Conversations with a South African moving from India and an American moving from London
In September 2019, I visited the Newcomer Festival for the first time. I wanted to get an idea of what my clients might need when they are moving to Frankfurt. Expats new to Frankfurt are called Newcomers. The Newcomer Festival is held annually in September in the Frankfurt town hall: the Römer. This event is an informative fair exclusively designed for the professional expats. It is an interesting and fun event and I urge you to join the next event on September 19, 2021. Its so easy to register and its free - just click on here
Almost two years ago, I met Janice and Kelly for the first time and that is when we decided to keep in touch. Unfortunately, we have never made it to a personal meeting and that is why I finally decided to invite them to a video call to chat about their experiences of moving to Frankfurt with their families.
Et voilà, I am very happy to share the interview with you:
Janice and Kelly, please introduce yourself
Kelly: Hi I’m Kelly. I’m originally from the US, Springfield, Missouri to be exact. I studied Fashion Design and Interior Design at University and was awarded a fashion design scholarship to a university in London and that’s where I met my husband and ended up living in London for 10 years. We had our daughter Edith in London. It’s crazy that she’s 8 years old now, 9 yrs. We’ve been living here in Frankfurt for 2 ½ years now.
Janice: Hi I’m Janice. I’m originally from South Africa, however I haven’t lived there since I was 21. I am an interiors photographer and trained yoga teacher, however, I originally studied accounting at the University of Stellenbosch.
How did you meet?
Kelly: Every summer I attend a summer party at a castle in Ilz, Austria. Friends of ours own this amazing place. And a few summers ago a friend of mine said she used to work with someone in London that is moving to Frankfurt, could she introduce us? I was like yeah, sure. So she introduced us via facebook. Janice and I decided to meet at Holy Cross Coffee and ended up chatting for hours.
When and why did you move to Frankfurt?
Janice: My family and I moved to Frankfurt almost 3 years ago now from India and before that we lived in London for many years. My husbands work was the driving force behind the move as was our move to India. I have two little boys aged 8 and 7.
Kelly: My family moved to Frankfurt in August 2018. My husband came over in July to move us in and Edith and I went back to the States to see my family and back again to London to stay with friends. I think I was prolonging my leaving as it was really really hard to leave. My husband and I were looking for a change. Frankfurt was definitely not the change we were looking for as Berlin was top of our list, but a job came up in his firm here in Frankfurt so that brought us here. His parents are very old and need some support so Frankfurt was the logical place and his family is in Kassel.
Who helped you to get settled and what was missing?
Kelly: Myself to be honest. I did a lot of research before coming to Frankfurt. I researched all the neighbourhoods, bought books and asked friends for advice. I had been coming to Frankfurt once or twice a year for work so I had friends to show me around.
But the rest was up to me. Yes, my husband is German so he could translate the things I didn’t understand, but I did all the hard work.
Janice: We had a relocation agent who was fantastic for the fundamentals ie finding a flat, organising the lease and setting up our broadband etc.
What I missed though was somebody to give me the ‘inside scoop’ on living in Frankfurt. The best coffee shops, places to go with my kids, places to shop that didn’t include IKEA and small details like register with a paediatrician immediately on arriving as it takes 3 million years to find one!
In your opinion, what is the best neighborhood for a family to live in?
Kelly: Bornheim. I’m bias as it’s the neighbourhood I live in, but I love Bornheim. There are great restaurants, bars, parks and it’s so close to the river. But we also love Nordend, some parts of Sachsenhausen and I’m a big Osthafen fan, it reminds me of Berlin.
Janice: Hmmm, this is a tricky one! I’d say this has many factors to consider there is no ‘best neighbourhood’. However, I wanted to live in Westend and still want to live in Westend. I didn’t stick to my guns when we were looking and probably should have.
What was most challenging integrating to Frankfurt (family life) and what are you struggling with still?
Kelly: Well, definitely the language. I truly believe that you can’t fully immerse yourself into Frankfurt without the language. Yes you can communicate but on a very surface level. My daughter speaks both English and German and she’s still having a hard time settling in. She misses her friends back in England.
