Frankfurt: the best or worst place to live?

I feel in a pretty good position to judge the relative quality of living in Frankfurt now after a couple of years here. Particularly as this is the 5th country I have lived in in the last 20 years on a number of continents. I have also had the pleasure of travelling extensively to many others and so got at least a fleating glimpse of their quality of life.

I was a little concerned before I moved here because, as many of you will already have heard, Frankfurt has a bit of a reputation both in and outside of Germany. I almost called off the move at one point due to the flood of warnings about unfriendly people, crime, difficulties working with Germans, poor services, poverty and immigration issues, lack of English speaking services… just to name a few ;-).

But here I am. And for the reason that I also had many other people telling me what a wonderful place it is, the locals are warm and open, the city is busy with expats, a great cultural centre with loads happening, really well networked with extensive underground and an excellent airport hub.

Well, now that I am here, they were both right in some respects. It can be a mixed bag ;-).

To prove a point. For some reason Frankfurt pops up in city rankings regularly:
– #1 for crime in Germany (German government)
– #7 worldwide for quality of life (Mercer quality of living)
– #7 most unfriendly city in the world (Business Insider)
– #14 most desireable place to visit in 2014 (New York Times)

I am sure you can find more. I have seen the best and the worst of this city and I can understand why it divides opinion so drastically. There is so much happening both socially and economically in this relatively small city of less than a million people. There are so many work opportunities and so much money in the over sized financial district that it attracts a lot of people from across Germany and overseas. This puts a lot of pressure on housing, schools and basic services that they are always in short supply. People with money pay to get what they need, and others suffer.

There is a massive student community and social life here thanks to three universities and a number of big unis in satellite towns.

There are some beautiful commuter towns stuffed full of highly paid execs, Bad Homburg for example which has the highest number of millionaires in Germany. And there are immigration, asylum and crime hotspots like Offenbach and the train station quarter both of which newcomers are warned about on arrival.

But on the other hand, it is still Germany. In comparison to any little Swiss town (read: Zurich) it will always lose out, but it is definitely a big step up in life from many UK or US cities. Crime is high for Germany, thanks to the immigration issues, the airport and the train station, but crime is still low on international standards.

So as I said, its a mixed bag. Once you find a home, a school for the kids, a job with enough disposable income, you will have as much if not more fun than many other cities. But if you can’t get the balance right you’ll hate it.

So just like pretty much anywhere else, right? 🙂

14 thoughts on “Frankfurt: the best or worst place to live?

  1. I loved living in Frankfurt. Was there for a few years some time ago and enjoyed the whole time. Felt always very safe (ok maybe a bit less late at night at the main station) and loved the various Fests and markets. For me it had the right mix of expat/student/banking atmosphere combined with German life.

  2. Why is the crime rate high, then? What do you think are the reasons for that? I imagine Detroit-like crime scenes in the streets when Frankfurt is mentioned, but I guess that is not the case:) Does the financial crime also fall into that statistics of crime rates? I have a job opportunity there and my husband is hesitant because of all the crime-related stories and we are generally worried for the safety of our children. Thank you and I am sorry for asking too many questions, but I see that you know quite a lot about these things. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jelena,

      I have been here for two years now and after talking to a lot of people I am fairly certain that the crime story is simply outdated. The stats are certainly increased because crime from the largest airport hub on the continent is included, but even then the level of crime is on a German level. Compared to any of the cities in the US or UK, where I lived, crime is low. Safety is definitely a big step up especially if you avoid living at the main train station. The only crime spree I can see is for bicycle theft which is starting to annoy me… I need somewhere more secure for my bike.

      All the best!

      1. Hi, I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind. First, do you have kids? If so, how is their life organized (do you let them walk o school or do you have to drive them in and out?). You mention that Airport is the source of the crime, I honestly find it hard to believe that heavily policed airport is a greater source of crime than the low policed urban quarters filled with disenfranchised low skilled immigrants. Do you have any figures to support this claim, or is it just something Frankfurters tell each other to rationalize things? Speaking of affluence, you mention slums like Offenbach and commuter towns filled with millionaires, they obviously went there because they don’t feel safe in the city (sort of like gated communities in US), and we most certainly cannot afford to compete with them, so are there such places for middle class too? Thanks.

  3. Hi Mil,
    A few points to clarify here. The difference in crime stats between cities is marginal. It isn’t as if there are raging gun battles in the streets of Frankfurt. There aren’t even any ‘no-go’ areas is the city. Just places where you need to be more careful about your belongings.

    The difference for Frankfurt is that the airport is included in the stats and is significantly bigger than any other German airport. It doesn’t matter how well policed it is, there is crime that is recorded, and with 3 million passengers a month (3 times the population of Frankfurt) it does have an impact on overall figures.

