From Switzerland to Frankfurt: A British expat in Germany

Expat interviews
  • Oliver in Frankfurt
  • Oliver in Frankfurt
Published on 2016-11-25 at 12:00 by Veedushi
Originally from the UK, Oliver spent a few years in Switzerland before moving to Frankfurt following a job offer. He shares with his love for the city's liveliness, far from bustling Munich and Berlin, and his appreciation of Frankfurt's nice weather.

Where are you from, Oliver, and what are you doing nowadays?

I work in marketing both in the UK before and now here in Germany. I am originally British but left the island ten years ago, and haven't really considered going back.

Why did you choose to expatriate to Germany?

Coming to Germany was a very opportunistic move. I was offered a job here in Frankfurt, and although I had turned down offers to work in other German cities, this is the first time that both the job and the town felt right.

As a British expat, what procedures did you have to follow to move to Germany?

Moving to Germany was fairly straight forward. I packed all my things, found an apartment, and moved in. Within seven days I had registered at the local town hall and was all set up. I was actually moving from Switzerland. The biggest challenges were unregistering in Switzerland and extricating myself from their tax and insurance systems. For Brits, it is still very simple to move to Europe, but as we know, this may all change due to Brexit.

How long have you been in the country?

I've been here for exactly three years and been blogging for two.


What has attracted you to Frankfurt?

Frankfurt for me was all about the lively city and the nice weather. I had ruled out the windy wet northern cities like Hamburg, and the sprawling monsters like Berlin and Munich. Frankfurt is perfect in that it is so compact like a series of friendly villages packed tightly around the city centre with a dominant shining financial centre that makes for stunning skyline photos. And there is a real city centre feeling with an old town and a river splitting the city in two. The whole city is walkable and threre's life at every corner. Unlike Munich or Berlin, there are no big empty deserted spaces in Frankfurt. Plus, through the long calm summer, there are constant street festivals. Admittedly, they consist mainly of the same sausage and beer stands, but still a good atmosphere.

What surprised you the most at your arrival?

I have answered this a few times in the past, and it always changes! At the moment, I would say I am most surprised that people still think Frankfurt has a bad reputation for crime and immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth anymore. The stories are often 20 years old, and today the city is a modern international metropolis.

Was it difficult to find accommodation in Frankfurt?

The housing market is extremely fast moving. There is constant demand for apartments and it is always a bit of a fight. However, new places come online constantly and no one has to wait more than a few weeks to find somewhere. But you have to move quickly when you see something you like, and take an interpreter.

What are the local labour market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job?

Finding a job as an expat in Frankfurt is not so hard. The key question is how good is your German. There is a pecking order though for jobs: German-speaking EU citizens; German-speaking other; fluent English-speaking EU citizens; other EU citizens; non-EU citizens... You get the picture.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

Adapting was fairly easy here. I spoke a little German, but I mainly put my effort into making sure that as much of my life as possible functioned in English. Work, housing, taxes, friends. It may sound lazy, but doing everything in German seemed stressful! So I found plenty of ways around it.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Frankfurt?

Frankfurt is one of the most expensive places to live in Germany, but since I lived in Switzerland before, it was a fairly easy transition. Most foreigners have no problem living and working here with a salary of €40-50,000. It will give you a small private apartment and enough disposable income for a single person to have fun.


How do you spend your leisure time?

Leisure time is varied. At the moment, I split my time between sport, family and blogging. You'd be amazed at how much time blogging takes up. For every blog I take the time to write, there are another three that I plan, photograph for, but never find the time to finish writing up. Many missed opportunities but had lots of fun anyway.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

I miss the humour! That's not to say that Germans aren't funny or don't tell jokes, but it isn't the same as what I grew up with. I miss the dead-pan unexpected jokes in the middle of a serious conversation, the irony, sarcasm, and constant winding-up. It always feels like the Germans need to let you know a joke is coming. It can't be unpredictable.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Germany?

Learn German, practice drinking beer, pack lots of tea bags, and learn some more German.

What has motivated you to write your blog “Living in Frankfurt”?

I admit I am addicted to blogging. It never gets tedious. The more people read it and ask questions, the more ideas I have to write about. It started as a way to document solutions I found for the problems I faced when moving here. I assumed that it may help someone else trying to get settled. Turns out there were a lot more people than I expected looking for answers!

What are your plans for the future?

I have no idea! I try not to plan too much ahead, as some of the best changes have been entirely unexpected and opportunistic. I will just stay open-minded.

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