Frankfurt Main River View from The Döm

The Brighter Side of Living in Frankfurt

I am about to hit my 2nd year mark in 5 months and yet I haven’t really updated you much about how it’s like living in Frankfurt, the “Mainhattan” of Europe. I get lots of questions from family and friends as well – they want to know how cool or sucky it is; if there’s anything special about it or if it’s better to just stay in the airport on a layover than go out and see the city? At first, to be honest, I couldn’t say much about Frankfurt yet especially when I already got into a fight with a bus driver on my first week here. It took some time to ease into living and getting used to everyday life here or should I say getting used to closed shops on Sundays? Hey, but that’s not just in Frankfurt – it’s the norm in the entire country. And even that I’ve learned to appreciate as time goes by.

So, what it’s like living in Frankfurt, Germany?

Believe it or not, Frankfurt didn’t even make it to our list of German cities we wanted to live in until my husband was offered a job here and that all changed. For a lot of people, even some Germans, there’s nothing more to Frankfurt but the airport and the financial district – it’s a mere “transit city”. Before I came to live here, I was one of those transit tourists who decided explore the city on a long layover. Been to most of the places of interests and I wasn’t impressed, but I wasn’t disappointed either – simply because I had zero expectations.

But it’s actually good, you know? To have zero expectations, that is. Everyday, I am just preparing myself to be surprised. I’m just lucky that from day one I already have someone to discover this city with, who was also a newbie like me. It helped a lot that someone’s constantly boosting my mood through that entire winter after I have arrived in the city, having no clue where to start; always searching for new things around the city we could try and do. It wouldn’t have probably taken long before I fell down into the doldrums without my husband dragging me around everywhere and obliging to my requests to venture out of the city and country every few months, appeasing my itchy feet.

Even though I am still somewhat a newcomer, compared to my Integrationskurs classmates who have been here for the last 15 years or so, I think I am already allowed to let my opinions out there.

The Frankfurter Lifestyle is Not Hard To Get Used To

Even if you don’t plan on learning and speaking German for and to anyone, you’d find that most people here would speak English to you – maybe Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, and Chinese even – except for the grumpy bus drivers, the local baby boomers, and all the others who you wouldn’t dare to talk to anyway because of that stink eye they are giving you.

I live in one of the suburbs of Frankfurt, so the atmosphere is quite different here than in the areas closer to the city center despite the fact that it’s only 6-mins out by metro. If you had extra budget to cover a sky-rocketing apartment rental cost in the city center and can manage with a lot smaller space, I would recommend staying there; it’s livelier and more happening. You can also just walk everywhere – to the Römer, Old town (Alt Sachsenhausen), Main River, etc. I imagine it won’t be hard to meet new people and acclimatize to the neighborhood in just a matter of weeks once you’ve settled – especially if you are this extroverted, wide-eyed greenhorn ready to mingle!

Most expats here have a typical routine; just like in Singapore where I lived for 5 years and it’s nothing different. Work like a horse the entire day, go for after-work chats and drinks with colleagues or friends, then resign to your bed – rinse and repeat. You’d quickly notice though that the Germans are too responsible to get hammered on a weeknight when they know they’d have to get up early for work the next day. So chances are, most yuppies who stay out late on weeknights are foreign as well – tourist or not.

It’s a very multi-cultural city being a melting pot of people from different vibes and cultures and although Filipinos seem to be under-represented, that will have to change soon – maybe! Besides our landlords and a handful of people, meeting a real homegrown Frankfurter who has been here all their life is quite rare.

Getting to anywhere is virtually hassle-free

Their transport system is up there at the top, definitely. Fast, efficient and convenient. When the bus is 5 minutes late or so, people don’t go crazy unlike in Singapore for example, but they will certainly not be happy about it.

It’s just very central – you can get to anywhere within the city and the country and outside of the country easily. Having the biggest and major international airport in the fifth-largest city in Germany has its perks – it’s generally cheaper to fly off from here as compared to other airports in the country. The one that comes a close second is Düsseldorf when it comes to competitive flight ticket prices.

