Author Topic: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?  (Read 4300 times)

khnyc

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Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« on: September 15, 2015, 12:43:25 PM »
My wife and I are relocating from the US to Frankfurt for my job, Iíve done some research on a variety of topics and would love to get some recommendations (or warnings) on a few from people familiar with the options in Germany. 

-  Healthcare: we are eligible to select private insurance, if we plan to have children in the next 12 months and only 1 of us will be working does it make sense to select GKV, PKV or some combination of the two?
       -If PKV, what companies have people had a positive experience with?
 
-  Banking: In the US we are accustomed to using online banks with no fees, will signing up with DKB or Comdirect be sufficient or do you need an account at a traditional bank as well?
 
-  Mobile Phones: Our plan is to travel 1-2 weekends a month throughout the EU and our primary need will be data use away from our home/office WiFi during these trips.  Are prepaid mobile providers a good option or should we stick to a contract provider?  Any suggestions on providers?


- Bring vs Buy: although my employer is paying for the relocation we currently plan on donating our old furniture (it's barely functional) and purchasing most of our household items in Germany. Are there any items which are significantly cheaper in the US than the options available in Germany?
 
     
Would love to insight on any other topics people think are important to understand the differences between the US and Germany options.

Thank you for sharing.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2015, 12:50:40 PM by khnyc »

schoenbauer

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2015, 12:11:45 AM »
Hey, which type of health care is best for you depends on your income and on your overall health. For 80-90% of people the state health insurance (GKV) is the better option. And it is kind of easy - not much paper work etc.

An account at DKB will be sufficient. No need for something else , though I don't know about transferring money from DKB to outside EU. For this you could check TransferWise.

Mobile plans: At least as long as you are in Germany, Aldi Talk might be a good and cheap option. They have different packages (Im having 300 min/texts and 300 MB a month for 8 Euros).

I have no idea about the bring vs. buy point but let us know how your resettlement goes. All the best!

MrsPfennig

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2015, 12:53:56 AM »
I had a baby last year and I have GKV. I upgraded to a two bedroom in the hospital and paid 55 Euros a day (towels, more food etc.). For extra ultrasounds I paid 40 Euros for a package of three. I really can't complain about the prices especially since those options were chosen by me. The rest was paid for by my health insurance.

Welcome in Germany!

MrsPfennig

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2015, 12:56:41 AM »
Electronics, appliances et al will usually be cheaper in the US. And if you get an adapter plug they should all work without issue here. So if you are still eyeing a new Macbook or that kitchen aid it's probably cheapest to get in the US. As for furniture, yea no real reason to bring that over.


I also brought my Kitchen Aid from the US when we moved to Germany. I got a transformer from Amazon.de. That was the only thing worth it to us. All other electronics (besides laptops) were left in the US.

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2015, 05:28:23 AM »
Electronics, appliances et al will usually be cheaper in the US. And if you get an adapter plug they should all work without issue here. So if you are still eyeing a new Macbook or that kitchen aid it's probably cheapest to get in the US. As for furniture, yea no real reason to bring that over.

NO!
Even with a transformer/converter, anything with a motor is going to be iffy - so I wouldn't bring a kitchenaid.  (And be sure you know the difference between a transformer and a plug adapter!!) But if your electronic gadgets have "110-220 v 50/60 HZ" on them somewhere, you should be good with just an adapter.

I have a Commerz Bank account for Euros, and a Charles Schwab account for dollars. I love my Commerz account because it's fee free, and every branch has someone on staff who speaks english (though you may need to make an appointment to see them). Schwab is great for turning dollars into Euros because you can withdraw Euros from any German ATM, and you'll get the actual exchange rate for your dollars (no fees).
How are you being paid? In dollars or euros?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 05:57:43 AM by MustachianAccountant »

MrsPfennig

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2015, 06:47:22 AM »
Even with a transformer/converter, anything with a motor is going to be iffy - so I wouldn't bring a kitchenaid.
I was not aware of that. Thanks for the correction.

