Frankfurt am Main. Bankfurt. Mainhattan.
The nicknames for Germany’s financial hub aren’t very inspiring, and it’s true that Frankfurt did use to have a reputation for being, well, a bit boring. However, times are changing, and there are several things that may surprise newcomers to the city.
Firstly, Frankfurt is a very cosmopolitan city, and roughly a quarter of its residents are foreign nationals. A mixture of languages can be heard on its streets, and the choice of international cuisine seems to be constantly broadening.
Secondly, the city of Frankfurt is actually quite small, especially considering its global significance. The population of the city is around 730,000, with many city workers and their families living in the Taunus mountain region, just outside the city.
Which brings us to our third surprise. The Frankfurt area really does have something for everyone. The city itself has an abundance of restaurants, bars, cafes, beautiful parks, a zoo, and even an English theatre, but its proximity to the Taunus offers an alternative to city life. The larger towns of the Taunus, Hofheim, Oberursel, Bad Homburg, are thriving centres in their own right, but nestled amongst the wooded hills and valleys can also be found quaint villages, traditional restaurants, great hiking and mountain bike trails, many ancient castles and forts, and even the occasional glimpse of deer and wild boar.
So what can a family moving to the Frankfurt region expect from life? Germany is very family-friendly, Frankfurt perhaps especially so, and whether you are in one of the city’s districts such as Sachsenhausen, Bornheim or Westend, or in the Taunus, you are likely to have a choice of playgrounds and parks on your doorstep. In the spring and summer months these act as a hub for the community, a chance for the children to play and the adults to sit on the edge of the sand (not much astro-turf here) and talk over coffee and ‘Sprudelwasser’. Outdoor swimming pools are also popular and plentiful, and it’s possible to while away the summer with children in such a way. But even in the winter, Germans are keen for their children to be outside as much as possible, and the cold, crisp days will see families spilling out into playgrounds and walking trails.
Traditionally, German schools finish around lunchtime and, although this is slowly changing with the rising popularity of ‘Nachschulbetreuung’ (after school care clubs), it means there is a wide range of afternoon clubs available for children. Whether this is music lessons at one of the many local music schools, handball, football, swimming lessons, dancing or ‘Turnen’ (a mixture of general fitness and children’s gymnastics), there is no need for little ones to be idle.
The expat community have also been active in offering activities and opportunities to get together. There are a number of English speaking playgroups that meet both in the city and in the Taunus, an English children’s music class, Mainhattan Music Together, and the newly opened Link n Learn, an international family centre, offering a range of courses and classes. Frankfurt Sarsfields is the city’s Gaelic football club, with teams for women, men and children. The British Club of the Taunus run activities and meetings throughout the year, including nights out, coffee mornings, book clubs and a Christmas fair, and Mother’s Corner (an affiliation between the British Club of the Taunus and the American International Women’s Club) focus on families and children. Less formal, but perhaps just as important, there are a number of Facebook groups that aim to bring people together, and meetings are often arranged in such a way. These groups include Frankfurt Expat Babies, Frankfurt English Speakers, Toytown and Frankfurt-n-Motion.
Boring Germany? Far from it!
Perhaps despite its reputation, Germany is a country that knows how to celebrate life. There is always something happening, and Frankfurt is no exception. The new year is welcomed with fireworks (lots of fireworks!) and cheer, and the next big date is Karneval or Fasching, usually in February. Although Frankfurt doesn’t celebrate it with the same gusto as other cities, such as Cologne and Mainz, there are still a number of parades and parties, and most schools and kindergartens will have a dressing up day. Spring sees the start of outdoor festivals, which continue through the summer. Most towns will have a least one such event, with stalls and carousels and a wealth of ‘lecker’ food on offer. Frankfurt’s culinary Fressgass-Fest is one to watch out for in early summer, and the Opernspiele and Mainspiele, which take place during the summer holidays, are a children’s paradise. And as the leaves start to turn and the heat dies down in September, wine festivals start taking place, both in the city and in the nearby wine areas of the Rheingau and the Weinstrasse. These tend to be family friendly and great fun, often with fairground rides and live music on offer. Halloween has grown in popularity in recent years, and the 11th November is St Martin’s Day, with most schools and kindergartens holding a lantern parade through the streets, often led by St Martin on a horse. Autumn festivals are also popular, Hofheim’s Gallusmarkt is a local one of note, before it’s time to round off the year with a Glühwein and a Wurst at the Christmas markets.
It feels like an interesting time for Frankfurt. People are flocking in from all over the world, and office and apartment blocks, houses, shopping centres and hotels are flying up as a result. Things are constantly changing and evolving, and the international aspect of the area is certain to be a defining feature of its future.
By Claire Crossland Naujoks
(Expatriate Writer living in Frankfurt)
If you or your company are looking to relocate to Frankfurt, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our global mobility experts at Parental Choice: you can call Mira Pathak on 020 8979 6453.