Since our apartment is only 10 minutes away from the airport, it’s actually quite nice to see the planes flying in and out though oftentimes I’d wish I were in one of those planes ticking another destination off my list.

Also, whenever we have time and want to see something fresh but just can’t get on the plane yet, we drive to smaller cities and towns outside of Frankfurt that are good for a day trip. Even Heidelberg, which I find very charming, is only a 45-min drive away! You really don’t have to feel stuck in Frankfurt, you know?

It has everything one would need – as long as you don’t have many demands!

Depending on where you come from and the lifestyle you’ve grown with, you will find that Frankfurt has more than enough to offer to expats, foreign students, singles, couples, and families with kids. As long as the cold is tolerable and the clouds are not too ominous, there’s really nothing much to complain about in terms of what the city has to offer to uplift the quality of life for the residents here. Sure, I miss my tropical life and the Philippines will forever take the number one spot in my heart, but it wouldn’t be right to bitch about things no one in my country were never really entitled to have.

We’ve got enough nightlife happenings and options, shopping centers, international food fare, museums for young and old, great healthcare system, world-class schools and/or universities, job opportunities for skilled immigrants (especially if you are willing to learn the language), year-round activities in the city, playgrounds, etc. The quality of life in Frankfurt isn’t bad at all. Sure, it comes with a high cost as well but that’s no surprise.

Or maybe from a Filipino’s perspective, I have a great appreciation for countries that are able to afford to give their citizens and immigrants the basic rights, such as the right to education and access to quality healthcare among low-income families, and more. I still often wish we had the same in the Philippines, because even though education is in one of our constitutional rights – it is clearly a privilege millions do not have with around 25% of the total population living below poverty line. When you meet kids in and from the slums and ask them what their main goal in life is, without batting an eyelash most of them they would say: “To finish my studies” in order to find a good-paying job and help the family out. It is heartbreaking.

So I simply do not get it when people come over here (I’m not talking about the refugees) and complain about everything while barely pulling their weight. But I digress. That’s for another time when I am ready to come under fire.

What I’m trying to say is, Frankfurt may not be the first thing anyone would think about visiting or deciding to live in Germany for all the right reasons – it seems dull, it’s too busy and small, not much to see or do compared to other massive metropolitan cities in the world– but you know, it has its own charm that does not shine through at first blush; only once you open your heart to it. It’s not perfect, but you have to look beyond the negative things to learn to recognize all its (hidden) special features. 😉

As earlier expressed, it took me some time to start really liking it even after deciding to settle down here. I would still say that on most months, the depressive weather kills me inside but in order to feel better, I just think of how much worse it would be if I am living in other German regions that do not get as much sun as we do in a year.

This is my home now and I will not stop telling my friends and family to come over for a visit and completely change their mind about this place.

That said, I make sure that family and friends coming over get a first great impression of the city I now call home so that they’ll keep coming back – even just for our hospitality!

Life in Frankfurt, Germany


Momma To Go

Ive never been to Frankfurt- but know it as a international layover destination. I live in the suburbs of Manhattan and you are right, there are lots of parallels. Although people here have no problem going out and getting sloshed during the week! LOL And we live much further out of the city center to find affordable housing (Like an hour commute)

Haha I can imagine! NYC peeps are out and about any day and time of the week! Indeed, it’s the city that never sleeps!

My dad was actually born in Frankfurt. So far I’ve only had a connecting flight in the Frankfurt airport. Hope I get to go someday!

Joy Sheehan

Frankfurt sounds like a pretty neat and interesting place! I haven’t had the chance to get there yet but it’s definitely on my list!

Kaylene (Chadwell) Isherwood

I’d love to live in Germany at some point in my life. I’ve been to Frankfurt for just a day, passing through on the train. I enjoyed exploring it but didn’t get to see very much. I love your photo of the Alte Oper!

Next time climb up the Dom or go to the Main Tower. You’d love the view up there. 😉 It’s worth a second visit!

Constance @ The Adventures of Panda Bear

I have never been to Frankfurt but now I’m intrigued, you made it sound like such an interesting place. Definitely will try to go there when I make it out to Germany.

Germany – epic country to visit. So much history and Frankfurt unfortunately not a place I have visited. Great article.