I'm running my kitchen aid with a transformer for three years now and had no problems so far.

Moonwaves

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2015, 07:05:57 AM »
Best recommendation I can give you is to head to the forums at toytowngermany.com. Everything you're asking has been covered there over and over. There are also various wiki articles covering the basics. In particular, in relation to health insurance there are a lot of very useful threads. I haven't been an active member there for a year or two but it really is the place to go for the information you're looking for. With regard to health insurance (and insurance in general, you'll need to check whether or not you'll need Haftpflicht or Hausrat especially - I needed to have proof of both of those to get my rental contract signed) there are two posters in particular JohnG and Starshollow, who put a lot of time and effort into helping with those type of questions. Personally, when I moved here I went for GKV (BKK Wirtschaft & Finanzen) and have been very happy with it. Have heard lots of good things about TKK, especially when it comes to English-speaking assistance.  You don't mention whether or not you speak German, so not sure how important that might be for you.

IIRC correctly there is also a thread on what people should bring from US vs. buying new (or second-hand, we are mustachians after all :) ) when you get here.

Banking: I have a current account at Commerzbank and pay no day-to-day fees (contingent on a certain amount being lodged every month). Simply because there was a branch across the road from my apartment and it was easiest at the time, as well as "free". But the online banks do seem to be the best option. ING is another one in addition to DKB and comdirect. I think with ING and DKB at least, getting money from ATMs worldwide isn't an issue. Again, loads of information on toytown about that.

I have prepaid Edeka Mobil (another supermarket) - for 19.95/month I have unlimited calls to other Edeka phones, cheap to other networks and 3GB of data. Have had no major issues and any time I've phoned the customer service they have been really friendly and helpful. I like being able to top-up online, too.

You'll also have to pay a Rundfunkbeitrag (basically this replaced the old television and radio licence a couple of years ago) of about Ä200 per year - that's compulsory for each household whether you have a TV or not.

Finally, be ruthless in getting your company to help you with anything they can, especially when it comes time to do your taxes. On that note too, if you're not religious make sure they know that so that no church tax is deducted from your salary (and make sure to state it when you register at the town hall). Sorry, maybe you know that kind of thing already, it's sometimes hard to figure out how well people already know stuff about the place they're moving to.

Kashmani

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2015, 07:33:50 AM »
Electronics, appliances et al will usually be cheaper in the US. And if you get an adapter plug they should all work without issue here. So if you are still eyeing a new Macbook or that kitchen aid it's probably cheapest to get in the US. As for furniture, yea no real reason to bring that over.

NO!
Even with a transformer/converter, anything with a motor is going to be iffy - so I wouldn't bring a kitchenaid.  (And be sure you know the difference between a transformer and a plug adapter!!) But if your electronic gadgets have "110-220 v 50/60 HZ" on them somewhere, you should be good with just an adapter.

I have a Commerz Bank account for Euros, and a Charles Schwab account for dollars. I love my Commerz account because it's fee free, and every branch has someone on staff who speaks english (though you may need to make an appointment to see them). Schwab is great for turning dollars into Euros because you can withdraw Euros from any German ATM, and you'll get the actual exchange rate for your dollars (no fees).
How are you being paid? In dollars or euros?

Agreed. It's easy to step up the voltage, but the problem is the frequency. Germany uses 50 Hz, while the U.S. uses 60 Hz. I had the reverse problem bringing a washing machine from Germany - everything worked fine until the pump cycle and then is stopped. Thankfully I could order a 60 Hz pump and get it to work again.

And instead of KitchenAid, just get a Bosch Compact. Better product, and half the price in Germany than in the U.S. And better product then a KitchenAid. Remember, U.S. products have the steel on the outside (to impress others) and the plastic on the inside, while German products have the steel on the inside (to get the work done) and the plastic on the outside.

And congrats on the move!

Rosy

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2015, 01:54:33 PM »
Unless you are religious and don't mind paying church tax, be sure you declare yourself to be a non-believer, otherwise it is automatically taken out of your paycheck like moonwaves mentioned.

