aspects about life in Frankfurt.

Some highlighted that the expat community is strong, and many people speak English locally, helping to ease things for newcomers.

“There’s more integration of international people compared to other cities in Germany,” one reader wrote. “The best thing is the connectivity and the fact that we have a lot of international communities.”

“Frankfurt has an incredibly diverse population,” said respondent Barb Chap. “We now number among our friends – besides Germans, Americans, and Brits – folks with heritage from Turkey, Senegal, Iran, Nigeria and others. And you can walk from one side of the city to the other to experience the various neighbourhoods. – Events, museums, cinemas (with English), nature.”

READ ALSO: ‘Megacity on a smaller scale’: The insiders’ guide to Frankfurt

Although readers also recommended that it’s good to try speaking German. 

Frankfurt resident Youri Zissos said: “The energy of the city is amazing, events are very frequently held in different Stadteile. This city is very international, while showing different sides of Hessisch culture. People are generally very warm to foreigners as long as you try to speak at least a few phrases in German.”

The nearby Main and Rhine rivers also offer up plenty to see in terms of castles, wineries, or museums. Respondents to our survey also said other nature spots such as the Taunus mountain range were a huge positive to life there. 

Many respondents praised how well-connected Frankfurt is. 

“Love the public transport options, hoe easy it is to get to Frankfurt Airport, and how central the city is in the rest of Europe,” said Tina Hattingh.

With reporting by Rachel Loxton