I passed my B1 Prüfung and I am still nowhere close to being fluent. But I think what’s still a struggle for us is a community for our whole family. We are still a bit lonely.
What is The Frankfurt Edit? For whom is TFE?
Kelly: The Frankfurt Edit is a guide to the COOL Frankfurt. It’s what Janice and I wanted when we first arrived. Just something to refer to. A starting off point, advice, where to go to get a great coffee, cool shops, great galleries, museums and how to meet people. Right now because of the pandemic we are based online but we hope in the future to have small meet-ups so we can really create a community.
TFE is for everyone to be honest. We first started off catering to expats or newcomers but soon found that our following is definitely bigger, we are reaching Germans that want to expand their circle and want to learn about the new things happening here in Frankfurt.
What are your 3 tips for family life in Frankfurt?
Get out and enjoy all the festivities Frankfurt has to offer. Frankfurt knows how to put on a good party and they are so family friendly and really fun! It’s the perfect family outing and it makes you feel a part of the city. (Clearly when we can again)
For me personally find a neighbourhood that you feel comfortable in and close to the city. You can then get everywhere quite quickly and you then start to get to know the people and shops in the area. It feels nice to know the baker or the dry cleaner. It starts to feel more homey.
Get out and explore the city and the surrounding areas. There are so many beautiful places around Frankfurt. This will really make you appreciate the area. There are so many walks in and around Frankfurt that the whole family can enjoy.
Start looking for a paediatrician as soon as you arrive (living in London this wasn’t possible so I didn’t realise it was a requirement in Frankfurt)
Try learn some basic German before arriving to build on when you get here.
Check out our website many of our struggles are detailed on there as that is why we started it.
From foreigner to foreigner: What should parents be prepared of moving to Frankfurt and what would you like to have known beforehand?
Kelly: Prepare to be shocked. I was told over and over again that Frankfurt is a very international city. It is, to an extent. If you work in the city then yes, if you live in Bornheim and need to get some bread from the bakery, not so much. Be prepared to feel out of place at first. It will get better, but it takes time. Frankfurt is not the most open city, the people within it are nice but a bit more closed off, so you need to find your niche.
Start learning the language before you move. Everyday things, this will make it easier at first, then when you are settled in, take a language course. Through your language course hopefully you will meet some nice people.
Be prepared for your kids to feel the shock too. My daughter really felt it. Even though she is doing very well now, she still has her moments. So keep positive. I was told it takes about 4-5 years to settle into Frankfurt and this was coming from both a German and an expat. So give it time and try to enjoy the ride.
Janice: That whilst Frankfurt sells itself as an international city where everyone speaks English, its embellishing the truth a little. The ‘not speaking language thing’ has been far more challenging than I anticipated. Having said that it also wasn’t a total make or break but moving to India in many respects was easier than moving to Frankfurt.
Anything you want to add?
Kelly: Frankfurt is a great city, it does have a lot to offer, just give yourself some time to settle in, once you are settled, it’s a very easy lifestyle. Oh and keep reading our website!!!!
Janice: Definitely check out our website and let us know if there are any topics you would specifically like to see on there 🙂
I am one of the Germans that read Janice's and Kelly's blog and website regularly to expand my circles and learn about what's new or a must do in Frankfurt. I highly recommend you also give their blog a read. You can find a "New to Frankfurt" section with articles like "How to find a paediatrician in Frankfurt" or "Tips moving to Frankfurt" and many more.
I was made aware of the issues which expats experience when moving to Frankfurt and that led me to founding "Main(e) Familienagentur: My goal is to help you and your family have a smooth start in your new hometown. There are many interesting places and activities in the area for families and with my services I can guide you through the time-consuming tasks of becoming familiar with what the city has to offer. By taking over the organisation of these activities, I can ease your transition to Frankfurt and provide opportunities for your entire family to connect with your new community. Just give me a ring and I am sure, we will find the right package for you. I am looking foward talking to you and your family.