As far as living goes, tons of bus, streetcar and train connections - no need for a car. It's grand central as far as train stations go. 6hrs or less to Paris:)
Parking is the pits, expensive like any other big city.

Frankfurt airport is a hub with cheap flights within Europe.
Lots of parks, festivals and museums and always something going on theatre, culture, you name it.

MustachianAccount is right about anything with a motor - my laptop and my phone from the US work fine with a plug.

Banking - there is a Bank of America located in Frankfurt as well as in Berlin and Munich. BOA used to be partnered with Deutsche Bank and may still be. Just google it, there is all sorts of expat information that came up when I took a quick look.
I generally used my Credit Union debit card at the ATM when I visited my mom - no trouble getting money - but you will encounter fees and foreign exchange fees on top and not all cards work in every network.
With a local free Commerz Bank account or BOA/Deusche Bank you may be better served - your online account is part of the package so you don't have to go to any physical locations after opening the account if you don't want to.

Furniture: There are plenty of cheap furniture places in and around Frankfurt and there is always Ikea too or the flea markets or e-bay or amazon.de.
A good option if you are MMMr is to cruise the posh neighborhoods just outside the city on used furniture pick-up day and get it for free. Only every few months.
Not to worry:)

Food: You pretty much can't beat Aldi and the local outdoor markets.

I miss the city outdoor cafes and shady beer gardens and wine cellars - Frankfurt has some charming old neighborhoods with great local fare.

khnyc

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2015, 03:06:22 PM »
Thank you all very much for the responses, I will read up on Toytown.

We currently do not speak German so unfortunately I will not be able to participate in the other forum for a while.

Will def look at Aldi Talk and Edema mobile for my wife's phone (my employer will provide one).

I currently have the Schwab checking account and it sounds like my employer has an arrangement with Commerzbank so that might be my first trial. I will be paid the majority in euros with a small annual bonus in dollars.

 Fortunately my employer agreed to pay for 3 years of tax prep, if I can't figure it out by year 4 then Ill probably move back to the states in shame.

Thanks again for the input!
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 03:10:21 PM by khnyc »

pbkmaine

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Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2015, 03:25:52 PM »
Please learn German. If work does not pay for it, try the Goethe Institut. While many Germans speak excellent English, they will love that you think enough of their country to learn their language.

DH worked for German companies his entire career. He and I were one of the few US couples both conversant in German. It made a big difference to his career.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 03:28:13 PM by pbkmaine »

Eurotexan

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2015, 07:35:10 PM »
I don't have much advice but I wanted to wish you well and tell you to have a blast! I lived in Frankfurt for 5 years in the late 90s. Straight out of college, I have some very happy memories of my time in Frankfurt. I lived in the Ostend, I could walk everywhere. Biking is great in Frankfurt too, I even remember in the summer, the city shut the roads off next to the river for the rollerbladers!

I speak fluent German which made it a lot easier, I would definitely recommend German lessons. I always felt that those who didn't  speak German never felt as at home as us German speakers. Just a thought.

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2015, 01:29:55 AM »

- Bring vs Buy: although my employer is paying for the relocation we currently plan on donating our old furniture (it's barely functional) and purchasing most of our household items in Germany. Are there any items which are significantly cheaper in the US than the options available in Germany?


Also, the site bookoo.com is very big with the American speaking population here - it's basically like Craigslist, so you can find lots of used stuff.
There is a large military population about 20 minutes from Frankfurt, so you can often get great deals because people are leaving the country to go back to the states, and can't/don't want to bring extra stuff with them.

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Relocating to Frankfurt Germany - any recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2015, 02:06:42 AM »
I'm running my kitchen aid with a transformer for three years now and had no problems so far.

That's why I said anything with a motor is iffy, not that it won't work. It will *work* with a transformer, but it won't work well, and if you bring it back to the states, it might not work at all. Bottom line, you can do a lot of damage to the motor, even though it technically "works" with a transformer.