The expat community in Frankfurt enjoys some of the world’s highest living standards for families, with excellent international schools, a vibrant social scene and plenty to do during downtime.
Germany’s fifth largest city may be about big business, gleaming skyscrapers and the world’s sixth-largest resident population of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. But while many expat families in Frankfurt are attracted by the excellent economic prospects, the city’s fantastic lifestyle is sometimes overlooked.
Birgit Thissen-Ackermann, a marketing executive at Strothoff International School, a private day school close to the heart of Frankfurt, says the metropolitan area of about 2.5 million people is ideal for families.
“Frankfurt has long been home to expat families from around the world (more than half the city’s population are foreign-born). It’s a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and open-minded city and it’s a great place for children to spend their formative, and older, years,” she explains.
So, ditch the stereotype! ‘Mainhattan’ may be a global financial hub, but you can bank on having fun in this cosmopolitan town (did you know that it is home to continental Europe’s largest English-speaking theatre?). Birgit gives us the lowdown in this guide to Frankfurt for expat families.
Strothoff International School
Strothoff International School is a private, all-day school for children from kindergarten to grade 1. They teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) and are the only IB school in the Rhine-Main area to offer all three IB programmes.
International social and sports clubs in Frankfurt
Home to 180 different nationalities, it is hardly surprising that there are plenty of expat social clubs in Frankfurt. For recently-arrived expat parents, these clubs are a great way to get into the community and seek out advice from expats who’ve been there, done that, and quite possibly got the t-shirt!
“The sheer number of expat clubs and associations reflects Frankfurt’s diverse society,” says Birgit. “From cultural events to excellent sports facilities, expat families in Frankfurt can lead rich social lives.”
The British Club of the Taunus is a social club open for British and other expat nationalities, while the American International Women’s Club organises a number of activities for women living in the area.
If sports is your game, how about going all Antipodean and training with the Frankfurt Redbacks Aussie Rules team? Or, head down to the Frankfurt Hash House Harriers, who generously describe themselves as a ‘drinking club with a running problem’.
If members’ clubs aren’t your thing, check out one of the many meetups across the Frankfurt metropolitan area. The Expats in Frankfurt and Frankfurt International Friends groups cater to an array of interests, while Francophones in Wiesbaden and nearby Mainz might want to reach out to the Groupe Francais de Mainz Wiesbaden meetup.
Online outreach in Frankfurt
Time is the most precious commodity for recently-arrived expats in Frankfurt. Check out expat-focused online forums for that hot tip for a cocktail bar, the no-holds-barred review of the Thai café down the road you’ve been meaning to try, or ‘tried, tested and trusted’ advice on childcare.
Who you gonna call? Meetup Mamas!
A great resource for expat parents in Frankfurt are the various family meetups which cater especially for parents with younger kids.
Working Mums Frankfurt is a support and activity group for locals and expatriates, while if you’re based out at Wiesbaden with young kids, this meetup brings English speaking parents and kids together.
These ‘Mama’ groups, found in cities around the world, are geared towards expats with children and are a gold mine of information. Members are all expat-parents, and many have already conquered some of the hurdles you may be facing now. They will helpfully share advice on everything from childcare and babysitting to understanding more about German parenting styles.
These communities are also a sure-fire way to make friends or find playmates for your little ones, with social events, play-dates or even themed-parties.
Mixing business and pleasure
Make no bones about it: Frankfurt is a business city. For expats living in Frankfurt looking for jobs, that means great networking opportunities, and there are many English-speaking expat groups out there.
The Association of American-German Business Clubs is a networking group which aims to strengthen ties between the two economic powerhouses, while Australian Business in Europe (Germany) serves a similar function to promote bilateral relations.
A taste of home: international shops in Frankfurt
Grocery stores galore cater to Frankfurt’s diverse diaspora. Fancy shunning the Schweinshaxe und Sauerkraut in favour of the flavours of home? This city probably has you covered!
“From the ubiquitous Turkish bakeries and convenience stores in the Bockenheim district to the supermarket chains stocking international brands, there are few food products you can’t get in Frankfurt,” says Thissen-Ackermann.
Fancy cooking up a festival feast? Ponto Brasil & Latino on Tongesgasse is the place to head. A Taste of Britain (nearest U-Bahn station: Eschenheimer Tor) does what it says on the tin (including yummy fresh scones and clotted cream!), while for Japanese items, head to Umakiya (not far from Rödelheim S-Bahn station). Yuan Fa Asia Markt, which has an outlet on Fahrgasse, sells Chinese and oriental specialities, while Spicelands is the go-to for Indian subcontinent staples and specials.
“US expats can expect to find goodies from home in the food halls of Galleria Kaufhof and Karstadt in the downtown area,” Birgit also points out.
Bigging up on Brexit
Since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, Frankfurt has been on a charm offensive as it looks to woo banks in particular from London.
“Frankfurt has not only a good business environment but is also an excellent place for families to relocate to from the UK,” says Birgit.
Comparing lifestyles in the UK and Germany, HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2017 placed Germany 4th (UK 19th) for quality of schools, Germany 4th (UK 40th) for childcare quality, and Germany 9th (UK 34th) for quality of family life.
“Strothoff International School and other international schools around Frankfurt have families, children and staff from around the world, reflecting the welcoming, multi-cultural environment in Frankfurt,” she says.
Birgit Thissen-Ackermann is Head of Marketing at Strothoff International School. She has lived in Frankfurt for 13 years now, after several years living in London. She has been a Marketing and Communication professional for over 15 years, with experiences in the financial and consultancy industry before taking over the position at Strothoff last year. Birgit is a passionate art supporter.Schedule a visit