    And I would never call Offenbach a ‘slum’. it does have a bad reputation locally, but since the standard is fairly high in Germany, it is still not a bad place to live. The variation in districts is nothing compared to many other countries.

    And yes, I do have kids, and i let them walk to school on their own. I chose an apartment close enough to school that they could walk or cycle safely. I was ultra-conservative on this, but many children cross the city by bus, train and tram unsupervised in order to get to school and the locals were surprised that I was being so cautious over safety.

    I am tempted to take a trip down to Offenbach and the train station to take some realistic pictures/video for you 🙂

    All the best!

    1. Hi, first, thanks for taking the time to answer, it is much appreciated. Since I would like to do some exploration (online and during visit) can you tell me which parts of Frankfurt you reside in? And what is your opinion on the local schools? (Thanks again). Also, which parts of the city would you characterize as being places where to be careful, aside from the train station and red light districts. Thanks.

      1. Hi Mil, I have lived in two different places in Frankfurt actually, since I spent some time chosing the best place. I was in Nordend near Grünerbergweg station, then near Höhestrasse station close to Bornheim. If you have children then I would avoid the following places: Train station and Messe (exhibition) quarters, city centre (due to crowds, noise), Ostend (due to lack of good schools), centre /old Sachsenhausen (due to heavy partying until late in the evenings). I’ve written a few posts about ‘where to live‘ but you should specifically have a look at this one: https://frankfurtexpat.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/where-to-live-in-frankfurt/
        Good luck with the visit!

  4. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain things in detail, it is much appreciated. If you need any info on life in Serbia (where I live), or better yet, about fun places to visit, feel free to ask:) Also, I had a wonderful opportunity to live and work in Bermuda for three years, so that might be more interesting. Thanks again and I will definitely visit Frankfurt first and later decide if it is a nice place to relocate to. Best, Jelena

    1. Thanks Jelena, I’ve never been to Serbia or Bermuda, but they sound great! I’ll let you know if I have the opportunity :-). In the meantime, enjoy your trip to Frankfurt!

  5. Do you still find this to be the case – feeling safe, a slightly higher crime rate than the rest of Germany but still substantially less than in the UK or US? I’m contemplating a move to Frankfurt from the Northeast US but have heard some concerning things about crime increasing lately, especially with the immigration influx. At the same time, as long as it is not unsafe (assuming one is smart and aware), I don’t imagine it is too bad.

    To be clear, my guess is that this has been blown out of proportion with all of the political articles lately, but I want to check, of course!

    1. Hi Anne, I have been thinking about this a lot recently as well. I was planning on actually writing a post about the immigration issue for a while but the truth is I am having trouble finding much to write about. There has definitely been an impact, but for the most part I read about the problems in the news (both in German and International papers). I don’t really see a big impact in the city.

      Part of the problem is that the streets of Frankfurt have always been very international and mixed. I hear that the effect is more obvious in smaller, less diverse towns and cities. Certainly what happened in Cologne at New Year shocked a lot of people but there is a general feeling about scaremongering by the media.

      The difficulty I have is that I have not seen or been affected by the refugee crisis personally and yet, especially after Brussels, I find myself paying more attention to people of middle eastern appearance on trains and around the city. I often look over my shoulder now when I hear a different language or avoiding the hauptbahnhof area of the city which has always been a hotspot for crime. Probably the biggest impact of the refugee crisis is paranoia.

      But back to your question about the US and UK, yes I do still feel safer than wandering around DC, NY or Philadelphia, or London, Birmingham and Manchester. There are still almost no ‘no-go’ areas in Frankfurt and the police are everywhere at the moment.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Not having no-go areas is a certificate with glowing A+ grade; that’s a pretty low barrier to walk over. Innit ?

      2. Glass half full Ron? 😉 sounds like you have been having a pretty rough time of it – or simply hanging out in the Bahnhofsviertel a bit too much. Frankfurt has improved massively in the last 10-15 years even considering the last 2 years of immigration. I have spoken to a lot of locals about it and they all agree.

  6. Naturalised German National; In Frankfurt since I arrived here in 2008 as Masters student in Uni Frankfurt. Parts of Frankfurt now look like Africa, rents have shot up 35% since 2014, accessory costs(heating, electricity, garbage cleaning, urban maintenance), and most importantly healthcare has shot up drastically, to cover the wider cost of non-productive illegal migrants. Old age poverty, waiting time for hospital treatment and academic year loss for lack of school berth are skyrocketing.
    Littering, vandalism, fare dodging, shop lifting, pick pocket, burglary and sexual assaults at record high. Frankfurt is still a nice place, compared to Tower Hamlets or Haarlem, but it fell from small, clean, upmarket town like a stone.

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